6 Berkshires Churches Targeted

By Derek Gentile
Berkshire Eagle

August 12, 2008

The Diocese of Springfield announced yesterday that six more Catholic churches in Berkshire County will be closing by the end of the year.

Slated to close are St. Francis and Our Lady of Mercy churches in North Adams; St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Stanislaus churches in Adams; North American Martyrs Church in Lanesborough; and All Saints Church in Housatonic, which is a village in the town of Great Barrington.

St. Joseph's Church in Stockbridge will become a mission church, attached to St. Mary Mother of the Church in Lee.

The interior of St. Stanislaus Church in Adams.

The churches in North Adams, Adams and Housatonic will be consolidated into already existing churches in each community. According to Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, the three consolidated churches will also be renamed.

The closing will be completed by Jan. 1, 2009, said McDonnell.

The North Adams churches will be consolidated into what is now St. Anthony's Church. The new consolidated church will become St. Elisabeth's of Hungary Church, named after the Hungarian-born Eilsabeth of Thuringia, who achieved sainthood after her death in 1231. She was best known for her generosity to the poor and the healing power of her gravesite.

St. Thomas and Notre Dame are already yoked as one parish. When St. Stanislaus is absorbed, services will be held at Notre Dame. All three churches already share one pastor, the Rev. Daniel Boyle.

"Presently, there are three churches, two parishes and one only priest, (the Rev. Daniel) Boyle," said diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont. "There's really only so much you can ask him to do."

St. Stanislaus Elementary School will not be affected, according to Dupont.

"St. Stanislaus School is a diocesan school," said Dupont. "There are no plans to close it. It's run by the Diocese in Springfield."

The new church at Notre Dame will be called Pope John Paul the Great, after the late Pope John Paul II.

The Church of North American Martyrs will be closing in Lanesborough, said Dupont, because the Diocese believed that there were churches close enough in Williamstown and Pittsfield for Lanesborough residents to access.

The closing was at least in part a numbers game, said Dupont. There were about 77 members of the church.

In Housatonic, All Saints Church will be consolidated with Corpus Christi Church. The new church will be called Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, after Mother Teresa.

Blessed Teresa will in turn be yoked with St. Peter's Church in Great Barrington. The Rev. William Murphy will celebrate Mass at both sites.

In Stockbridge, St. Joseph's Church will become a mission church to St. Mary's Church in Lee. Dupont explained that Mass will be still be celebrated at St. Joseph's. The Rev. Dan Papineau will be the pastor of both churches, as he has been for several years now, said Dupont.

Becoming a mission church is, principally, more of a clerical issue, said Dupont. The churches will no longer have to keep separate canonical logs or financial records.

Yesterday, in discussing the closings, which the Diocese referred to as consolidations, McDonnell emphasized that the assets of the churches that will be closing will all be retained by the communities in which they reside now, after the debts of the closed churches are paid.

McDonnell said that the closures will enable the Diocese to put more money into programs.

"For a very long time, we've been putting money into buildings, rather than people," he said.

The new churches, he said, will create a "new dynamic with new possibilities, new life."

Local reaction was a combination, in varying degrees, of resignation coupled with disappointment and, in some cases, anger.

Charles Kelly, of Clarksburg, a longtime parishioner of St. Francis, believes his church, which has a larger seating capacity than St. Anthony's, should have been the church that remained open.

"I thought they should have done what they did in Pittsfield, which was to keep the larger churches open," he said. "St. Francis is much bigger than St. Anthony's."

Kelly said that the arguments made by the Diocese, that St. Anthony's had better handicapped access and more parking, were "bogus." He said his church had access for the handicapped, and that St. Francis often has large crowds, especially during the holidays, "and people find places to park.

"I think the Diocese didn't really look at the future," he said.

A parishioner in Adams, who asked not to be named, said large segments of the Polish-American community in Adams, "are upset" by the decision to close St. Stanislaus.

"This is the most ethnic church of the (six) that are closing," he said. "That may not be politically correct to say, but it's true. It's closer-knit than many. There's some sadness, anger."

In Housatonic, Cynthia Troiano, a parishioner of Corpus Christi, said she believes that the transition will be easier with her church and Housatonic's other Catholic church, relatively speaking, than the transitions in other communities.

Ten years ago, said Troiano, Corpus Christi and All Saints began sharing a pastor and CCD classes.

"We had separate identities, but we were already meshing," she said. "I think this gave us a little bit of an advantage."

She said the name change, to Blessed Teresa," is "necessary. If we're going to make a new community, that way everyone starts on the same foot."


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