Correction and Clarification on Last Post Re: Retiring Pastor

June 17, 2013

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.

Boston Archdiocese Evicts 90-year-old Retiring Pastor

June 3, 2013

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?

Boston Pastoral Planning Problems

April 30, 2013

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.

Help Wanted: Evangelization Trainer

April 7, 2013

The Boston Archdiocese is looking for an Evangelization Trainer in the Office of the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization.  A lot is going on around parish pastoral planning and grouping the Boston Archdiocese into multi-parish collaboratives. If this is an important role, we are glad to help promote the position.

That said, first one might question why this role is needed. That is a discussion in and of itself.  Then, if it is indeed important, we wonder why the job descriptions from the Boston Archdiocese so often sound like the archdiocese does not care if they actually hire Catholics for these jobs. And job qualifications like, “Willingness to support the mission of the Catholic Church” make it sound like the diocese is embarrassed to be Catholic and desperate for anyone who would put themselves out and be “willing” to support the mission of the Catholic Church for the sake of a paycheck.

Here is the job description:

The Evangelization Trainer, working closely with the other members of the EVNE team and in collaboration with the other offices involved in the implementation of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, Disciples in Mission, is responsible for the development and implementation of the training and support necessary in assisting parish collaboratives in becoming centers for the New Evangelization.

Other responsibilities may include involvement in other initiatives associated with supporting parishes in learning about and engaging in the mission of the New Evangelization.
The Evangelization Trainer reports to the Senior Associate to the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization.

• Assist in developing the curriculum for the various stages of training for the pastoral plan.
• Facilitate stages of training.
• Engage pastors, pastoral service teams, pastoral and finance councils, and school boards in consultative service.
• Research and help parishes implement best practices for the New Evangelization that are relevant to their current needs and demographics.
• Other duties as may be assigned.

• Bachelor’s degree in Theology, Religious Studies or a related field. Master’s degree preferred
• Minimum 3-5 years of experience in a diocesan, parish, school, apostolate or similar setting.
• Must have experience and knowledge of the Catholic faith and the Church’s mission for the New Evangelization and a demonstrated ability to lead others to embrace this mission in their own lives.
• Knowledge of Church documents, teachings and writings on evangelization, new evangelization and catechesis.
• Ability to articulate authentic Catholic teaching, advise on pastoral needs and program responses.
• Proficient in Microsoft Office as well as social networking tools.
• Experience working with the public and handling issues/complaints in a diplomatic manner.
• Ability to anticipate needs, establish priorities, maintain confidentiality, demonstrate discretion, project a positive attitude and exercise a high level of professionalism.
• Strong skills in organizing, multi-tasking and following through in a busy, changing environment.
• Excellent relationship-building skills with a focus on service to others.  A high level of energy, creativity and humor.  Ability to establish trust and work collaboratively.
• Ability to communicate effectively through e-mail and/or telephone.
• Must possess strong communication skills (both oral and written).
• Strong interpersonal, leadership and presentation skills.
• Ability and willingness to travel throughout the Archdiocese of Boston.
• Willingness to support the mission of the Catholic Church.

We have said it before and will say it again. This archdiocese already has had experience with people like the current Exec. Director of Benefits (and former Director of HR), a proud ex-Catholic, who introduced yoga classes to the Pastoral Center last year among other concerns BCI has documented in the past. We have Jack Connors, Jr, supposedly supporting Catholic Schools while he works against the Catholic Church by raising money for pro-abortion, anti-Catholic politicians who want to take away our religious freedoms. Why is it not possible for the Boston Archdiocese to explicitly require that the person in this job be a practicing Catholic who believes what the Catholic Church believes and wants to advance the saving ministry of Jesus Christ?

Were we to ask so-called “practicing Catholics ” such as Jack Connors, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen.  John Kerry, and VP Joe Biden, about whether they have “experience and knowledge” of the Catholic faith, they would likely say “yes.”  In public comments, they claim to be “practicing Catholics.” But do they accept and agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church as handed down by the Magisterium of the Church, and actually embrace, accept, and believe them?

A reasonable person should first ask why this role is necessary at all. Are there not other ways to train people in evangelization? Then one might ask why a layer of bureaucracy is  needed such that it reports to the “Senior Associate to the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization.”  Lastly, it seems to BCI that the job requirements for a role like this should say explicitly that a candidate must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who enthusiastically accepts and embraces authentic Catholic doctrine as entrusted and handed down by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Think of it like a version of a mandatum for key diocesan executives or employees, where the candidate is asked to affirm that they agree with and will not dissent from Church teachings on the Holy Trinity, sin, salvation, celibate male priesthood, non-negotiable moral issues (eg. abortion, homosexual acts, marriage, euthanasia), role of the Pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Immaculate Conception. Candidates for the job should agree to refrain from representing in actions or words as Catholic teaching anything that is contrary to the Magisterium of the Church, and they should also agree to not give their support (e.g. jobs, hiring, endorsements, donations) to any individuals or organizations that advance positions contrary to the Magisterium of the Church.

Our prayer for Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Bishop Deeley, and Bishop Kennedy is that if the position is filled, the final hire be a practicing Catholic who enthusiastically embraces authentic Catholic doctrine as entrusted and handed down by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The pastoral planning effort will be a difficult one in the years ahead, and it would be a tremendous grace for the whole archdiocese to have faithful Catholics in that office who believe what the Catholic Church believes and want to evangelize the truths of our Catholic faith. Is that too much to ask?

Boston Archdiocese Unveils First Wave of Massive Parish Reorganization. Watch Out!

January 11, 2013

The first wave of a massive change to the organization of parishes in the Boston Archdiocese was unveiled on Thursday. BCI is getting concerned that a well-intentioned and much-needed plan has the potential to turn into a train-wreck based on some early indicators. Read on.

Here is a link to the announcement by the archdiocese, including the list from the Archdiocese of the 28 parishes that will be grouped into 12 clusters (or “collaboratives”) in the first phase of the reorganization plan:

1. Saint Luke and Saint Joseph, Belmont
2. Saint Mary, Saint Margaret, Saint John, Beverly
3. Saint Mary, Saint Theresa, Saint Andrew, Billerica
4. Saint Mary, Brookline (a one-parish collaborative)
5. Saint Mary of the Angels, Roxbury and Saint Thomas and Our Lady of Lourdes, Jamaica Plain
6. Saint Mary and Sacred Heart, Lynn
7. Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Maria Goretti, Lynnfield
8. Saint Lucy and Saint Monica, Methuen
9. Sacred Heart, Middleboro and Saints Martha and Mary, Lakeville
10. Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton
11. Saint James, Saint John, Immaculate Conception, and Saint Anne, Salem
12. Saint Jerome and Immaculate Conception, Weymouth

Here is a summary from the Boston Globe:

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston on Thursday announced the names of more than two dozen parishes participating in the first phase of a major reorganization that will eventually group the archdiocese’s 288 parishes into about 135 clusters, each led by a team of clergy and lay leaders.

The reorganization, to be phased in over five years, is designed to help parishes cope with diminished Mass attendance, a shortage of priests, and anemic fund-raising. Church officials hope the plan will eventually strengthen parishes and help reverse those trends.

The 28 parishes participating in the pilot phase — diverse in size, wealth, ethnicity, and geography — will be grouped into 12 clusters, or “collaboratives.” The collaboratives will gradually take shape over the next two years, as clergy and lay leaders are assigned and trained, and teams from each one create a long-term plan.

The parishes will remain open, but church officials said they hope will learn to work together to share resources.

This topic merits much more attention than time and space permit BCI to give to it today. We will share a few initial observations.

First, a new pastoral plan is a necessity given the changing dynamics above–but, for the record, it should be noted that the biggest problems are failed leadership at the highest levels of the archdiocese and diminished Mass attendance, which then translates to lower contributions. When BCI looks at the numbers, though we have fewer priests, the ratio of priests to active Mass-going Catholics is actually proportionate today to what the ratio was decades ago when we had more priests and more Mass-going Catholics.  It is unclear why the media does not realize that and the archdiocese does not publicly say that. We will get you data in the near future.

Second, it seems to BCI that the archdiocese is putting the cart before the horse. Just as we were thinking this yesterday, one long-time reader observed to BCI via email:

“RCAB has done nothing to build trust in its Catholics.  It has done nothing to foster the proper formation for staff and laity to handle how these changes happen — they have definitely put the cart before the horse. So with no trust, and the average parish council member not knowing the canonical difference between “church” and “parish,” there is likely to be a lot more heat generated than light.”

The right sequence would be to get the right people with strong leadership qualities and proud adherence to true Catholic Church teachings on-board  first to help lead and guide the path ahead–and also get the wrong people out of any leadership roles.  Then, you form and educate people with real authentic catechesis, not just “the new evangelization training.” And after that, then you roll out the changes.  The archdiocese has the order all wrong.

Third, the lack of financial transparency by the Boston Archdiocese is going to continue to hurt, rather than help build trust and enable success. Just one  example is described in this post, New Boston Chancellor Needs to Work on Transparency.  More than halfway into the fiscal year, there is still no published operational budget, as was published in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  Several readers report they wrote to Chancellor John Straub, some multiple times, and got no response. Any of the following could be the reason: a) He is not sufficiently capable or competent that he has produced a budget more than halfway into the fiscal year and is still working on it, b)  He is unconcerned about delivering what faithful Catholics are looking for in order to trust the archdiocese, c) He has a budget, but will not share it because there is something the archdiocese is hiding, such as mingling funds from separate entities, or borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, d) he flat out lied or deceived everyone when, upon his promotion to Chancellor, he said publicly, one of his goals would be to “continue to maintain that stability and transparency and enhance it where we can.”  Given this budget was published for the past 3 years, we have clearly gone backwards from the past. He has also failed to respond to inquiries about how the bills for 40-50% of parishes in the red are being paid. The next step for some readers is to take the matter to the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican  Congregation for Bishops. If the report does not appear soon, BCI may start a campaign calling for a new Chancellor to be named, since John Straub is already missing the mark.

Fourth, the arrangement of collaboratives, and nature of clergy personnel decisions could be wrought with controversy.  How will a doctrinally orthodox parish mesh with one that is doctrinally less orthodox?  For example, in Newton, the example cited with parishioner comments in the Globe article, a number of readers have written to share concerns because Sacred Heart has been led by a former seminary instructor and doctrinally orthodox pastor, Fr. John Connolly, who is in his 80s and near retirement, while Our Lady Help of Christians was led by the not-doctrinally-orthodox Fr. Walter Cuenin and is currently led by Fr. John Sassani, whose orthodoxy is exemplified by his recently permitting a Yoga Prayer program at the parish, despite clear admonitions from the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith about the spiritual dangers of yoga. Sacred Heart has had pro-life Masses on a monthly basis, while in contrast, the Social Justice group at Our Ladys used to march in the annual Boston Gay Pride parade. Sacred Heart and nearby St. Bernards both have weekly Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday mornings; Our Ladys has no regular time for Eucharistic Adoration. When Our Ladys was renovated in the late 1990s, they installed a Protestant-style in-ground baptismal pool in the floor near the altar–and not long after the church reopened, BCI is told a lay Eucharistic minister fell into the baptismal pool during Communion, dropping a glass chalice on the marble floor, which shattered and spilled the precious blood of Christ on the floor. Now they have rubber mats and cordons to prevent that problem, but other liturgical concerns remain. The differences in the leadership, culture, liturgies and orthodoxy of the parishes could not be greater. Who will ultimately be the pastor of the collaborative? Will he be orthodox or not? How will the two diametrically different parishes blend together and make decisions? Beyond this collaborative, how will all clergy personnel decisions be made?  Will decisions be influenced by back-room dealings outside of standard pastoral appointment processes, as happened with the naming of Msgr. Paul Garrity to St. Catherine’s in Norwood in 2011 after Garrity had announced his retirement from the priesthood?  What will an orthodox parish do if and when their new pastor for the collaborative is not decidely not orthodox?

Lastly, the failed leadership at the top in the Boston Archdiocese will continue to undermine the chances for success of this broad, very important initiative. Bishop Deeley’s comments about why this effort will succeed are reflective of the problem. In the archdiocesan press release, he said, “We have confidence that Disciples in Mission will be successful because it is the fruit of a collaborative effort with clearly defined goals and objectives.”  Where to start on this one?

What are the measurable objectives?  How many Catholics is each collaborative expected to bring back to the Church by what date?  How much is weekly Mass attendance across the archdiocese expected to increase by, in what timeframe?

Worse still is the misguided notion that the initiative will succeed because it comes from a “collaborative effort with clear goals.” The Big Dig came from a collaborative effort with clear goals.  Obamacare came from a collaborate effort with clear goals. So did the 9/11 terrorist acts. So did the Nazi Holocaust. Are collaboration and having goals really the essential factors to have a model for “success”? Does the Vicar General really believe that collaboration with clear goals makes an initiative succeed?

First off, an initiative like this will succeed, if and only if, it has strong leadership starting at the top, and the initiative is rooted from top to bottom in the authentic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  Strong leadership at the top means the archbishop is passionately committed to his episcopal responsibilities to teach, sanctify and govern. How is that going lately?  We have documented failures there since 2010. Furthermore, “leadership” as defined by an expert in the field, means attributes like integrity (alignment of words and actions with inner values, walking the talk, sticking to strong values, and building an entire organization with powerful and effective cultural values), dedication (spending whatever time and energy on a task is required to get the job done, giving your whole self to the task, dedicating yourself to success and to leading others with you), magnanimity (giving credit where it is due and accepting personal responsibility for failures), humility (recognizing that you are not inherently superior to others and thus they are not inferior to you), openness (being able to listen to ideas that are outside one’s current mental models),  and creativity (thinking differently, being able to get outside the box and take a new and different viewpoint on things).  On just the first three attributes–integrity, dedication, and magnanimity, the report card for our episcopal leadership is not very good. As for how well-rooted the archdiocese is in the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church, just look at their PR firm (filled with former Biden staff and Biden/Obama fundraisers), proudly ex-Catholic HR executive director, Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare (who speaks on panels with anti-Catholics like Barney Frank and thinks Catholic identity means supporting the controversial Catholic Campaign for Human Development), Campaign for Catholic Schools chair who raises millions of dollars for pro-abortion political figures, and certain parish adult faith formation programs.

BCI has been hoping and praying that the archdiocese can pull off this new pastoral plan successfully. But, the challenges and shortcomings above cause BCI to believe the archdiocese still does not get it. We wish we did not feel compelled to say this, but we simply do not think the Boston Archdiocese has what it takes right now to make this ambitious undertaking successful.  Longtime readers can attest that we have been right with our assessments a whole lot more since 2010 than we have been wrong. That is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?

Boston Pastoral Plan Indoctrination Process

December 12, 2012

Last week, Chancellor John Straub sent this email off to all employees at the Pastoral Center to inform them about the indoctrination, er, training process for implementing the new Pastoral Plan.  When you read the message, pull out a piece of paper and tally all of the mentions of why this is happening. Count the number of times you see references to an end goal that resembles helping bring people closer to God and the Catholic Church or to advancing the mission of saving souls. Additional BCI commentary follows the message.

 To all employees of the  Pastoral Center:

On January 16, 2013, we will be beginning Stage One of Training for the Pastoral Plan.  Stage One training is for the Pastoral Center.  In it we will learn some of the same leadership, management, and evangelization skills that will be taught in the collaboratives in their very extensive training program.

We will learn the same vocabulary, the same structures, and the same vision that they will learn.  Appropriately, we will lead the way in the training effort.

For each of us, the training will take eight days, spread out over seven weeks.  Each day of training begins at 9:00AM, and ends at 3:00PM.

There are five modules of the training program.

The Evangelization module, led by Bishop Kennedy and Michael Lavigne, lasts for two days.  You can choose [Wednesday, January 16 and Monday, February 4] or [Monday, February 25 and Tuesday, March 5]

The first of the Leadership modules, led by the Catholic Leadership Institute (and therefore called CLI One), will last for two days.  You can choose [Monday/Tuesday, January 28/29] or [Monday/Tuesday, February 11/12].

The second of the Leadership modules, CLI Two, will last for two days.  You can choose [Wednesday/Thursday, January 30/31] or [Thursday/Friday, February 14/15].

You need to complete CLI One before you attend CLI Two, so you cannot do CLI One in February and CLI Two in January.

The first of the General Topics modules will last for one day.  You can choose Thursday, January 17 or Tuesday, February 26.

The second of the General Topics modules will last for one day.  You can choose Tuesday, February 5 or Wednesday, March 6.

We ask you to please go to the following link to sign up for training as soon as possible:  – a confirming email will be sent when you have successfully registered.  If you have any questions, please contact Father Paul in the Office of Pastoral Planning (x5867,

Thank you,

John Straub

How many references to God did you find, or to carrying out the saving ministry of Jesus Christ?  That is really just one concern BCI has–it goes much deeper than this email.

Though we respect Bishop Kennedy and are sure he will do a great job talking about evangelization, that is about all we have some measure of confidence in right now.

Do most of the “new generation” of high-paid Pastoral Center employees and execs brought in under the McDonough/Hehir reign (e.g. Carol Gustavson, Terry Donilon, Mark Dunderdale, John Straub, Mary Grassa O’Neill,  etc)–who replaced the people who worked for the Church for lower pay because they loved Jesus Christ and wanted to advance the mission of the Catholic Church–even have the basics of Catholicism down? Are they bought into the mission of saving souls and that this is a vocation? Or is this just a good job for a sizable paycheck?

The reality, as recently shared by a BCI colleague is this: the ones with the power do NOT demonstrate that they care about the souls, and the ones who care about the souls are treated shabbily. Many of those who care about the souls have left or been pushed out, and those who remain that care are treated poorly.

How can you advance a pastoral plan in the face of this reality?  Does the archdiocese even have the right people on the ship in key roles?  Just in Pastoral Planning, we have a head of the office who allowed a Voice of the Faithful Chapter in his parish, and the newest addition to the office is from the same religious order as the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which the Vatican has criticized for a multitude of doctrinal problems. How can faithful Catholics trust in the plan, when there are obvious reasons to not trust the people in key leadership roles? Almost across the board, it feels like the people in the organization are woefully mismatched to the mission.

Does the archdiocese have the right fundamental structure–civil/legal, organizational and canonical–for pulling off this ambitious program?  No.

In the face of that, consider the following. Is it BCI, or does the tone of the Chancellor email and communication sounds strikingly similar to aspects of what Vladimir Lenin delivered in his 1920 Speech At The Third All-Russia Congress of The Russian Young Communist League.

… the youth will be faced with the actual task of creating a communist society. For it is clear that the generation of working people brought up in capitalist society can, at best, accomplish the task of destroying the foundations of the old, the capitalist way of life, which was built on exploitation. At best it will be able to accomplish the tasks of creating a social system that will help the proletariat and the working classes retain power and lay a firm foundation, which can be built on only by a generation that is starting to work under the new conditions, in a situation in which relations based on the exploitation of man by man no longer exist.

And so, in dealing from this angle with the tasks confronting the youth, I must say that the tasks of the youth in general, and of the Young Communist Leagues and all other organisations in particular, might be summed up in a single word: learn.

Of course, this is only a “single word”. It does not reply to the principal and most essential questions: what to learn, and how to learn? And the whole point here is that, with the transformation of the old, capitalist society, the upbringing, training and education of the new generations that will create the communist society cannot be conducted on the old lines…Only by radically remoulding the teaching, organisation and training of the youth shall we be able to ensure that the efforts of the younger generation will result in the creation of a society that will be unlike the old society, i.e., in the creation of a communist society. That is why we must deal in detail with the question of what we should teach the youth and how the youth should learn if it really wants to justify the name of communist youth, and how it should be trained so as to be able to complete and consummate what we have started.

I must say that the first and most natural reply would seem to be that the Youth League, and the youth in general, who want to advance to communism, should learn communism.

BCI really wants to see the Boston Archdiocese succeed with a new pastoral plan and get on the right path to saving souls via stronger parishes. But, the fundamentals still feel way off to us.  Maybe it is just BCI.  Other than the minor matters mentioned above, what do you think of the plans?

Pastoral Planning Commission Proposal

September 14, 2012

Today, the Boston Pilot published a summary of the proposal by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, entitled, “Disciples in Mission.” This is the plan for a new parish staffing and pastoral leadership model in the Boston Archdiocese. The summary was released with a note stating, “each of the proposal’s recommendations involves detailed sub-recommendations that aren’t included below, so we encourage everyone to read the full proposal document.”

The full report is available online at BCI has read the full report and has plenty of comments to make, but we will hold back for this moment to just share the summary.

Part One: Recommendations for strengthening parishes for the work of the New Evangelization

1. That the 288 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston be organized into approximately 135 Parish Collaboratives, these collaboratives consisting usually of two or three parishes, but sometimes only one, and, in rare occasion’s four parishes.

2. That the formation of the parish collaboratives be phased in, with appropriate flexibility, over a period of five years.

3. That the parishes of each collaborative be assigned one single Pastor.

4. That the pastor form the staff members serving the parishes of the collaborative into a Pastoral Team.

5. That the multiple Parish Pastoral Councils of the parishes in a collaborative become one parish council to assist the one pastor in fostering pastoral activity and in guiding the mission of the Church in each parish and in the parish collaborative.

6. That, if possible in accord with the norms of Canon Law, the benefits and advantages of collaboration be extended to Parish Finance Councils, such that one finance council serves the one pastor to assist him in the financial administration of the parishes and the parish collaborative.

7. That the pastor, pastoral team, and councils of each parish collaborative participate in extensive theological and practical training for the New Evangelization.

8. That, given this major reorientation of the mission of the Archdiocese towards the New Evangelization, the staff at the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministry staff will also benefit from the training necessary to help them understand what the New Evangelization is, what their role is for the New Evangelization, and the ways in which the offices of the Pastoral Center should effectively assist the pastoral teams in strengthening the work of evangelization in their collaboratives.

9. That the parish collaboratives receive the support they need to become successful collaboratives.

10. That each collaborative be required to develop a pastoral plan for the collaborative within eight to twelve months of the inauguration of the collaborative.

11. That the Archbishop utilize multiple means of communication to introduce Disciples in Mission to the people and parishes of the Archdiocese as an important foundation for the mission of evangelization and to place this part of the plan in the context of the life and work of the Church in Boston.

12. That further work, coordinated by the Pastoral Planning Office (PPO), be completed on several particularly important issues that have been foremost in the Commission’s deliberations, including parish collaboratives; Catholic schools; staff transitions; religious institutes, religious priests, and other non-incardinated priests; non-parochial pastoral services; parochial vicars; and strengthening the roles of regional vicar and vicar forane.

Part Two: Recommendations for strengthening the work of the New Evangelization in parishes

A. Recommendations for Re-energizing Pastoral Leadership for the Task of Evangelization

1. That the Office of the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization (EVNE), the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) and the Pastoral Planning Office of the Archdiocese of Boston (PPO) come together in a partnership to provide the training required for the full implementation of Disciples in Mission.

2. That at the conclusion of Phase One of the implementation, the Archdiocese hire four staff members, the Pastoral Planning Training Team (PPTT). The PPTT will follow CLI through their processes, learn from them their methods and resources, and assume responsibility for the CLI portion of the training at the end of two years. In this way, CLI will “train the trainers” for Phases Three and Four and for ongoing training and support.

3. That EVNE, with the assistance of PPO, conduct an extensive consultation of the people of the Archdiocese of Boston, focusing on best practices for evangelization. This consultation will begin with a survey of the pastors and then have two additional rounds in the regions of the Archdiocese, making extensive use of technology to involve as many people as possible. The Catholic Media Group will provide technology support for this effort.

4. That the training itself have six stages in the first phase of implementation. Stage One will be for the Staff of the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministries Personnel. Stage Two will be for the Pastors leading the collaboratives. Stage Three will be for Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council membership. Stage Four will be for Pastoral Team members. Stage Five will be for each Pastoral Team. Stage Six will be for the Pastoral Team and several council members of each collaborative.

5. That at the completion of their training, each participant receive a certificate from the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization (TINE). Throughout the process, TINE will also provide team and council members with information about opportunities for ongoing formation and education.

6. That concurrent with the training program in the recommendations above, EVNE provide extensive programming for all of the parishes and people of the Archdiocese of Boston that does not fall within the structure of the training program, with a particular emphasis during the first year on events associated with the Year of Faith.

B. Recommendations for Strengthening Youth and Adult Faith Formation for the Task of Evangelization

1. The commission recommends the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the Religious Education Task Force, which addressed the religious education of our youth in parishes and in schools, and the Committee to Study Lay Formation Programs, which addressed adult faith formation in the Archdiocese. (The reports of these two groups are attached as appendices to this pastoral plan).

2. That the archdiocesan offices responsible for implementing the recommendations from these 2 groups, provide an immediate report to Cardinal Seán that: identifies the recommendations that have been successfully implemented; and indicates the plans, timelines and needed funding to secure the implementation of the remaining recommendations.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The plan clearly reflects feedback from the consultation process. It has gotten stronger in the area of evangelization. At least there is no longer the “circular firing squad” concept where pastors are all automatically removed from their current roles. In the humble opinion of BCI, some aspects of the plan seem to have merit and some aspects do not feel totally baked. We will elaborate more separately, but for now we put this out and invite your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: