Catholic World News News Feature
Boston archdiocese announces 60 parishes to close May 25, 2004
The Archdiocese of Boston announced today that it will close a net total of 60 parishes in one of the most sweeping reorganizations of an American diocese in history. Archbishop Sean O'Malley presented the list to a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, after the parishes had been notified by overnight courier earlier in the day.
The parish closings were prompted by changing demographics, financial challenges, and declining numbers of priests, according to the archdiocesan committee that planned the closings. The rationale for which parishes should close was based on factors such as the number of sacraments performed each year and Mass attendance each week, parish debt, condition of the physical plant, and whether the parish served an ethnic or immigrant community, among other reasons. When the process began earlier this year, lay delegates from geographic clusters of parishes were asked to nominate one or more of their number that could close. Those recommendations were then considered by regional archdiocesan leaders, a central working committee at the chancery, and the Presbyteral Council, which represents the priests of the archdiocese.
In his remarks to the media, Archbishop O'Malley emphasized that the closings are not directly connected to the clergy sex-abuse scandal and that any proceeds from the sale of properties will not go toward legal settlements. "What these funds will do is allow us to financially support as needed the parishes and schools that do remain in the archdiocese as well as to recapitalize our pension and medical funds," he said. "This process of reconfiguration is directed not towards the past, but towards the future mission of the Church."
The archbishop added that he understood the emotions that the closing of the parishes will cause. "I know from my own experience of being uprooted many times in life that the Church’s faith can be as alive in one place as it is in another," he said. "As one church is closed, another church is waiting to welcome its people to a place which can become more alive, more spirit-filled, and more able to proclaim the good news of our faith because of the talents, treasure, and time its new members will bring."
Following the announcement, most parishes will close on a pre-determined timetable on either July 25, August 25, or September 25, although a few parishes, including Holy Trinity Parish in Boston, where the Indult Mass for the archdiocese is celebrated, will have a one-year reprieve. Parishes that stay open will be instructed on how to welcome parishioners from closing parishes, an especially touchy subject as many of those affected have expressed dismay and anger at the closing of what had been their spiritual homes, sometimes going back for generations.
A list of the affected parishes has been posted on the Archdiocese's web site, but is unavailable at press time. The list may also be found at the boston.com web site.