Five Worcester Churches Closing
Mergers Will Create New Parishes

Catholic Free Press
May 20, 2008

WORCESTER Four Worcester parishes will be closed and merged with other parishes and a fifth church building will be closed, the diocese announced this weekend.

Closing are: Holy Name of Jesus Parish, St. Casimir Parish, Ascension Parish, and St. Margaret Mary Parish; and Notre Dame des Canadiens Church, which is part of Notre-Dame St. Joseph Parish.

A new parish called Holy Family Parish will be established and located at St. Joseph Church on Hamilton Street. It is combining parishes with French-Canadian heritage including Notre-Dame-St. Joseph and Holy Name of Jesus.

Letters from Bishop McManus were read by pastors and associates at the end of each Mass this weekend announcing the changes.

Louis LeBlond, right, shows his fathers window at Holy Name of Jesus Church to John Hardy and Father James S. Mazzone.
Photo by Tanya Connor

"For the past year, we have focused attention on the parishes in the City of Worcester," according to the Bishop. "In a city with 21,960 registered Catholic households, of which 32 percent provide regular offertory support, we have 28 parishes and missions, operating 29 churches. At any one time, we can seat over 14,000 people in our Worcester churches. In the face of such statistics, it has become evident that the time to reevaluate what is really needed to best serve the Catholics in the city has arrived."

Based on the information from parish focus groups and interviews, the bishop announced that four parishes be closed and merged with other parishes. These include Holy Name of Jesus Parish, St. Casimir Parish, Ascension Parish, and St. Margaret Mary Parish. Additionally, Notre Dame des Canadiens Church building will be closed. He noted in his letter the he has "become convinced for pastoral reasons such as declining Mass attendance and little or no religious education or sacramental life that the spiritual lives of the parishioners would be better served in parishes with a more vibrant pastoral life."

The bishop wrote, "These pastoral decisions are never easy, but I am convinced that avoiding them or postponing them any longer is pastorally unsound. I am most grateful to all who participated seriously in this pastoral planning process. Their recommendations sought to respond as closely as possible to the concerns and insights that came from parish focus groups."

The letter went on to detail the future for parishioners in these parishes. A new parish called Holy Family Parish will be established and located at St. Joseph Church on Hamilton Street. Notre Dame des Canadiens Church and Holy Name of Jesus Church will be closed as of July 1. All assets and liabilities associated with these parishes will transfer to the new Holy Family Parish.

St. Casimir Parish will be closed July 1 and its people will be welcomed into its neighboring parish, St. John, the mother church of our diocese. St. John Parish will also assume the assets and liabilities of the parish. "I am confident that they will help the Lithuanian community to continue to preserve their religious and cultural heritage." St. Casimir Church building will remain open for another year for a Sunday Mass in Lithuanian and occasional daily use for funerals.

Ascension Parish will close July 1 and the parishioners will be welcomed back to their mother church, St. John Parish on Temple Street. St. John will assume the assets and liabilities of Ascension parish.

Due to the severely declining size of its congregation and limited parish life, St. Margaret Mary Parish will close July 1 and parishioners will be welcomed into St. Anne Parish in Shrewsbury, which many of the parishioners of St. Margaret Mary Parish have indicated as a natural transition.

Other changes involving currently twinned parishes were also announced. Effective July 1 St. Joan of Arc and St. Bernard Parish will no longer be twinned as a multi-parish pastorate.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish and St. Bernard Parish will become a merged parish effective July 1 to serve the needs of the Catholic community on the lower Lincoln Street and Belmont Hill area.

For the last year, St. Catherine of Sweden and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parishes have been twinned sharing one pastor. These two parishes are now being asked to work toward merging as one parish by 2010.

More announcements are expected later this year regarding parishes in the City of Worcester. The bishop anticipates that "after due consultation," additional announcements will be made this fall.

The pastoral planning process will continue over the next few years and begin to address other areas of the diocese, particular other urban areas, as well as plans for growth in suburban areas. "For five years, all our diocesan parishes have worked together in clusters, reflecting upon their parish life, their ministries and even projecting as communities what would happen with fewer assigned clergy in their clusters." That process will continue.

He closed the letter with recognition that this is painful for some parishioners to accept. "It is fitting to grieve over what we have lost, but hope can be found by looking realistically at what we are today and by eagerly looking forward to what we can become tomorrow. We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. As such, we are called to bring Christ our hope into a world that needs to be renewed in and through him. May these plans announced to you today fashion a vision for the present and the future that will invigorate the heritage of hope that has been passed on to us."


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