Boston Pastoral Planning Problems

As Phase One of the new Boston pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission, is being rolled out, early indicators are that the plan is going to be anywhere from somewhat to highly problematic. This is the plan that will group Boston parishes into collaboratives staffed by a single pastor, with a shared pastoral service team (PST). For a while, BCI tried to stay neutral, if not cautiously optimistic about the plan, but each week as we see and hear more about the rollout, the more concerned we become.

BCI sees multiple problems.  At a high level, they include:

  • Promotion of the agendas and beliefs of those who dissent from the faith, pretending it is part of the “new evangelization”
  • Failure to plan for former pastors who will no longer be pastors
  • Unnecessary reductions in Mass schedules and availability of the sacraments
  • Unresponsiveness to the concerns of faithful Catholics by Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Bishop Deeley, and Assistant to the VG Fr. Bryan Parrish
  • Lack of understanding of the key success factors for evangelization (as exemplified by the meeting in Braintree this past Saturday)

It will take many posts for us to go into all of these.  We will start with just a preview of the first two areas today.

As seen here, the pastors for all of the Phase One collaboratives were announced recently:

Pastors of the Phase One Collaboratives

As of last week, all of the Pastors for the Phase One Collaboratives have been named. Each one has responded generously and willingly to implement the Pastoral Plan as Pastor of one of the Collaboratives. We promise them our prayers and support in the days and months ahead. These new Pastors are:

1. Saint Luke and Saint Joseph, Belmont ~ Fr. Thomas Mahoney
2. Saint Mary, Saint Margaret and Saint John, Beverly ~ Fr. Mark Mahoney
3. Saint Mary, Saint Theresa, and Saint Andrew, Billerica ~ Fr. Shawn Allen
4. Saint Mary, Brookline ~ Fr. Brian Clary
5. Saint Mary of the Angels, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Lourdes,
Jamaica Plain ~ Fr. Carlos Flor
6. Saint Mary and Sacred Heart, Lynn ~ Fr. Brian Flynn
7. Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Maria Goretti, Lynnfield ~ Fr. Paul Ritt
8. Saint Lucy and Saint Monica, Methuen ~ Msgr. William Fay
9. Saints Martha and Mary, Lakeville and Sacred Heart, Middleboro/Rochester
~ Fr. John Sheridan
10. Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton ~ Fr. John Sassani
11. Saint James, Saint John, Immaculate Conception and Sainte Anne, Salem,
~ Fr. Daniel Riley
12. Saint Jerome and Immaculate Conception, Weymouth ~ Fr. Joseph Rossi

About 3/4 of the present group of pastors are new to their collaborative. Apparently Fr. Paul Soper, Director of Pastoral Planning, (who had a Voice of the Faithful group at his most recent parish for several years), is driving this and is largely getting his way with the pastoral appointments.  BCI is told they want hand-picked “chosen” ones in collaboratives, so in some cases the normal pastoral appointment process is bypassed and politics kick in.

BCI is going to share brief comments on just one appointment to exemplify our point about promotion of dissident agendas and beliefs–Fr. John Sassani.   He offers yoga in his parish, despite the known objections of the Vatican and risk to the spiritual health of participants. His history of allowing promotion of agendas that dissent from the Catholic faith is well documented in his parish bulletins.  Just take a look at the books his parishioners are encouraged to read in their book club, and see this comment from Newton church-hopper:

BCI you should look closer at Our Ladys. Besides glass vessels for the blood of Christ, look at the kinds of faith formation programs they have.

Our Ladys Book Club was reading “sister” Joan Chittister’s “In Search of Belief” last fall.
Chittister is a dissident nun, 60′s leftist and new-ager, supports women’s ordination, speaks at Call to Action conferences.

What an insult to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Fr. Sassani to have “Our Ladys Book Club” reading a book by a dissident nun who disobeyed the Vatican’s request she not speak at a women’s ordination conference!!!!:

There are many other examples we will have to cover in a future post. Readers tell BCI that Our Lady’s is very much a “new age” type parish–far from orthodox in liturgies and ministries. They are now paired with a parish that had been led by a very orthodox pastor.  All in the Boston Archdiocese should ask why a pastor who allows and encourages his parishioners to read this garbage would now be made pastor of a collaborative. Is this an early indicator for future collaboratives?

Then there is the new problem created–we have too many priests for the available pastor slots, so a number of former pastors are now sitting on the sidelines. 50 priests were forced to resign their roles this spring to make way for Phase 2 collaboratives.  (Normally, maybe 10 pastors change at this time of year, so 50 is a big number). There were 12 open roles for pastors of collaboratives, plus some additional openings not formally a part of the collaborative effort.  Because a lot more pastors were forced to resign from parishes than there are available pastor roles, a number of former pastors now have no place to go. The reasons are varied–some parishes cannot afford a second or third priest, some of the new pastors do not want certain of the former pastors as parochial vicars, some former pastors do not want to now be a parochial vicar, and there are issues and agendas on both sides (whether real or perceived).

To deal with this new problem, sources tell BCI that the office of Clergy Personnel has hired a new psychiatrist to coordinate the treatment of priests’ issues, including those associated with displacement and moving assignments. We are not kidding.

BCI has been praying for the success of the pastoral planning effort in Boston, and still hopes it is successful. But we are beginning to have very serious concerns about execution of the new pastoral plan, and the implications for the typical Boston parish. Readers are invited to share their initial reactions to what they are seeing of the implementation so far.

29 Responses to Boston Pastoral Planning Problems

  1. jbq2 says:

    Collaboratives are just giant parishes to form a new culture. Pastors were analyzed psychologically to test their willingness to accept the new Christianity. The goal according to Teihard de Chardin is to allow the parish to select their pastors from the community which would mean the ordination of the laity. This could also evolve into the ordination of women and could even mean the acceptance of gay marriage.

  2. jbq2 says:

    Collaboratives are just giant parishes to form a new culture. Pastors were analyzed psychologically to test their willingness to accept the new Christianity. The goal according to Teihard de Chardin is to allow the parish to select their pastors from the community which would mean the ordination of the laity. This could also evolve into the ordination of women and could even mean the acceptance of gay marriage.

  3. Chris Whittle says:

    Now is the time for a new archbishop.

    • Liam says:

      Well, considering that your blog publicly accuses (omitting names but providing a picture that makes very clear where this was, as the parish is huge and well-known) Bishop Hennessy of simulating an invalid sacrament of confirmation at St Patrick’s in Stoneham this past weekend, I’d say you have bigger problems with real Catholicism when you repeatedly bring this up in varied ways on this blog.

      • Liam,
        What specifically did BCI post that you are you referring to? We have posted nothing here that suggested a concern with a confirmation by Bishop St. Patrick’s in Stoneham this past weekend. If there was an invalid sacrament of confirmation, that is news to us. Can you elaborate on the basis for your criticism of BCI–we really do not know what you are talking about.

      • j says:

        BCI; I think Liam was referring not to YOU but to this [edited by BCI] which apparently is not supposed to be funny, and is on the blog that “Chris Whittle” links to. .

      • Liam says:

        J is correct.

      • Liam,
        We did not immediately realize you were referring to another blog. We cannot be responsible for what people post at other blogs and would ask that readers not sidetrack the discussion here at BCI to topics posted at other blogs. If you want to comment on what is posted at another blog, please do so AT THAT BLOG, not here at BCI. We have removed the URL and references.

      • Liam says:

        BCI: I deliberately did not include a cross-link because I didn’t want to go down a rabbit hole. But mentioning this was relevant to *this* discussion because I believe that when someone doesn’t believe our current bishops confect valid sacraments, it deeply colors how we are to interpret their repeated comments on the need for a new bishop – it’s a gravely relevant interpretive matter because it’s coming from a mindset that has expressly set itself outside of communion with the local bishop. It’s your blog, and you set the rules, and I will leave this sidebar alone for now.

  4. Alice Slattery says:

    Fr. Paul Soper, who is now the Director of Pastoral Planning,
    has consistently and publicly been a strong supporter of Voice of the Faithful(VOTF) and , in his St. Albert,the Great,parish bulletin, besides having monthly meetings for VOTF, tried to encourage Catholics to attend the Voice of the Faithful 10th Anniversary Conference in Boston this past April. Therefore Catholics who will be effected by the upcoming structural changes need to know if there is a relationship between the” Structural Changes ” that the Voice of the Faithful insists are necessary to be implemented in the Catholic Church and the structural changes that Fr. Paul Soper is trying to implement in the Boston Archdiocese. One wonders what Fr. Soper thinks about the structural changes that are being promoted by one of the major speakers at that recent VOTF Conference who was the self-proclaimed ” lesbian Catholic”,Jamie L. Manson who also is a frequent writer for the National Catholic Reporter(NPR). Her agenda can be seen by reading her National Catholic Reporter article:”Sexual Diversity,the Catholic Church, and all that remains unsaid”(NPR,Sept. 14,2011).
    I doubt that Cardinal O’Malley is aware of the structural changes that leaders of VOTF and their Conference speakers have been advocating. He really needs to know what the relationship is between the structural changes being planned for his Archdiocese and their similarity to those of VOTF. Parishioners in the Boston Archdiocese have a right to know whether Cardinal O’Malley knows what is really going on as these structural changes are being imposed by Fr. Soper..

  5. Carol says:

    Is Sacred Heart, Newton part of the collaboration with Our Lady, Help of Christians? On the website for Sacred Heart, Newton, there is a “Communion” picture of what I first took to be a danish – on closer insepction, a roll.

    • David S. says:


      That picture of the crusty bread used at Sacred Heart in Newton is frightening. Is Italian Scali bread now considered valid matter for Eucharistitic consecration?

      Plus I am sure most people in that parish receive in their hands. I can only imagine the volume of crumbs that are created when the priest breaks that crusty bread apart. Shouldn’t the priest concerned about desecrating the Blessed Sacrament when the crumbs fall to the floor?

      • Stephen says:

        Whoa there David.
        For a valid sacrament you need proper form, intent and matter.

        The parishioners assisting at such a service are offering a spiritual communion at best. In addition clergy that continue to use glass vessels when they have been directed to read the canon are essentially ‘protesting’ as in protest-ant.
        Shall we debate such issues like good modernists?

        FYI, I over heard some teens after Fr. Soper offered Mass. One young lady said “I don’t care what you think, that new priest is definitely gay”. Regardless, It is my hope that BVM wraps him in her cloak and whispers truth in his ear.

    • j says:

      Hi, Carol;
      Think you are over-analyzing. Sacred Heart IS part of the collaboration with OLHC, but the website was just re-done by a commercial company in anticipation of the merger. While it may say something about the company, it does not necessarily reflect what is now going on at Sacred Heart

    • JUST WONDERING says:

      Carol: I thought it looked more like a piece of “fried Chicken”
      but I’m still “JUST WONDERING” about that Parish!!!

      • Jim R. says:

        At last the picture of the Eucharistic elements has been changed. I do wonder why it took months to happen? In any event…

        Of more concern is what this all means for Sacred Heart. Most people do not realize the historic importance to the Archdiocese of Sacred Heart Church in Newton Centre. There are 3 significant historic reasons for the maintenance of the Parish (which I fear is now in peril):

        1. Francis J. Spellman, as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, was Pastor from 1932-1939. He later became the Cardinal Archbishop of New York.

        2. Richard J. Cushing, as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, was Pastor from 1939-1944. He later became the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston.

        NOTE: 2 PASTORS WERE NAMED CARDINALS – and each could be argued to be the most influential cardinal in the US or maybe the world at the time.

        But most importantly from an historic perspective:

        3. Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, as Secretary of State of Vatican City stayed at Sacred Heart during his famous US Tour in 1936. Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope in 1939 as Pope Pius XII. Thus the first person who would be elected Pope to visit the USA stayed at Sacred Heart when he visited Boston, rather than with Cardinal O’Connell at Lake Street. There is a plaque, picture and ceremonial candle in the nave at the side entrance near the Mary altar (since removed) commemorating the event.

        Pope Pius XII may be controversial, but the fact remains he was Pope and the historic significance should not be understated. This sort of grouping does increase the likelihood of closure especially considering the value of the location and all related buildings.

  6. Sacred Heart parishioner says:

    The pastoral plan problems described here are accurate. We’re very concerned about the merger with Our Ladys. Fr. Connelly our previous pastor was erudite and scholarly but very orthodox. That photo at the Sacred Heart website is stock photography. I agree it’s bad. But I’ve been at Sacred Heart for 10 years and never seen Eucharist that looks like this at Mass. Your concerns, though very valid from the picture, aren’t justified based on what actually happens in the liturgies here..

    • Stephen says:

      Thank God.

    • Why not use a picture of a regular host? (This is why I am not a fan of stock photography.) Does Fr. Connolly know that this protestant picture is on his parish’s website? He should fire the webmaster who did this…

      Fr. Higgins at Mary Immaculate down the street would not even think of using leavened bread for Holy Communion. Since he actually is the most orthodox priest in the archdiocese I would’t be surprised that Mary Immaculate be closed because he offers the Traditional Latin Mass daily, and his doctrinal orthodoxy is disliked by 66 Brooks Drive. Sad.

      • Chris and other readers, BCI has heard from a number of Sacred Heart parishioners who confirm that picture is NOT reflective of the Eucharist at Sacred Heart. Maybe Fr Connelly has not reviewed their website pictures. We will drop a line and ask further. Sacred Heart is not the reason for concern in this collaborative–the problem is Our Lady’s and the new pastor, as we will cover further in our next post.

      • Carolyn says:

        Is the Sacred Heart parish website designed/hosted by Boston Catholic Media?

    • j says:

      Sacred Heart parishioner;
      Just curious; would love to get your perspective on what the worst part of the merger was. My understanding was that most Newton parishes were open to collaborating, but that the merger that is happening was not one that anyone recommended.
      Sacred Heart and OLHC are quite different in size (not a good match – one becomes a chapel of the other) and culture. St Bernard/Corpus Christi or MIL seemed the more logical merger candidates.

      • Sacred Heart parishioner says:

        Sacred Heart parishioners voted via survey at some of the “Town Hall” meetings in 2012 mostly in favor of the collaborative proposal that combined Sacred Heart and Our Ladys. I think they felt like since Our Ladys was a bigger parish and had a thriving youth program there would be strength in numbers to pool resources and help draw more people to Sacred Heart events and programs. St. Bernards/Corpus Christi was already combined and they had their own issues so they were off the table.Theologically, it would have made much more sense to combine Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.It’s not clear to me that most parishioners thought about the theological issues–I think they were mostly considering the resource pooling.

  7. RomanCircus says:

    Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered… the wolves are moving in for the kill.

  8. ACS says:

    Concerns indeed! Take a closer look at the list for phase 1 pastors. Several were Vicar Foranes, perhaps a few Presbyteral council members, one was the chair of the APPC that started this whole “plan” and a few are cheerleaders for the program. It certainly seems like these “hand picked” few were set to make sure Phase 1 succeeds.

    And let’s consider how many wonderful, orthodox priests who were doing great things in their parishes to gather the faithful under true Catholic teaching are now out in the cold and seemingly have their zeal crushed. St. John Marie Vianney, intercede for our priests and for us!

  9. […] Life – Daniel Burke, RCSD Who is the Terrorist? – Donald R. McClarey JD, The American Catholic Boston Pastoral Planning Problems – Boston Catholic Insider Looking for the GOD & CAESAR EDITION, click here. Looking for the […]

  10. Lost Soul says:

    What is the plan for evangelization? It appears that it is trailing behind everything else. I can not help but feel collaboration is another name for closing and consolidating.

  11. Ferde Rombola says:

    From this week’s parish bulletin at St. Joseph’s in Belmont.

    Join us Monday, May 6th at 10:00 a.m. in the Parish Hall for our monthly Monday Movie, �Luther�. Armed with little more than his beliefs and quick wit, Martin Luther, a young 16th century monk driven by outrage, confronts the Medieval Church. While he is not always cognizant of the far-reaching repercussions of his actions, he ultimately helps usher in the Reformation, fostering a new era of personal and religious freedoms.”

    I love the ‘personal and religious freedoms’ part. Ecumenism, I guess.

  12. Stephen says:

    Of note:
    Braintree has announced Star of The Sea in Quincy will be sold.

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