By now, most regular readers must know about the new staffing and pastoral leadership model proposed for the Boston Archdiocese.  News of the proposed pastoral collaboratives, as part of the Pastoral Service Team (PST) initiative, is spreading like wildfire, now that the proposed parish groupings have been published.

All of the information is posted at this website:

Here are links to the proposed parish groupings by region: South, North, Central, West, Merrimack Region

Local newspapers and media outlets are picking up the local angles.  For example:

The Sentinel and Enterprise reported the following in “Archdiocese unveils plan for sharing of parish resources“:

In a proposal by the Archdiocese of Boston, 25 parishes in Greater Lowell, including those in Townsend and Shirley, will become 10 pastoral collaboratives that could eventually share resources, including pastors, priests, staff and ministries.

According to the archdiocese, a greater coordination of trained personnel and the consolidation of similar works and ministries in parishes within a pastoral collaborative will ease the burden currently experienced by pastors and staff.

Unlike the reconfiguration process that began in 2004 and closed or merged dozens of parishes, including six in Lowell, the new proposal does not mandate the closing of any parishes — just the sharing of resources.

Each parish will retain its individual identities and assets.

“No parishes are supposed to be closed. The archdiocese is just trying to ensure that all parishes will have the services they need to continue to grow in new and vibrant ways,” said the Rev. Brian Mahoney, pastor of St. Francis in Dracut.

The largest proposed collaborative is composed of four parishes: St. Mary in Ayer, St. Anthony in Shirley, St. John the Evangelist in Townsend, and Our Lady of Grace in Groton-Pepperell.

St. William in Tewksbury, which ranks among the largest parishes in the archdiocese and is the only Catholic church in Tewksbury, is the only Greater Lowell parish to stand alone.

The Swampscott Patch reported:

The plan calls for multiple churches, in some cases, to be served by a single pastor who leads a pastoral team, says Archdiocese Spokesman Terry Donilon.

One such group would form among St. Thomas Aquinas in Nahant, St. Johns in Swampscott and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Marblehead. There would be 27 collaboratives among parishes in the North Region of the Boston Archdiocese.

Just to recap, the idea is to create a structure called a Pastoral Service Team (PST) to provide pastoral services to multiple parishes.  The archdiocese describes the model as follows:

“The Pastoral Service Team would be comprised of a group of priests, deacons, pastoral associates and lay ecclesial ministers, who provide pastoral services to multiple parishes.  Because of shared ministerial leadership and shared finance & pastoral councils, the parishes would collaborate with each other on some ministries such as evangelization, faith formation and outreach.  This proposed new structure does not call for the closing of any parishes.  Rather, it focuses on the means by which pastoral services are provided in and to our parishes, and through collaborating on ministries, allows the Catholic community within an area of the Archdiocese to benefit from a broader set of local Catholic ministries.  Each pastoral collaborative, served by a PST, would be charged with the development of a local pastoral plan to best serve the Catholics in that particular area of the Archdiocese.

Initially there appeared to be a fairly warm reception by many priests to the proposal, as evidenced by the voting at the December convocation in Randolph, where 2/3 of priests said the direction in which the proposed PST model would take the archdiocese was either the “right direction” or “close to right.”

That was then and this is now. Things have turned substantially chillier in recent weeks as pastors, parish councils and parish staffs start to more fully grasp the implications.  Pastors will be asked to resign their positions, and new pastors will be appointed who have no loyalty to their new parish and no knowledge of the parish history or people for whom that parish is their long-term spiritual home.  One person commented privately to BCI that the current direction of the initiative seems to be creating 100+ “circular firing squads.”  Some degree of power and control will be given up by individual parishes as they are asked to collaborate and share resources.  Some parish employees will no doubt lose their jobs, and may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.  BCI is hearing of emergency parish council meetings and letters being written to Cardinal O’Malley.

As parishes all wrestle with the implications of the proposed plan, at the same time it is clear that the current model of parish staffing is not sustainable. We know that priests are stretched to thin, the number of Catholics attending Mass continues to decline and 40% of parishes are unable to pay their bills.

BCI is going to remain neutral on the plan and not voice an opinion for now, except to say the following.  Clearly, something must change in the current model of parish staffing.  It seems to BCI that either we close a hundred-some parishes or we adopt a different model of staffing and keep existing parishes open. Either option has its challenges. The manner in which whatever new plan is chosen and implemented is key to success.

Right now, we are hearing a lot of consternation. Pastors, priests, parish councils, parish employees and parishioners should all voice their input and feedback to the archdiocesan leadership on the proposed plans through the established channels in order to ensure your input is heard. BCI still has good reason to believe that the Cardinal and those in charge of pastoral planning will listen to every piece of input they get on this important issue.

As always, you can feel free to share and vent on BCI (but please do not use BCI as an alternative to sharing your input directly with the archdiocese on this particular issue).

28 Responses to Pssst!

  1. Liam says:

    Boston is infamous for the lone-ranger culture of its pastors, which perhaps has gotten even worse as the presbyterate has shrunk. New pastors come in, pointedly remind pastoral councils that they are merely advisory, and then do what as they will, and pleas to regional bishops are received but saving face is the institutional imperative.

    It’s not going to help to try to have things micromanaged from the chancery.

    What might help is looking at the deanery/vicariate as the level where there is more active supervision and feedback to act as a check against lone-rangering, and, perhaps most importantly, having common residences where parochial priests live in some measure of community. We don’t need so many rectories 2-3 miles apart; sell them or repurpose them.

    The bigger issue is how pastors get chosen. It used to be strict seniority; which had the advantage of being arbitrary. And, of course, pastors appointed before the 1983 Code of Canon Law could stay for life, as it were; that was a formula for success in some cases, and misery in others. Right now, I see an excess of introversion among our clergy (and I say that as an introvert): men who really cannot deal well with all the personal contact that successful pastoring requires. People entering the clerical ranks need to be screened for their ability to thrive (not merely cope well – over decades, coping well is just not enough) with engaging hundreds of people a week; if they are not suited for that, they should be directed towards religious orders that don’t engage heavily in parochial ministry.

    • The Rebel says:


      NO. The crisis in RCAB is because most of the pastors over the past decades were NOT and are NOT deeply religious men. Primarily, the were/are efficient facilitators, community organizers, business-like executives…. NOT APOSTLES.

      This is why RCAB is collapsing and will collapse. But from whence did RCAB learn this corruption of pastoral leadership? The USCCB.

    • Objective Observer says:

      Liam, yes to all of this, and I would add, the vicars forane need to be people who can encourage the presbyterate, with a foundation of fraternity and collegiality. The abuse bomb and the radical surgery of reconfiguration have rendered parish priests weary, at times combative among themselves, and often unable to muster the resiliency that could take them beyond “coping.” A bit of head-butting from chancery about payroll, IFRM, etc., can leave a lone priest wondering what happened to his vocation.

      Vicariates must own the responsibility for presbyteral support. Waiting for that function to surface elsewhere has about eight years of futility to show for it.

      While we’re at it, and I know this will not be a universally popular comment, any priest who is currently working at a seminary, a university, on Brooks Drive, or at the Cathedral rectory, should be classified as available for parish work. This is already the case with a number of these men. One that I know of is full time at a seminary and a team ministry member in parish. Another comes to mind, where his work in a parish is so consistent that the people think of his other posting as part-time, while it is very much full time. There are priests working on Brooks Drive who are highly involved in parishes by dint of living in the rectories. The support they offer parishes should not interfere with their work, but there are priests who would benefit from seeing life in a parish up close and personal as a way to inform their work outside a parish.

      Why not have a more formal “reservist” arrangement, where each of these priests would have a vicariate to which he would be assigned? Why not make the arrangement somewhat consistent? For the ones who do not live in rectories, I think this is especially important.

      As long as we’re at it, it’s high time that Mass stipends paid to priests who “help out” be made consistent, fair and verifiable. If a priest chooses to decline the stipend, fine. But some parishes dole out large cash stipends to priests who celebrate Mass, while others stick to the norms and write a check for the approved amount, and some do not offer any stipend at all, making for a very uneven playing field.

      Vicariates can and should become centers for presbyteral support and understanding, and those functions can be greatly enhanced by making sure that every priest is assigned to a vicariate.

      • JUST WONDERING says:

        Amen, I’m with you brother! However, “JUST WONDERING” if anybody will read and/or do anything to make these valuable suggestions reality. I really doubt it, but I won’t give up on it just now.

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      Liam, I heartily agree with virtually all your comments, esp the ‘introversion’ of many priests. Now, there are people-oriented priests who are very happy and able to reach out to people. But there are (many) others who, by disposition or circumstance, have a very hard time not only reaching out to people but relating with them in any significant way. There are some priests who feel that, because of their sacred calling, they are indeed set apart and wish to remain ‘apart’ from the laity. As a result we have homilies that seem composed at the last minute, have nothing to do with reality, and which in any way explain the Faith and how it may be lived in practical ways today. This is particularly true of our young people. Many priests thibnk adolescents, for example, ‘don’t care’ about faith/religion and approach kids with that predisposition. Fact is, adolescents care very much about knowing about God, faitj, Church, if only they could have someone who would try to relate with them and explain the faith in terms/language they understand. Sadly, for many priests the ‘valid’ celebration of the sacraments is all they feel is required of them.
      If there will, indeed, be a New Evangelization, it will be undertaken by only a very few priests. Most of the evangelization will have to be done by lay people. With all the pastoral planning taking place, it will take years before effective teams are formed and are in place, priests are trained in this ‘new’ way of ministry. It will take a long time before most priests feel comfortable and confident in the new way they are being told to exercise their priesthood before they will be able to ‘reach out’ and ‘invite in’.

  2. All they’re really doing is to close 40% of the remaning parishes by 2017. They don’t tell you that, but that’s what they’re really going to do.


      Absolutely!!! That is all this is about. It amazes me that people can be so distracted by minutiae that they miss the real story. Get the home boys out of the way. Bring in the hand chosen. Cut! Cut! Cut! Sell! Sell! Sell!

      Catholics come home!! ROFLMAO! Fewer than 14% RC attend Mass? Want to see the result of this massacre?


  3. Billyboy says:

    The only difference between RCAB and the Titanic is that the Titanic had a band.

  4. sile says:

    Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here

  5. Capt Crunch says:

    How about we request Cardinal O’Malley reinstitute the Leonine Prayers after mass?

    • Michael says:


      I agree 100% – I know that you are talking about Novus Ordo Masses that 99.8% of RCAB’s aforementioned 14-17% faithful attend. That said, please permit me this plug. The Leonine prayers are being said weekly at Low Masses at the only 3 RCAB parishes that presently offer a scheduled weekly TLM: Mary Immaculate / Newton, the Cathedral, and St. Adelaide / Peabody ( We at St. Adelaide (most of whom drive many miles to Mass) trust in the Lord’s goodness and are hoping that all the upcoming changes don’t as a by-product scatter to the wind the 2 holy priests in Peabody as well as the other 5 or so RCAB priests who routinely offer TLM. We need to keep the Cardinal and the Planning board in our prayers… as BCI said, something has to be done. And yes, like ChrisW I do believe that we are looking at closings in the upcoming years as the need to pursue “efficiencies” will be too compelling and necessary to forestall “bankruptcy”. Fr. Malachi Martin was right so many years ago… institutionally we will be in retreat and shrinking for many years to come. It brings great consolation to me (and I’m sure many who read this) that Our Lady guaranteed that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph. In the meanwhile, let’s keep First Fridays and First Saturdays so to console Our Lord.

      Sincerely, Michael


        Do you know that bankruptcy is rooted in the Bible? Do you understand that other archdiocese have successfully gone through bankruptcy? There is something peculiar about this diocese not seriously entertaining it as an option even way back when it was in the throws of all the sex abuse claims.

        Potential Problems vis a vis bankruptcy:

        Full financial disclosure including unfunded penions of the clergy, despite annual collections;
        Full disclosure of all assets including some that may surprise or even shock us;
        Trustee overseeing those 6-figure salaries of those in Braintree and all expenditures;

        I honestly think that we are headed to bankruptcy anyway. Why close and sell off property and seek the resignation of all your faithful pastors and then file??

        This is madness.

        I honestly do not believe we are in this mess because we say the wrong prayers; we are here because of mismanagement at the top.

        Here is just one site on the net that deals with being a Christian and Bankruptcy:

      • Michael says:


        My friend, I can’t disagree with you more.

        I was using “bankruptcy” in loose terms (hence the quotation marks). I’m an accountant and I know that you can’t provide reliable info to decision makers unless you first know-inside-and-out the processes that you are reporting on. I get that BCI is a financially (but not exclusively) driven blog. But even BCI understands that RCAB is more than an NGO.

        I say this in all charity: there’s a difference between the institutional church and the unblemished Bride of Christ, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Our mission as Catholics is to save our own souls and use our God-given talents to expand his Kingdom (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) so that all men save their souls. So YES- it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN WORLD as to how we offer Holy Mass, do Penance and pick up our crosses and follow Him. All other other-the-top diatribes about RCAB (like we are handicapping the Republican horserace or spouting off our great knowledge about all things sports/entertainment) is done in complete in vain if our efforts aren’t 100% channeled towards saving souls.

        God bless you and yours.

        Sincerely, Michael

      • Michael says:

        Hey Michael,
        You appear new to this discussion … and I wouldn’t mind so much but you are ruining my reputation.

        A. you commented directly on point to the discussion and
        B. You are making me look smart.

        I would suggest another username. Maybe even a last initial or a triumphant sounding title … like Michael the Archangel … or Michael the Leonine.

    • Anni says:

      The Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is said after Mass at St. Michael’s in Hudson.

  6. Stephen says:

    Help me out, what exactly is are “lay ecclesial ministers”?

    Is that the guy who cuts the grass or the lady who cooks dinner for the Priest? Or is it both?

    What a joke.
    Make-work hacks have bankrupted our church.
    Now ‘the blogger’ wants them to run things.

    Priests should simply institute a good old fashioned work-to-rule strike, offer the sacraments with excellence (and in Latin) and let the chips fall where they may.


    MIchael. I did not mean to be disrespectful of how we say our prayers. I do agree that is important. What I merely said is:

    “I honestly do not believe we are in this mess because we say the wrong prayers; we are here because of mismanagement at the top. ”

    I agree with every other point you make. We are a church; we have a mission; this is not a business. However, Bankruptcy is rooted in the Bible.

  8. Carol says:

    The Boston Archdiocese is too far-flung. Townsend, Ashby, Groton, Pepperell, Ayer, Shirley and Devens were known as the Nashoba Cluster during the last reorganization / parish closing in the Archdiocese.
    Townsend (covers Ashby), Pepperell (covers Groton), Shirley, Devens and Ayer (1 priest — 2 parishes) could easily be in the Worcester diocese. Most are to the west (or north) of towns that are in the Worcester diocese. Most are oriented to the northern Worcester diocese twin cities Fitchburg and Leominster. There is a lot of Catholic activity in the twin cities. When St Anthony’s in Shirley burnt down, parishioners went to St Cecilia’s Church in Leominster. Still River / Harvard (again Worcester diocese) is south or east of the Nashoba Cluster.

    Why cannot part or all of the Nashoba Cluster (by the way, geographically, it exemplifies the term gerrymandered) be in the Worcester diocese?

  9. jwsr says:

    Yes, too far-flung, which means Pastors are either on their own or reliant on a central bureaucracy that is distant, and, frankly, more trouble than it’s worth.
    Perhaps instead of firing current Pastors and making Parishes, basically, bigger, and less manageable, the Archdiocese should identify functions that could be shared with functional numbers of Parishes and Pastors (5-8), like having an accountant, or regional Evangelization, or coordinating religious ed training, retreats, maintenance, ….. then let the existing Pastors form up those groups, and replace the distant Chancery offices that are supposed to help but don’t.

  10. Anni says:

    The Archdiocese of Boston is one of the smallest geographically in the country, so I cannot see this as the problem. The Springfield diocese is larger, as are VT, NH, and ME, where there is only one diocese in the entire states. We have four regional bishops, so they should be able to interact with ALL areas of the Archdiocese. For some reason the pastors and parishes are not getting support. The only time we have had a bishop visit my parish has been for Confirmation, and last year it wasn’t our regional bishop. I don’t remember ever seeing a Vicar Forane visit the parish and meet with the people to see how things are going. The pastors ARE on their own, and many of them are not leading their parishes properly but there seems to be no oversight and absolutely no accountability. We share stories of liturgical abuses and pastors who are not following canon law and nothing is done about it.

    I don’t know if the reorganization plan will help or hinder the spiritual welfare of this Archdiocese, but something has to be done. I know that there are several parishes that are alive and flourishing, but many, and maybe most, are foundering. We all have to acknowledge that the current model is not sustainable. We will have five priests ordained for the Archdiocese this year. At least four times that many will retire. If it weren’t for senior priests and religious order priests, most parishes would not be able to maintain their current weekend Mass schedules. So something has to be done…

    I don’t think that it will be easy, though. Right now there are 290 pastors in the Archdiocese. In three to five years, there will be 125, give or take. There could be interesting fallout when the new assignments are announced. My parish has one of Liam’s “lone ranger” pastors. He is not going to function well if he has to “play nice with others”, especially if he is not made pastor of a collaborative. He’s in over his head with one small parish, though. He would be an unmitigated disaster trying to coordinate two or three parishes.

    Meanwhile, the two other parishes that my parish has been linked with are 8 and 10 miles away, respectively. If we end up with one rectory, it isn’t going to be at my current parish. That means that there likely will be no Mass if there’s bad weather, because Father doesn’t live across the street any more and many of us won’t be able to drive 8 miles over country roads in a blizzard. I can walk to my current parish church in a snowstorm; it’s just a little over a half mile away. Of course, this isn’t going to be a problem in “the city” where the collaborating parishes will be within a mile of each other.

    Has the RCAB considered the possibility of priest-less Sundays under the new configuration? Has the RCAB thought about the availability of daily Mass to ALL Catholics in the Archdiocese? Right now, it is very difficult for working people who don’t live or work in Boston to find a daily Mass. I go to three different churches to find 7 am Masses; one of them requires a 16-mile round trip. It’s probably going to be worse with the new collaboration groups, especially out in the ‘burbs.

    • JUST WONDERING says:

      ‘Anni: I agree with u re Vicar Foranes. I was one for a number of years and always, along with another Vicar, suggested that the Diocese use Senior Priests as Vicars. They could have a little more time and could do a lot of the visitation you state is so necessary and send a report to the Regional Bishop and the Ordinary. We use to visit Parishes, meet with the Parish Council, Finance Committee and finally the people after Mass. We would write a report for the Bishop.

      “JUST WONDERING’ if somebody will pick up the suggestion and it’s not too late. We have a large number of Senior Priests and I bet many of us would be willing to help. “JUST WONDERING” IF THEY WILL EVER ASK US TO HELP!!!!

    • Stephen says:

      Is that coffee i smell?

      “Has the RCAB considered the possibility of priest-less Sundays under the new configuration?”

      Have they considered it?

      The progressives have been planning for it for many years.

      Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll plenty ‘lay ecclesial ministers’ to step up and offer…ah…the… lay ecclesial service? (Protestant)

    • jwsr says:

      Hi, Anni;
      I don’t think people are talking of the problem of the Archdiocese’s geographical size, but its population and complexity. The Central office is required to be large, and is largely unresponsive to the Pastors and Parishes (partially as a result of this).

      Making the Parishes much larger and the Pastors similarly less responsive to the Parishioners does NOT seem to be the answer to any problem the Archdiocese has. If collaboration and collegiality amongst Parishes should happen, (and it probably does) it needs to happen at a smaller and more manageable level than Central Ministries. Unfortunately, there IS no planning or support for such collaboration, as it would probably take away from Central Ministry’s control.

  11. Lynne says:

    Too bad Cardinal Sean couldn’t increase the number of priests in the RCAB by allowing the FSSP here…

    • Capt Crunch says:

      I’ll second that Lynne. Or the ICKRS…

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        I will third it. Though there is a problem with traditional sacerdotal fraternities: they serve at the pleasure of the local ordinary.

        If the FSSPX (SSPX) should accept the pope’s offer of regularisation then they should demand a structure which leaves them independent of the local ordinary. This is the only way they will be able to assure orthodoxy in liturgy. Not to mention that their schools and religious orders will avoid contamination by the modernist scribes and pharisees in the chanceries.

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