Rectory Reuse

With all the talk about the new Pastoral Plan, which will have one pastor for several parishes and thus result in fewer rectories open and occupied by priests, at some point people have to start thinking about what might happen with a vacant rectory.

Towards that end, BCI happened to be checking out a few parish websites recently and came across an innovative use of an empty rectory at St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge.  Readers may recall that the last time we discussed St. Francis of Assisi was November of 2011, in St. Francis of Assisi Closing Confusion, when the parishioners were told the pastor from the Franciscans was retiring and the parish would be closing, but then the archdiocese would not confirm anything about the closing.

Here is the notice in the most recent issue of the St. Francis of Assisi parish bulletin about who is now occupying the vacant rectory:

There seems to be some confusion about what is happening at the parish and, in particular, the rectory. Last week there was a message about three young women who would be residing in the rectory. As stated they are members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, an organization founded in Spain and invited initially to the Archdiocese by Cardinal Bernard Law. The welcome continues to be extended by Cardinal Sean to continue their work of evangelization here. It was at Cardinal Sean’s request that I opened the rectory for them to live. I think it a blessing to have a physical presence on the property. The young women are Alicia from the Dominican Republic, Linda from Portugal and Clara from Spain. They all speak English fluently. For the present they are residing on the 1st floor of the rectory.

We wrote about the NeoCats just a few months ago in May, in Neocatechumenate Questions.  With this arrangement and perhaps other similar ones to come, some of the previous questions are worth revisiting, plus we add a few new ones:

  • Who pays for the expenses of the Neocatechumenal Way missionaries here in Boston, such as their vehicles, gas, maintenance and insurance, and their food, utilities, and building expenses at this rectory?
  • Who pays for their medical and dental insurance?
  • Who paid for their airfares to get to Boston?
  • What exactly are they doing?  Are they going around from house to house, in a manner similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses, helping people learn about the Bible and the Kingdom of God, or instead, inviting fallen away Catholics to come back to Mass?  If so, which Mass–the regular Sunday Catholic Mass with the parish, a Neo-Cat community Saturday evening Mass  apart from the parish community where they are supposed to be tightly integrated, or a Neo-Cat non-liturgical celebration?
  • How exactly will success of their mission be determined? Three, six, or twelve months into their mission, how will it be determined if they were successful and if whatever financial investment was made yielded acceptable results so it should continue?

BCI does not know specifics about what is going on with the Neo-Cats at St. Francis of Assisi, and this is not a criticism of them. We just believe these are legitimate questions that should be asked and answered.

That same parish bulletin notice from the parish administrator happened to also mention another effort at evangelization. Read on:

We also welcome another religious community from Brazil. It was this group that I visited on my recent visit to that country. They are Comunidade Shalom, which was founded 30 years ago, this year. They are also involved in evangelization. You will see them using the chapel on Wednesday or (Thursday) evenings for a prayer meeting. In addition they will be opening the chapel for Eucharistic Adoration on Tuesday mornings for anyone who would like to come in to pray. The chapel will be open on Tuesdays for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament from 9:00am until 12:00 noon, ending prior to the 12:10pm Mass. Please join them. The people who will be there are a missionary family from Fortaleza, Brasil. Luiz and Liliana are the parents, with them from Brasil are 4 of their 6 children: Lucas– 22, Maria Clara– 15, Leticia– 12 and Luis Fernando– 2.5., and a Nanny, Mazei. The older two children are their married daughters who remained behind. They and the young women have been present at weekday Masses and also at the Macaroni lunch on Tuesdays. Please pray that the Lord will guide other missionaries to our country and archdiocese.

(Note: this family is not living in the rectory). Here is the Google-translated version of the Portuguese website for Comunidade Shalom. Without knowing more, at arms-length, BCI would generally view an effort rooted in Eucharistic Adoration as positive, but we know nothing more than this. Still, the same questions might be asked about this evangelization effort–who pays for the living expenses of these missionaries here in Boston, including round-trip airfares to Boston; what exactly are they doing; who assesses their level of formation for the mission; who from the Boston Archdiocese responsible for faith formation and evangelization knows what they are saying and communicating about the Catholic faith if their prayer meetings or evangelization efforts are in Portuguese; and how will success be determined?

Using vacant rectories to advance the cause of evangelization sounds, on the surface, like a good idea. BCI just wonders who is paying for it, exactly what the evangelists are leading the fallen-away to, and how success is measured.  In addition, if people are going to be formally engaged and officially designated in a role for the task of evangelization–whether they be native English-speaking Catholics born and raised in the U.S. or missionaries from a foreign country–and their expenses paid at least in part by the parish or Boston Archdiocese, a bit more is expected of them than of the average Catholic in the pews.  The concept of archdiocesan guidelines for the formation of the laity, proposed in this 2010 report,  seems like an excellent one.  We can’t find those guidelines anywhere. And there needs to be some checks and balances to ensure the people are properly formed, theologically well-catechized, and saying and doing the right things.  BCI does not know how that all happens.  Is anyone on the Pastoral Planning team thinking about all this, or is it just us?

12 Responses to Rectory Reuse

  1. jbq2 says:

    It is just “youse”. It is called “bait and switch”. Watch Angel Martin on “The Rockford Files”.

  2. Michael says:

    As BCI well knows, any organization needs to be aware of whether its mission is being pursued or its mission is being undermined (intentionally or not). Recently, I learned of another eye-brow raising arrangement involving a rectory — coming out of the (very frugal) Catholic Schools Department.

    There is a program where young (very recent) college grads become teachers for the Catholic Academy in Dorchester. They get paid (some salary – Can’t be much because that budget is already thoroughly spent — if you know what I mean), get free lodging in a “community” at the former rectory, get their Masters in Education paid for in full, and the reciprocity required is only a two year commitment to remain a Catholic School teacher. I could be wrong, but this seems like an outstanding deal for the career oriented graduate and not a very good negotiation on the part of Mary Grassa O’Neill. Seems like she got out negotiated once again. This program may be a good program, but it certainly does have the potential for abuse (and ineffective use of funds).

    • Church Mouse says:

      The Urban Catholic Teacher Corps (UCTC) is a two year post-graduate service program that offers new teachers an opportunity to gain classroom experience in urban Catholic schools under the guidance of experience Catholic school teachers. UCTC members teach in the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic schools, take graduate courses in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, and live together in an intentional faith-based community.

      The fundamental principles of teaching as service, simple living, community life, and spirituality are the cornerstones of the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps. UCTC teachers live together in a community house in the urban area of Dorchester, Massachusetts, where they support each other in every aspect of their personal and professional lives. Participants are full-time regular classroom teachers during the year and take graduate courses throughout the year, as well.

      – Have student teaching experience in elementary or secondary
      education or one year of supervised full-time teaching experience.
      – Hold a Bachelor’s degree.
      – Commit three summers and two academic years to the UCTC.
      – Want to teach in urban Catholic schools.
      – Have a commitment to Catholic education.
      – Desire to live in a faith-based community.

      – Housing
      – Opportunity for medical benefits
      – A stipend for personal expenses and books
      – Tuition remission for graduate courses in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College

      Applicants do not have to be graduates of Boston College to apply to this program nor do they have to be Catholic.

  3. Jack O'Malley says:

    The phenomenon of uninhabited rectories indeed presents a quandary to the well-remunerated scintillating intellects of the “pastoral center”, latterly known as the Chancery.

    On the one hand, it is costly to maintain them in their state of sad disuse. On the other, it is inadvisable to sell them for profane use, though I would venture to guess that certain profane uses found occasion to be practiced there even before their abandonment.

    The points BCI raises about the sources of funding for these modernistic missionaries (one wag on another blog calls them the “Neo-Catatonical Way”) and the metrics to be applied to gauge their efficacy are well taken. Given the secrecy characteristic of the Archdiocesis’s management cabal, it is not beyond the faithful’s ability to doubt that a proper reckoning either of the first or the second point will ever be forthcoming.

    Since I originally learned of this “pastoral planning” scheme, I realized that, whereas the Connors cabal might effectively hoodwink people by seeming to keep churches open, the associated rectories would obviously be closed. It is not a minor deductive leap, however, to realize that a closed parish must needs swiftly follow upon a closed rectory. The is not a desirable consequence of “pastoral planning”.

    I believe I have a suggestion for much more appropriate repurposing of these rectories. Appropriate both in the strict accounting of the source and application of funds, as well as the measurement of the project’s success, either as a program of the “New Evangelization” or of the more venerable “Old Evangelization”.

    I propose that, first on a trial basis, later to be expanded as the success of the project becomes clear, that the rectories be converted into bordellos for the use of both the clergy and laity. This is not so outré a proposal as it may appear. Basing myself firmly on the greatest dogmatic and moral theologian among the Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, I agree with his response in the Summa Theologiae, Secunda secundae, quaestio 10, articulus 11, wherein he writes:

    Sic igitur et in regimine humano illi qui praesunt recte aliqua mala tolerant, ne aliqua bona impediantur, vel etiam ne aliqua mala peiora incurrantur, sicut Augustinus dicit, in II de ordine, aufer meretrices de rebus humanis, turbaveris omnia libidinibus.

    (Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii, 4): “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.)

    The rectories (perhaps they can be called Lupanaria Novi Ordinis, or LNO’s) would serve to prevent the by far more damnable vices of the clergy, and might, along with the concomitant elimination of altar girls, serve to attract a more virile class of seminarians to the work of propagating the Faith. It is not beyond the realm of doubt that the issue of celibacy of the clergy would fade into inconsequence.

    The staffing and management of the houses could be merged with the paucity of duties Mary Grassa O’Neill currently has and would in any case turn her department in to a profitable cost center and defray the burden of her salary and benefits from the overburdened pocketbooks of the parishioners. I was reminded of the urgency of this last Sunday when the presbyter announced the fourth collection was for Mary’s office supplies.

    I do not intend that these “houses of profane worship” remain merely profane. A portion of the house should be set aside for the continual hearing of confessions, lest frequenters of the establishment be surprised by death unshriven between their quitting the premises and waiting for an appointment for a presbyter to hear their confession. And the proximity of the parish church, might induce some number of clients to repent of their base lusts and return to the practice of the Faith.

    Chastity is the handmaiden of Lust; slake the flames of Lust and the balm of Chastity will imbue the soul. With this hope, over the exit of the former rectory should be inscribed the Words of Him Who forgives all sin, Go and sin no more.

    • Marie says:

      Happened to be passing through this way and came across Jack
      O’Malley’s of 11:18 a.m. this day………..and, forgive me, he may be on to something and a real money generating operation because it would also become the latest reality t.v. show (Name open for discussion)…… this off subject?

      My personal thought was that various closed rectories could be RCAB headquarters and, when needed, the occupants could fill in as parish priests.

      Here goes the guilt thing again. That I speak this way makes me realize how amuck things have gone.

  4. whattheheckisthis?? says:

    whattheheckisthis?? says:

    September 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Out of curiosity I attended a Neo-Cat “service.”

    I am absolutely in the dark on these groups.
    Are these services actually approved by the Catholic Church????

    I attended a “service” in a local church. Note further, it was never in the church bulletin and still is not.

    The service I attended was conducted by SHALOM.
    I also think that 5 of the 7 people present were one family.


    I stayed 1.5 hours. Let me describe it:

    It was guitar, singing, and some praying to Holy
    Ghost, with the laying on of the hands and rocking. There were only 7
    people. Church door was unlocked. I mention that because the prior week the door was locked. Overwhelmingly
    this appeared to be more a meeting than a service. We sat in a circle with
    folding chairs, though there were the traditional church pews. We sat right
    up against the altar. The tabernacle is there exposed and within feet of this meeting. I really do not understand Portuguese but some words are unmistakable: SHALOM WAS
    The Seminary was mentioned; a timeline of 6 months and California and Florida were mentioned as well. Of course, people were friendly.

    Note, two other people came in unconnected
    to this group. They were American, I am sure. Each stayed very
    briefly noticing that there was a “service” or meeting going on,
    and exited quickly.

    The meeting/service is odd. There was a kind of monologue by the group
    leader. It went on for about an hour. No one interrupted him or commented
    so that monologue is absolutely an accurate description. He wore an oddly
    shaped oversized cross around his neck. At one point he got down on his
    knees and they all surrounded him and touched him while chanting something.
    Each chanted something entirely different but all simultaneously so that the sound was chaotic.
    This was a little creepy for me.

    After the service was over the English speaking woman asked if I understood
    anything. I replied I did not. She explained that the man was not a
    priest. He was a Brazilian who gave up his life in Brazil to come here to
    evangelize. He relocated with his whole family JUST TO START THIS PRAYER
    GROUP. I thought how very odd since there are only a handful of them. It
    was his son who was playing the guitar for the service. The woman
    explained that the man was talking about the trials and tribulations of
    leaving everything behind in Brazil to come and do this.

    Bottom line: no one was excluded but by the same token there would be no
    reason for any English speaking person to remain either.

    It was more a meeting than a service, save for the singing and prayer in a

    There was lots of laying on of hands and rocking and closing of eyes and at
    one point the woman who spoke English looked like she was going to pass out.
    Throughout the service most people looked like they were in a trance with
    eyes closed. The woman who spoke some English made the sign of the cross on
    my forehead and kept her hand on my head and asked me to receive the holy
    spirit. (Note, the last person to have done that was a Bishop so this really was creepy to me.).

    • “whattheheckisthis”,

      Thank you for your comment. Could you clarify one point about who conducted the service you described? You mentioned that you attended Neo-Cat service. But then shortly thereafter, you described a service you attended was conducted by SHALOM in Portuguese. This does not sound like a Neo-Cat service to BCI. Which was it?

      • whattheheckisthis?? says:

        BCI, so glad that you noticed that. The service I attended was with SHALOM, definitely NOT Neo-Cats. I have met the Neo-Cats. Thus far they seem NORMAL, WELL INTENTIONED AND SINCERE. I HAVE NEVER ATTENDED THEIR SERVICES. The confusion comes from not being introduced at all and just having people deposited in a parish with no explanation. Not nice at all for anyone involved.

  5. 1968 says:

    Don’t know if you are familiar w/works of Eugene C. Kennedy. I came across his book “Comfort My People the Pastoral Presence of the Church” (1968) a few years ago from an orthodox source, but after few chapters had feeling was reading a heretical work and looked up the name on the internet.
    When I first read of your parish clusters immediately thought of this book. Now w/these parish communities moving in to the rectories, it is this book. Unfortunately, there is much of this happening throughout the U.S. and also in Germany and Austria:
    Over the next decade, the 660 existing parishes will be reduced and conflated into broader organisations but consisting of individual “branches”, so they will be in a better position to conduct their pastoral and missionary work. “Lots of local communities run by lay people compose, all together, a new parish, which will be jointly run by priests and lay people, reporting to a parish priest”, the cardinal explained.
    “Eight hundred of Augsburg’s 1,000 parishes are to be closed and replaced by 200 ‘pastoral care units’ in the coming years according to Bishop Konrad Zdarsa’s ‘Pastoral Plan 2025’.”
    This is the implementation of Vatican II as envisioned by EC Kennedy. In Chapter 17 “A Community Casebook”, he starts by talking about Christian communities: “The members of a new Christian community generally find each other because a common impulse to live a the life of the Spirit more deeply… An important feature of these Christian communities which have grown up all through the United States is that they are not necessarily disruptive of parish or diocesan life…The Second Vatican Council has made it clear that the priest’s position is close to his people and that his task is to bring them into community with one another under the Spirit. He can achieve this, even within the bounds of the most traditional parish, and he can do it quite in the open. The new permissions for home liturgies (remember those?!) further underscore the Church’s own recognition of the fact that the parish can reach out in many different ways to nourish and support smaller communities within its boundaries.
    These small groups have no rallying cry to destroy the old parish or to overturn the authority of either pastor or bishop. Instead Christians who move into this kind of community together are anxious to give their full vigor to the pastoral presence of the Church. There is nothing to be feared about these developing Christian communities. They have far more need of encouragement than of drastic authoritative control. As a matter of fact, they are probably the only sure sources of vitality, genuine wellsprings of the Spirit that enable the Church to come alive as the People of God in any environment.
    It is important for the Christian community to maintain its perspective on its relationship to the parish and thus to the diocese. These are the normal and healthy channels which make these communities a vital part of the total People of God. This is the bloodstream, as it were, into which the communities’ energies are poured for the building up of the whole Church as a people. “

    Kennedy then discusses the role of the Pastoral team to help these communities find their identity, vocation and build trust w/each other:
    “The pastoral team provides a living model because it reflects the masculine and feminine aspects of the Church as a people. It is, in fact, in the relationship of a pastoral team which exists for the sake of the Christian community that the priest and the sister or religious brother solve their identity crisis.”
    “The liturgy is meant to celebrate the struggles of growth, of self-discovery relationship to others, of trust that has grown because people have been willing to die to the defenses that isolated them previously from one another.”
    “When the members truly sense themselves as the Church, they are called to move beyond the point of existing solely for their mutual support and common worship… If the priest has done his work well he will have prepared the people to turn outward at this time to exercise their own priesthood in the world around them… This is how a healthy missionary consciousness develops in any authentic Christian community. It is a sign of maturity.
    At this stage the Christian communities within a parish begin to contribute to the life of a parish in a vibrant and productive fashion. These communities can be developed as satellites which are located around the true center of the parish. THIS CENTER NEED NOT BE MOVED FROM ITS TRADITIONAL LOCATION OR ITS TRADITIONAL SYMOBLIZATION IN THE PARISH CHURCH. WHAT DOES CHANGE, HOWEVER, AS THE PARISH TRULY COMES TO LIFE THROUGH ITS MULTIPLE COMMUNITIES IS THE COMPOSITION OF RECTORY AND CONVENT LIFE. INSTEAD OF THE FORTRESSES OF CLERICAL AND CONVENT CULTURE THEY ARE TRANSFORMED INTO VITAL CENTERS FROM WHICH PASTORAL TEAMS CAN EFFECTIVELY SERVE THEIR PEOPLE. The core of the parish can become the locus for continuing adult education which in turn contributes to the enrichment of the satellite communities that cluster about the parish center. The parish, then, is the dynamic center.
    What is healthy about the development of the Christian community according to this model is that it is truly evolutionary instead of revolutionary. It does not simply destroy old structures but it does make it possible for them to transform themselves w/ minimal jarring discontinuity w/traditions of the past. In the year of heart transplants it more nearly resembles the Russian technique. Surgeons have described this as the implantation of a new heart w/out the removal of the old. They are allowed to beat together for a period of time until the new heart takes over the task of vitalizing the body of the patient. This is exactly what the Christian community building under the Spirit does for the Church. It allows growth that leads the Church into the future w/out destroying all that has been a part of the past.”
    It seems to me they found out they would have to kill the patient – and they did their best. Now like communists they are moving on w/the next phase of the revoultion.

  6. CB says:

    See the photo on page A10 of last Sunday’s Boston Globe to see, and read, how the wonderful old rectory of St. Joseph’s at 167 Centre St. Roxbury has fallen into disrepair. According to the front page story of Roxbury Community College, the old rectory is owned by RCC, was rented out to a drug rehab program, neglected and abandoned. The door was left open and thieves tore out chandeliers, pipes froze, etc Only after police were called, did RCC become aware of this property. The rectory is also on the state register of historic places. Apparently, that designation didn’t even save it!

    My thanks to BCI for bringing up the subject of rectories

  7. Lazarus' Table says:

    I think Benedict’s message to France would be well-heeded by the archdiocese of Boston:
    “Solving the pastoral problems that present themselves in your dioceses must never limit itself to organizational questions, however important these may be. This [approach] risks placing an emphasis on seeking efficiency through a sort of ‘bureaucratization of pastoral care,’ focused on structures, organizations and programs, ones which can become ‘self-referential,’ at the exclusive use of the members of those structures. These would have scarce impact on the life of Christians who are distanced from regular practice [of the faith]. Instead, evangelization requires starting from the encounter with the Lord, within a dialogue rooted in prayer, which then concentrates on the witness of giving itself toward the end of helping the people of our time to recognize and discover anew the signs of the presence of God.”
    Benedict XVI Ad Limina Address to the Bishops of Western France

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