Parishioners Continue Sit-in at St. Albert's Church

By Denise Lavoie
Associated Press
September 1, 2004

WEYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) St. Albert the Great church in Weymouth ceased to exist as a parish as of noon Wednesday, but that didn't stop parishioners from continuing a sit-in and prayer vigil aimed at persuading the Boston Archdiocese to reverse its decision to close the 51-year-old church.

Dozens of parishioners have occupied the brick church since Sunday night, when the last official Mass was celebrated there.

A spokesman for Archbishop Sean O'Malley said the archdiocese will not immediately confront the squatting parishioners, and will wait until O'Malley returns from Rome Sunday before deciding how to go about resolving the standoff.

"At this point, representatives of the Archdiocese of Boston will do nothing to exacerbate the situation in the parish church," the Rev. Christopher Coyne, the archbishop's spokesman, said. "Our hope is that with patience, prayer, and charity, this situation can be resolved as calmly and carefully as possible."

St. Albert's is on a list of 82 churches to be closed by the archdiocese; most of the churches are to be closed by the end of this year. O'Malley, who was named leader of the nation's fourth-largest diocese a year ago as it grappled with a burgeoning clergy sex abuse crisis, has said the archdiocese can no longer afford to support 357 parishes.

O'Malley has cited declining Mass attendance, a shortage of priests and aging church buildings requiring costly maintenance and renovations. The clergy sex abuse scandal, which erupted in Boston in 2002 before spreading to dioceses across the country, exacerbated the archdiocese's problems.

Parishioners at St. Albert's insist that their church fits none of the criteria O'Malley said would be used to decide which churches would close. The parish has 1,600 families, a paid-off mortgage and renovated buildings.

"This is a community. It's not just where we come to worship. You have to leave your house a half-hour early just to get a parking space for Mass," said Mary Cratty, a parishioner for the last 20 years who has participated in the vigil several hours each day since Sunday.

Coyne said St. Albert's was chosen to close because it does not have a school and has the smallest church building out of five Catholic churches in Weymouth.

"Sadly, their occupation of the church building in the end doesn't change the fact that the parish is now closed," Coyne said. "The archbishop is not going to change his mind."


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