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. http://parishbulletin.com/Bulletins/1194/1194_Paul_Well_0519.pdf
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.