Correction and Clarification on Last Post Re: Retiring Pastor

BCI received a number of public comments and several private comments on our last post, and needs to issue a correction and clarification.

Since writing the post, we have learned a few additional pieces of important information.  The subject line, “Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor” and tone of the post conveyed a perspective on this particular situation that we realize now may not have accurately reflected all of the facts.  We have also learned that there is much more to the situation in Newton and adjoining communities than we originally realized.

We were correct that pastors such as 90-year-old Fr. Connelly, who retire as pastors in a collaborative, have to leave that collaborative.  A “new” pastor coming in may not want the “old guy” looking over his shoulder when he becomes pastor, and the “old guy”  may not want to be in the position of looking over the shoulder of the new pastor or having parishioners come to the “old guy” to complain about the “new guy.”  We were also correct that Fr. Connelly wanted to live in Wellesley near his elderly sister and is going to live at St. Pauls in Wellesley with Fr. Bryan Hehir and Fr. Thomas Powers.

However, in this case, the word “evict” was too strong and misrepresented the reality of the situation. Fr. Connelly voluntarily retired at the age of 90, and even though in the parish bulletin he had expressed a desire to stay in the local parish post-retirement, we learned that he did indeed not want to be living locally under a new pastor. Much to our surprise, Fr. Connelly, is in fact friends with Fr. Powers and accepted an invitation to work as Senior Priest in residence at the St. Johns rectory in Wellesley.  We apologize for using the wrong word in the headline and any implication that Fr. Connelly forced out or that his going to live at St. Johns in Wellesley was involuntary.

As for the sense of a “takeover” of the orthodox Sacred Heart in Newton by the less-orthodox pastor, Fr. John Sassani, from Our Ladys in Newton, it is true that Fr. Sassani is much less orthodox than Fr. Connelly, and we still see this as a concern. As background, we understand that a group of Sacred Heart parishioners who knew Fr. Sassani primarily from his having given Lenten missions wrote a letter to the archdiocese asking that he remain as pastor of the collaborative in Newton. In addition, after uproar over the removal of Fr. Walter Cuenin from Our Ladys some years ago, the folks in Braintree may have wanted to avoid upsetting this particular applecart right now. Contributing factors as those may be, BCI still sees this as problematic. If one merely looks at Our Ladys’ bulletin for the past 6-8 months, one will easily see the evidence of dissent from the Catholic faith in the programs offered.  Why should a pastor who allows and encourages dissent from the Catholic faith be given the green light from the archdiocese to broaden their influence over the faithful and lead yet more souls under their care astray?  This will be the topic of a subsequent post.

In addition, we are told publicly and privately that the focus on Sacred Heart and Fr. Sassani is missing even more of the “big picture” of what is happening in the Newton/Wellesley area around Pastoral Planning.

Why are Our Ladys and Sacred Heart now combined–with two churches and Mass schedules, while the smaller St. Bernards in Newton is remaining alone? (St. Bernards is “combined” in name and church-going population with Corpus Christi, but the Corpus Christi church building is now used exclusively by the Korean Catholic community, so you have one parish building at St. Bernards with one parish Mass and sacramental schedule).

And what is happening in nearby Wellesley?  Why was Fr. Richard Fitzgerald suddenly transferred from St. Pauls to St. Columbkille in Brighton?  That leaves St Paul,  the more traditional and orthodox parish in Wellesley, highly vulnerable.
St. Paul still has a parish-based Catholic school, and many orthodox Catholics send their children there. However, BCI understands that Fr. Tom Powers at nearby St. Johns has been angling to get the St Paul parish school closed and instead, to locate a new diocesan-managed Wellesley Catholic Academy at St John’s (where Voice of the Faithful formed back in 2002 under his tutelage).  We all know what a diocesan-managed “Catholic” academy under Mary Grassa O’Neill means.  Father Fitz had apparently resisted this move for several years. Now what happens?

So the big questions are:

  • What will happen to the previous orthodoxy at Sacred Heart in Newton with the less-than-orthodox Fr. Sassani taking over?   Is this part of a pattern of orthodox pastors in Boston retiring and being replaced by unorthodox pastors?
  • Who will get the whole of Wellesley?
  • Why is a parish such as St Bernard in Newton standing alone, while other larger parishes are combining?

Again, we apologize for not having full information on the Fr. Connelly situation when we wrote our last blog post about the changes in Newton.

ps. We understand there are problems at another Sacred Heart–Sacred Heart in Middleboro — part of a new collaborative that also includes Sts Martha and Mary in Lakeville and St Rose of Lima in Rochester.  A report from the vigil Mass this past Saturday was very concerning. Any parishioners who were at that Mass or who heard what happened–please drop us a line.

16 Responses to Correction and Clarification on Last Post Re: Retiring Pastor

  1. D Paul says:

    Obviously, the term “orthodox” could have a euphemism which means something else. It is all about Teilhard de Chardin and the move toward world socialism. Here in the Midwest, the term “collaborative” is also being used. It is starting out slowly with the merging of schools to reflect the intended target of saving money. In reality, the code words “educational enhancement” are bandied about in the true meaning of multi culturalism and Catholic is irrelevant.

  2. Disco says:

    There’s another church in Newton with four Sunday masses and two masses every day, plus funerals, with only one priest.

  3. Is BCI being objective? says:

    In this post, BCI admitted that it needed to issue a correction for some of the assumptions it made in the situation of Fr. Connelly at Sacred Heart in Newton. Then it has gone on to make other assumptions with perhaps even less information. What has happened to BCI’s original standards of trying to be factual and fair?

    BCI: “Is this (Newton collaborative) part of a pattern of orthodox pastors in Boston retiring and being replaced by unorthodox pastors?”

    Question: Isn’t the simplest explanation that a pastoral collaborative between these 2 parishes made sense in Newton, that the 90-year old pastor (whether he was orthodox or not) was not going to be named the new pastor, and that it made sense that the pastor from OLHC was named to both, particularly when Fr. Connelly supported that move? Why does there need to be a conspiracy here?

    BCI: “Who will get the whole of Wellesley?”

    Question: The pastor at St. Columbkille’s was named to Methuen. They needed a new pastor. Fr. Fitzgerald was named. Those transfers happen all the time. Fr. Powers is old enough that he won’t be made a pastor somewhere else. Perhaps the next pastor at St. Paul’s will be the pastor of the “whole of Wellesley” after Fr. Powers retires. Why would BCI think it sensical that a pastor well into his 70s would be given a 2nd parish? Has that happened elsewhere. Again, no conspiracy…

    BCI: “Why is a small parish such as St Bernard in Newton standing alone (with its own pastor and parochial vicar, one church building and just one Mass and sacramental schedule), while larger parishes are combining with similar clergy staffing levels, two church buildings and two Mass and sacramental schedules?”

    Question: Where does BCI get its data? Go on the CCSB website and you see Fr. O’Connell as pastor and Fr. Reed as in residence. That means he pays rent to live there but has no duties for the parish. As I think you know Fr. Reed runs CatholicTV. Fr. O’Connell also works part time in the office of spiritual development too in addition to hosting a show on CatholicTV. Where is the over-staffing at this parish that BCI alleges? Why is BCI assuming that CCSB is standing alone? Have final collaborative groupings for Newton been named yet? Were the original pairings announced prior to the initial collaborative groupings (not sure but I think so)?

    BCI: “Again, we apologize for not having full information on the Fr. Connelly situation when we wrote our last blog post about the changes in Newton.”

    Question: Is BCI being written by the same people that started it 3 years ago? It seems at every turn now BCI is alleging conspiracies without having “full information” instead of gathering facts and letting them point to a conclusion. Why allege something crazy at Sacred Heart in Middleboro without having facts there?

    • BCI has time right now for just a very brief response to your complaints. We have gotten something wrong perhaps 4-5 times in 3 years of blogging, and each time we have admitted it publicly. How many times has Cardinal O’Malley gotten something wrong during his tenure as Archbishop of Boston that affects the salvation of souls under his pastoral care–and admitted he has gotten it wrong? Zero that BCI can count. If you would like for us to start listing them–where the consequences are grave–it will not be pretty.

      If you think the failure of Fr. Sassani to adequately shepherd the souls of the faithful under his care merits him being pastor of another parish, wait until our next post. We will also answer your other points separately.

    • Angry Parish Council Member says:

      I can’t speak for Newton, but what happened in Norwood at St. Catherine’s was the replacement of a retiring orthodox pastor, Msgr. McRae, with the opposite of an orthodox pastor, Msgr. Garrity. I think he’s what some people call “heterodox.” The parish has gone downhill steadily since the arrival of Msgr. Garrity–the school, liturgies, the “all are welcome regardless of your sexual orientation” mission statement. It’s a different place, and not for the better.

      “Is BCI being objective”–you sound like you must work for the archdiocese.

      • Curious says:

        As a parish council member why would you not make your objections and observations directly to the pastor?

      • Angry Parish Council Member says:

        We did make our objections known directly to the pastor. Msgr. Garrity unilaterally changed the parish mission statement shortly after he arrived. The matter was discussed at a Parish Council meeting in late September of 2011. Msgr. Garrity wouldn’t listen to the parishioners and council members and did whatever he wanted. He wrote his explanation in the parish bulletin of Oct. 2, 2011. It was a load of hooey. It used to be online, but the archive has been removed. BCI is right to raise the issue of orthodox pastors being replaced by heterodox pastors and I commend them for doing this. I wish something could have been done about Msgr. Garrity. Seems too late now.

      • Raymond of Capua says:

        Do not give up hope, APCM, you are not alone. I know Bishops have been involved, paid us lip service, talked to the Msgr., received a disrespectful, written response that amounted to “too bad. I will do what I want”. And they have let him. But his subsversive bulletins, like his one two weeks ago that was a slick mockery of the Cardinal’s boycotting of the BC commencement speaker and a “I am more sophisticated than the Bishops on abortion” tone that gave subtle support to the President of Ireland’s pro-child murder push are not being tossed out and they are being sent to the Cardinal and others as often they are written. He seems to think his parishoners are dumb and an cannot read between the obvious lines. He is much less subtle and coy than he thinks he is.

        Msgr. Garrity continues to decimate the parish and school. He lectures the kids who do not do the wave at Mass about unity while he is breaking unity with the Magesterium and violating the rubrics. Because we all know doing the wave at Mass is a groovy and hip way to get the kiddies jazzed about the faith! Who needs truth?

        So let’s double down on our prayer, fasting and sacrifices for our parish and others in the Archdiocese suffering with Wolves in shepherds’s clothing. Let’s pray for their repentance and/or retirement.

    • This is a continuation of our previous response to your multiple questions.

      Regarding Sacred Heart in Middleboro, the general atmosphere of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by the new pastor was characterized as having such over-the-top levity as to make give the impression one was in the audience at the “Tonight Show”. The facts:

      –During the homily, a boy of around 10-11 years old stepped out of his pew, presumably to use the bathroom, at which point the pastor abruptly interrupted the homily and stated that “no child goes alone”, insisting that the embarrassed mother get up and accompany the boy.
      –During preparation of the gifts prior to the Consecration, the pastor, after washing his hands, threw the wet cloth on the altar boy’s head and the boy was forced to walk back to the credence table with the cloth on his head, accompanied by much laughter from the pews.
      –After Communion, but prior to the end of Mass, the pastor expounded at length about his favorite foods.

      The above occurred during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “the source and summit of the Christian life. The Council of Trend tells us the the Mass is the same Sacrifice of Calvary offered in an unbloody manner: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different … And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner… this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

      You asked.

      With regards to the question about the writing of BCI, the blog has always been a team effort. People come and go. Every year the blog has seen changes. We still try for the same accuracy and reporting of objective observations as in the early days.

    • Catholic Cop says:

      If Fr. O’Connell in Newton is overburdened being pastor of one parish while working part-time for the archdiocese he should ask Fr. Rodney Copp for advice. Fr. Copp was pastor at St. Charles Borromeo in Waltham while also working part-time for the Tribunal, while also serving as chaplain for the Waltham Police, while also being head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith/St. James Society. He took only one day off a week, said all 4 weekday Masses, 5 Masses on weekends–Saturday morning at 9am, Saturday afternoon vigil, 2 on Sunday mornings and one Sunday evening. Then he was named pastor of another parish in Canton, but didn’t leave Waltham like he expected to right away and was splitting time between being pastor of two parishes while doing everything else. If Fr. O’Connell can’t manage everything, maybe he should drop the TV show and focus on his parish pastoral duties.

      • Chris Whittle says:

        Agreed. Why doesn’t the Archdiocese get rid of it’s own TV station if they are $140 million in debt? I never watch Boston Catholic TV for a good reason: there is nothing good for me to watch.

    • Joe Friday says:

      Priests in residence, like Father Hehir at Saint John in Wellesley, senior priests in residence, et. al., are expected to celebrate a certain number of Masses per week. The diocese pays parishes a fixed amount as a stipend for the living expenses of the priest in residence.

      So a priest in residence is not a parochial vicar, but is expected to celebrate Mass in the parish on a regular basis. It usually works out to three Masses per week for the priest in residence. The only distinction for a priest as young as Fr. Reed who is not characterized as a parochial vicar, is that his entire paycheck is funded by the department he works for (in his case TV). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t contribute to the parish ministry.

      A pastor’s first job is his parish, and the celebration of Mass is his first job within the parish. The CCSB website also notes a full time permanent deacon. Yet you’ll note that two days per week (Th and Fri) there is no liturgy provided by either of the two priests, nor the deacon. How come? And why have the Mass at the entrance to the Mass Pike at 8:00 a.m. — also when Learning Prep buses are dropping off a few hundred kids? The prior pastor consulted the parish broadly just about a year ago, and decided that 9:00 a.m. Mass Mon-Sat enabled the greatest number of parishioners to attend daily Mass. He and a priest in residence got that done.

    • “Is BCI being objective?”,
      You seem to have come in, lobbed a bunch of complaints and questions, and then disappeared.This is the last part of our response to you.

      Regarding the situation in Wellesley, you display a bit of naivete about the pastoral appointment process. In case you were unaware of this, Fr. Richard Fitzgerald was the long-time Director of Clergy Personnel, and he placed himself in the pastor role at St. Pauls in Wellesley in 2002. It is a very affluent parish and was a very comfortable situation for him. His sudden reassignment comes as a surprise to many people in and outside of Wellesley.

      Note in this article that although the archdiocese says a new pastor will eventually be appointed for St. Pauls, they were mum about the fate of the St. Paul’s School:

      Were you aware that the current principal of the school was the least qualified of several candidates for the role – was merely a former guidance counselor before becoming principal and had just 5 years of experience in Catholic schools, but not in administration? She studied at Boston College, and BCI is told her connections to Braintree and low likelihood of “rocking the boat” helped her get the job.

      We asked legitimate questions about the future of St. Pauls School and the parish pastoral situation in Wellesley, which are questions that local Catholics are also asking.

  4. Michael says:

    The BCI blog obviously requires a team of dedicated and talented people. Writers on the BCI team probably come and go, but in the past three years, the honesty and accuracy of the blog has been very consistent. No one is perfect. All we can ask for is that if and when you make a mistake, that it be corrected immediately. I applaud BCI for its honesty and humility in correcting its mistakes over the past three years. Characteristics I think every Catholic should strive for.

  5. Chris says:

    This may be a good time to ask people to use their cell phones to record some of these happenings. Under normal circumstances I have mine turned off before I go to Mass. But if the Mass turns into a celebration of the pastor and you see things veering off the tracks, some discreet photography may make those in the chancery pay attention. Letters are one thing. The fear of a viral video might be more effective — but only if the situation is out of control enough to warrant it.

  6. Lazarus' Table says:

    Re: Joe Friday comment. The responsibilities of a (senior) priest in residence is determined by agreement between that priest and the pastor. It may range from no responsibilities to a broad range of responsibilities. There is no standard practice or official diocesan policy in this regard.

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