Church Denies Threats to Pastor

By Carolyn Kessel Stewart
MetroWest Daily News
August 4, 2004

MARLBOROUGH -- The Archdiocese of Boston denied threatening to remove the pastor at St. Ann's Parish if he did not stop his parishioners from protesting the parish's closing this summer.

An archdiocese spokesman called the claim "outrageous" yesterday.

The archdiocese also promised to send a representative to St. Ann's Church to answer questions about the closing of the parish, parishioners say.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, objected to parishioners' claims that Bishop Richard G. Lennon called the Rev. Michael Bercik's superior to demand he stop seven buses of parishioners from protesting outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston in June.

Bercik and his parochial vicar, the Rev. Michael MacInnis, are Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Immaculate Conception in New York City, and are not under the direction of the archdiocese.

Bercik's superior is the Rev. Robert Campagne, O.F.M., the minister of Franciscan Friars in the Province of the Immaculate Conception. Campagne has not returned phone calls for comment.

St. Ann parishioners Ted Rabidou and Denis Denommee said Bercik had been told he would be removed immediately if he did not stop the protest.

Coyne disagreed in an e-mail yesterday.

"At the end of the day, Father Bercik was leaving St. Ann's because we are closing the parish. If he was being punished by us or the Franciscans, he would not be being made a pastor of another parish as he is in (Derry), N.H.," Coyne wrote.

Bercik was assigned to lead the 3,000 families of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Derry as pastor.

Rabidou and Denommee stand by their words, and their pastor.

"Bishop Lennon might not have told anybody what he did," Rabidou said.

"Why would we stop seven buses, with all the things that we had done to get ready for that, if (Bercik) hadn't been threatened?" said Denommee yesterday.

St. Ann's parishioners may receive answers later this month to some of their questions about how the outreach ministry of their church, such as programs for prisoners, teenagers and alcoholics, will be continued.

Kathleen Heck, special assistant to the moderator of the Curia, works on the transition for parishes being closed, will come to the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Aug. 22, the week before St. Ann's Parish closes, Rabidou said. Heck did not return a phone call yesterday.

Rabidou said Heck will be welcomed.

"We don't want it to be hostile. She has given us the opportunity" to ask questions, he said.

In May, St. Ann's Parish learned that it would be closed, along with the city's smaller St. Mary's Parish, and more than 60 churches and parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston.

St. Ann's parishioners have appealed the closure, although the last Mass is scheduled for Aug. 29. The church building will then remain open under the direction of Immaculate Conception for Portuguese, Spanish and English Masses.

( Carolyn Kessel Stewart can be reached at 508-490-7475 or )


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