Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor

If the implementation of the new pastoral plan across the Boston Archdiocese looks anything like we hear it looks in Newton, MA, we are in for a steep decline.

Latest news on the pastoral plan is that the 90-year-old retiring pastor of Sacred Heart in Newton, Fr. John Connelly, has packed his bags and is moving this week because he was asked by the Boston Archdiocese to leave the parish where he has served as pastor for the last 30 years. Out of obedience to his bishop, this very orthodox pastor has agreed to the plan and is moving to another rectory where he will now reside with two of the least orthodox priests in the archdiocese.

As background, as part of the parish collaborative effort, Sacred Heart in Newton is combining with Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton. According to local parishioners, the two parishes could not be more different. About a month ago in Boston Pastoral Planning Problems, we wrote how Sacred Heart has been led by an orthodox pastor while our Lady Help of Christians is more “new agey” in their liturgies and ministries:

Pastor, Fr. John Sassani of the new collaborative offers yoga at Our Ladys, 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!!!!:

What happens when the new pastor from the bigger parish takes over the smaller parish in the collaborative? They boot the former pastor, even if he is 90-years-old and ordained a priest for 65 years. Here are several notices in the Sacred Heart bulletin that detail the progression:

January 20, 2013: Fr. Connolly wrote in the bulletin about the pending collaborative and impact on him:

“Some folks have been asking how all this affects my situation here at Sacred Heart parish where I will complete my thirtieth year on June 30. A pastor who resigns his parish is obviously eligible for another parish. however, nobody wants a 90-year-old pastor. A pastor who retires has a number of options. He can live in his ancestral home, which I do not have. He could live alone in a condo he purchased decades ago, which I did not do. My option, therefore, means I would live in a rectory somewhere and help out. My present desire would be to remain where I am and be active in priestly ministry in the new collaborative here in Newton. I would prefer to live where I am living but I could move to Our Lady’s Parish. However, final decisions must await the appointment of the new pastor in April.”

February 3, 2013: Fr. Connolly wrote in the bulletin about a different plan for him:

To understand my future means to understand what it means to be a diocesan presbyter working under the Diocesan Bishop. When I was ordained in 1950 I freely and willingly made the solemn promise of respect and obedience to the bishop. This is what I have followed throughout my priesthood. Accordingly, I must say that at this time I shall remain on as pastor of Sacred Heart until June 2013. I will then assume the role of Senior Priest to serve anywhere else in the diocese except here in the new collaborative. I agree with the diocesan policy. The point of the policy is to allow the new pastor to assume his new duties as he meets his new parishioners and they meet him. My many years of teaching theology, especially the teaching of the faith on original sin, makes me understand and make sense of this diocesan policy.

If you read one of his final messages in the May 26, 2013 bulletin, you will see a summary of Fr. Connelly’s life (“Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill”) and yet another example of what an amazing priest we understand Fr. Connelly is.

The going-away party for him was Sunday. BCI understands he is moving to the rectory at St. John’s in Wellesley (closer to his sister at Seton Residence /Sisters of Charity, Wellesley) where he will live with dissidents Fr. Bryan Hehir and Fr. Thomas Powers (who was pastor when Voice of the Faithful was founded in their school basement hall).

Big parish led by unorthodox pastor merges with smaller parish led by orthodox pastor. Unorthodox pastor with his unorthodox parochial vicar (founder of Boston Priests Forum) take over; 90-year-old orthodox pastor of smaller parish obediently follows orders to leave, goes to live in rectory with leading diocesan dissidents to be nearby elderly sister. If BCI got some part of this story wrong, please let us know.

How exactly this represents forward progress and a chance to better evangelize the truths of the Catholic faith is unclear to BCI. What do you think?

46 Responses to Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor

  1. mary T says:

    I guess it is called mandatory retirement! Folks in the private sector live with that all the time almost always decades earlier. I trust they will be very kind to him.

    • Jimmy says:

      Wow. Cold. The priesthood happens to be part of the private sector and he sacrificed the income he could have earned under the belief that the Church would care for him in his old age. My opinion is that he will gain greater sanctity from silently suffering the persecution that he will experience for his remaining years. Yet another white martyrdom at the hands of dissident clergy.


    What matters to me here is how Fr. Connolly feels about his new placement. Does anyone know?? I understand that his first choice was to stay in his own parish rectory. At age 90 and after 63 years of service as a priest, I would hope that his opinion and desire would carry some weight. Strange placement but perhaps the “new agey” priests would benefit from his presence. Perhaps his safety and welfare are concerns in not having an elderly priest alone in a rectory. Very sad, no matter how you cut it. What was the big rush?

  3. Newton Catholic says:

    BCI, you have the story right. But even with mandatory retirement, people are not pushed out of their home. This is as unfair as portrayed by BCI.

  4. jbq2 says:

    There is a similar story which came from the DC archdiocese. Sr. Joyce Volpini was a principal for many years. She trained a lay “unmarried” woman to take her place. That happened and the new age pastor then had her evicted. She had nowhere to go and died soon after of obviously a “broken heart”. The idea is that you have to “crush” any remembrance of the past. Josef Stalin, the former seminarian, should have taken notes.

  5. Was there any other parish close to his sister? I wonder also how Fr. Connolly feels about it, but it certainly looks uncharitable. God have mercy on our poor Church and our faithful priests!

    • tryingtofigurethisout says:

      God have mercy indeed… 3 items of note while just doing some digging and connecting dots on the info provided by the BCI on this situation.

      1) i find it curious that the Father Sassani , in his parish website profile photo, is wearing not his roman collar, but rather civilian clothes….. ( how quaint )
      2) the link to a woman named anne marie david, who apparently is the ” Contemporary ” 6pm mass music coordinator ( one can only imagine what sort of abominations, musically and sadly probably liturgically, go on at that mass ) is photographed in what appears to be a church bench sitting with her legs up on the bench….. wearing no shoes….
      3) this may be a stretch which may be even too ridiculous even for this parish but there appears to be a guy named ” Larry Kessler ” on the parish ” peace and justice Committee”…could it possibly be that this parish is so far off the rails that this is the same Larry Kessler of the infamous Aids action committee…i have this sickening feeling that indeed it is….

      Our Lady Help of Christians Indeed….This parish and it’s members needs serious, serious prayers…

      • tryingtofigurethisout says:

        and one more thing.. no fewer than 10 ” outreach ” ministries of a social justice nature and yet not one minute of any scheduled Eucharistic Adoration time….Absolutely astounding ….Cardinal Sean where are you on this?

      • j says:

        Hi, trying;
        To your point that OLHC is highly liberal, there is no argument, and the proliferation of dissidents and social justice committees of sometimes dubious Catholicity supports that. While the continuation of a Contemporary music group for a particular Mass may not be to either of our likings, I feel the need to point out that the desire and direction is the Pastor and parishioners’, While I may share some of your sensibilities, I nevertheless feel the need to note that the music director, Anne Marie David is a very accomplished musician, and both she and her husband (Jo, the music director at the orthodox Sacred Heart) are very familiar with traditional Catholic music. They both are well liked and respected by Fr Connelly, the 90 year old Pastor being moved, and provide the music they are ASKED to provide. Your problem is with the ASK, not the provider.

  6. Luke18:8 says:

    To tryingtofigurethisout,
    You asked, “Cardinal Sean where are you on this?” Do you really think he cares? I’ve never seen any indication that he does.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I don’t know about Boston, but I know that the policy in the New York archdiocese is that a retiring pastor cannot stay in his home parish–just like the priest here wrote in the bulletin. A new pastor taking over a position held by the former pastor for 30 years may have difficulty with parishioners attempting to run to the old pastor and getting a lot of “we never did it this way.” So I think the rule is supposed to help give the new pastor a fresh start, not to be mean to the retiring pastor, though it must be very difficult to leave your home parish after such a long time.

    The issue here is complicated by the merging of two parishes. It is further complicated by what people are describing above as the highly questionable practices of the larger parish. It sounds like the larger parish needs to be reined in. Let’s pray for them and for the retiring pastor.

    • Carol says:

      Kathleen, let us not be silly. The point here isn’t that the priest shouldn’t stay a priest in residence in a parish where he has been pastor. One could argue that, though it has not been practiced.

      Even if they had decided to implement, carrying it out would mean facilitating conversations to find them a new home.

      That is what humane people would do under these circumstances. We would meet with senior priests, work with him and other pastors to find him a suitable home. Help him pack, move his belongings ourselves if necessary. Like one would do for an aging parent.

      Do you see the difference between people who would send a notice of eviction and people who would exercise the pastoral care of a senior person as described above?

  8. anabela33 says:

    God bless this beautiful Priest, he is suffering now with the Lord for the Church. I will pray for him.

    • Bob says:

      Yes lets pray for him in deed!
      We also need to pray that we would each have the intense humility that Fr. Connelly has. He would appear to be a saint in the making!

  9. Phyllis Poole says:

    He is probably leaving it to God. It seems the new parish for him will be a challenge to counter the anti-catholic things that are going on. His voice can be heard above the voice of the devil’s helpers!!!
    He needs our prayers to do this

  10. Burt says:

    He sounds like such a great priest. I hope he will quietly influence the parish priest (pastor always sounds so protestant to me) in his new parish for the better.

  11. Another Catholic in Newton says:

    BCI, thanks for this excellent post. Can I indulge you to tell the whole story of the pastoral planning disaster in Newton?

    Sacred Heart parishioners voted in favor of combining with Our Lady’s largely because they thought the larger, younger more active parish (Our Ladys) would help bring more numbers to Sacred Heart programs. Theological and liturgical issues weren’t really considered.

    Fr. Connelly, a brilliant theologian, is told he has to leave the collaborative. Fr Sassani is named pastor. Almost everything about Our Ladys is heterodox–liturgies, ministries, leadership. Msgr Sheehan can be downright nasty to people–I heard him berate a parishioner who questioned their use of glass chalices instead of metal a few years ago.

    Across town, at St Bernard/Corpus Christi, the wonderful pastor Fr Silva left to go to Burlington, followed by the senior priest who was there, and they were replaced by Fr Dan O’Connell (BCTV, orange hair, bounces when he preaches) and Fr Ralph Reed. They cut the Saturday morning Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, and changed the Mass schedule so it’s less convenient now for folks to attend daily Mass and Adoration. The preaching there, like at Our Lady’s, is at about a level suitable for my 8 and 10-year-old kids.

    I’ll give you my contact info via email offline in case you have questions.


    This is not the first 90 year old priest sidelined and treated this way. We lost our beloved pastor this way too. It now takes three floating/loaner priests to cover his work and that has not even happened. We also had our most attended masses discontinued. This is the beginning of the end for this parish. Megaparishes of the future. Supermarket religion. Come one come

    I detest this treatment of our elderly priests, no matter the mission or goal or motivation.

  13. Chris Whittle says:

    If you are Catholic in the Newton area, go to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes; one of the few places with orthodoxy.

  14. Theresa DeSimone says:

    Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is heaven on earth. Well worth the travel time for those who want the TLM and come from other towns and in many cases states. Newton Catholics would do well to attend this parish. My heart is wrenched for Fr Connelly and other orthodox priests suffering the same fate. Our Lady of Fatima Ora Pro Nobis

    • Disco says:

      I’m proud to call Mary Immaculate of Lourdes my spiritual home. I can’t imagine going to Sunday mass anywhere else. The Mass of all times and the faith of all times.

  15. baralty says:

    I only know one thing about Fr. Connelly and that is that Bishop John D’Arcy said Mass at sacred Heart Church this past December…and his comment was that Fr. Connelly was one of the finest priest he knew. If Bishop D’Arcy would make that comment you may be sure that it is true.

  16. When Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was 90 years old, he was thrown to the lions. That was in about AD 107. There is an analogy here somewhere, except that lions are more merciful than liberals!
    Prepare for martyrdom, Fr. Connelly!

  17. teddyballgame says:

    Having worked for RCAB this doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s an environment where lip service is paid to treating people respectfully and humanely, but in the end they really do not care. Very sad

  18. sarah says:

    This situation is happening at another church in Lynn. A pastor of many years is being forced into retirement because he is having surgery and they are moving him from a parish he has served for several years. They are also causing major turmoil in one of the larger vibrant parishes of the Archdiocese by removing Fr. Rossi and replacing him with a priest that has served a parish for 17 years in Lynn and has done nothing to revitalize that parish that was slated for closure during the first round of parish closings. The faithful catholics are not being heard and unfortunately are the collatoral damage in this wonderful new evangilization plan—or should we say new (lets make up the rules as we go along plan).

  19. Francois Tee says:

    Just a thought – at 90 are there healthcare issues that would make it wise for him to move into a rectory with others?

    • JUST WONDERING says:


      • JUST WONDERING says:

        The present “healthcare issue” he/we have is reconfiguration. Take a look at the Pilot this week, page 2 a whole page list full of NEW Pastors AND “old Pastors” now becoming Senior Priests in Residence — six or seven.

  20. Bruce T. Boccardy says:

    The derogatory comments toward the pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians, Fr. John
    Sassani were laughable, not theologically weak.

    Fr. Sassani is an intelligent, sensitive and dedicated priest. He is well read and presents
    viewpoint that is based on an enlightened theology that represents the best philosophical constructs of Christianity.

    Moreover, it is based on the real world experiences of men and women.

    It is precisely, the ossified, dehumanizing, fundamentalist Ideology of the past that has driven away many of the faithful.

    We have enough echolalic, Taliban-
    like devotees peddling fear and loathing
    disguised as theology. It is guaranteed to alienate people. The record is clear.

    Fr. Sassani is perspicacious enough to balance enlightened instruction with a
    respect for Church authority. God bless him.

    • tryingtofigurethisout says:

      oh really?….it would seem that we have had about 50 or so years of this ” enlightened theology ” that u speak of with mass attendance AT AN ALL TIME LOW…indeed sir what IS laughable is you equating CATHOLIC orthodoxy with the taliban….how dare you make such a comparison….!!!!! i understand your desire to stick up for your friend…. just don’t think you can do so at the expense of the truth….of course any talk of truth in light of the new enlightened theology is going to seem dubious eh bruce?….” was is the procurator who once asked ” what is truth?”

      • Michael says:

        bruce doesn’t care about “the truth.” He likes to use the socialist propaganda principle of transfer in an attempt to subtly influence the reader of his comments – See Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals for an understanding of why Bruce does this. “The truth” has nothing to do with it.

    • David S. says:


      I don’t know Fr. Sassani or Our Lady Help of Christians, but I am curious as to what you mean by Fr. Sassani’s “enlightened theology.”

      But let’s cut to the chase…

      Does Fr. Sassani teach that artificial birth control is a mortal sin?

      Does Fr. Sassani teach that homosexual acts (not inclination but behavior) is a mortal sin?

    • Disco says:

      Classic canard “based on the real world experiences of men and women”.

      As if orthodox theology isn’t. Try reading St. Augustine, you boob.

  21. BobW says:

    This seems like a trend in the Boston archdiocese. Not only are they trying to merge churches that make no sense , the church is loosing connection with the parishioners. Wellesley’s St Pauls this weekend had to say goodbye to Father Fitz after his 17 years at the church. The parish is closely nit and a contributor to the Archdiocese. As usual this entire process occurs with the lack of transparency. Cardinal O’Malley seems to be detached from the process. I guess he is too busy with the internal politics of Rome.

    The Boston Archdiocese is on a continued downward spiral. Time to get some real leadership to save the Church.

    • Michael says:

      BCI is a priest administrator a “pastor” pursuant to canon law? Isn’t this the game plan … re-invent the structure of the church so so that canon law no longer applies?


    The chosen mergers make perfect sense if ithey are done with an eye toward closure. Get it?

    While I am afraid I might fall within the “ossified” group, though I am quite respectful of other practices under the guise of RC, I do find very little appreciation for the traditional parishes in this Archdiocese. I think a much bigger umbrella needs to be raised here though. It is not just the parishes espousing “enlightened theology” that are favored and nurtured. Attend one of the SHALOM services and see how EVERYONE SPEAKS IN TONGUE AND UNDERSTANDS TONGUE AND DANCES AROUND IN BARE FEET ON THE ALTAR. Or attend one of their weddings and see that it is actually a photo shoot with 4 photographers capturing every second of the consecration of the Mass and jazz music played throughout.

    You see, it is not just the “enlightened theology” that sidelines the more traditional parishes. Note, I am not one averse to change. There is room for change. I am open to change. However, the more traditional parishes are treated as if they have done something wrong, like they need correcting, like they are not worthy of investment of resources.

  23. Sacred Heart Parishioner says:

    Unfortunately, BCI has firmly grasped the wrong end of the stick re: Newton. Whoever fed this story to BCI must have had an axe to grind. That and a lot of bad information is all they had.

    None of the implications in this blog entry is accurate. Someone has, one can assume, duped BCI with a clever mishandling of the information. BCI would have been well served to set the record straight.

    The more withering comments by posters here are just plain uninformed and nasty. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story, right, Carol?

    Father Connelly has had a longstanding friendship with the pastor in Wellesley. He feels he is in the best possible location — he did not want to stay at SH because he didn’t want to be the “old guy” looking over the shoulder of the “new guy.” He stated that he would do so if the cardinal asked him to remain at SH as senior priest. He preferred NOT to. In Wellesley he is nearer his sister, living in a rectory with an old friend, and handy to his friends in Newton. He was not forced into the situation, he chose it.

    Father Sassani runs an enormous parish that has a style developed under a former pastor who did his best to impose a Unitarian framework at OLHC. Now Fr S has inherited a second parish where the people are accustomed to nine Masses per week, Adoration and the rosary. There are several Opus Dei families at SH, and many daily Mass goers. In Fr Sassani’s one week as pastor, he has shown great deference to the SH parishioners.

    So if you have posted on this blog re either parish, either priest, or what it all means, and you have no idea what you’re talking about (that would be 99% of you), why don’t you find another outlet for your venom. And if BCI could set the record straight, that would be very helpful.


    • tryingtofigurethisout says:

      So the questions are these sir/ma’am.. If what you say is true, what has Father Sassani done to reverse this ” unitarian framework” ?.. ( how in God’s name can a CATHOLIC parish find it acceptable to have a UNITARIAN framework and how could any faithful priest put up with that????? ) do you feel he has any obligation to do anything of such nature?…if your answer is no, why not ?

      • Sacred Heart Parishioner says:

        Didn’t say it has a Unitarian framework — said that’s what he inherited. The guy there in the ’90s and early 2000s pretty much didn’t care what beliefs people brought in, or which ones they took out. He wasn’t so much a revolutionary as he was lazy.

        OLHC’s not my parish so I have no idea what the day to day is around there. Daily Mass goers from SH like Father Sassani (7 a.m. is celebrated at SH only three days per week, so they go to OLHC Mon and Fri.)

        Father Connelly chose when he retired and chose where he moved. He didn’t love the idea of leaving his home of 30+ years, but he wanted to retire while he “still had some marbles rattling around,” (his words) and he did not want to be the old guy looking over the new guy’s shoulder. He was granted precisely what he asked for.

        So whoever set up BCI to run the headline, “Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor,” either has an axe to grind, is completely clueless, or is trying to torpedo the credibility of this blog.

  24. Anna Lynskey says:

    Some problems with your theory Madame.

    1. Fr. Connelly was not the only priest that was evicted.
    2. The Archdiocese told the evicted priests to get out without assistance.
    3. These priests did not know where they were going to go and were upset.
    4. There was no communication or assistance from the Archdiocese.
    5. This constitutes an eviction.

    Furthermore, you opine that Fr. Sassani inherited the programs and is not therefore responsible for the content of his parish many years later.

    A pathetic excuse for his malfeasance.

    I’m thinking you work in the Chancery?

  25. Anna Lynskey says:

    To be clear, in the real world, that excuse only works until 6 moths after his appointment. At best.

    He owns the rest.

    Fr. Sassani has a long history of serving milquetoast and heresy.

  26. On the details of this matter I have no idea what I am talking about.
    The headline clearly was inflammatory.

    Would it be par for the course for RCAB to tell
    a 90 year old Priest to –

    “Put your crap in boxes and get out,
    you’ve been reconfigured” ?


  27. Sacred Heart Parishioner says:

    Blog entry was about Fr Connelly. It was not correct… presumably because BCI was set up with bad information. (my sense is that BCI normally tries to base its material on verified information) Based on Fr C’s and Sacred Heart’s experience, the process went as well as any huge life change can go.

    If you have a concern about OLHC, speak to Fr Sassani directly. I’d lose the swag before doing so, though, e.g., “I’m thinking you work in the Chancery?” Kind of splatters over onto your other statements and makes them seem ridiculous as well.

  28. […] Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor […]

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