Springfield Diocese Announces Closures, Consolidations

By George Graham
The Republican

August 11, 2008

SPRINGFIELD - Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell this morning formally announced the closure of churches in Agawam, South Deerfield, Adams and North Adams.

McDonnell acknowledged the closures will be painful but stressed a new vitality will spring from the consolidations.

"We have been putting money into the buildings rather than the people," McDonnell said. "I am looking for a critical mass at Mass."McDonnell accepted the recommendations of the Pastoral Planning Committee for four regions within the Diocese of Springfield.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell speaks to the media gathered for a press conference today as he announced pastoral plans for four regions within the Diocese of Springfield .
Photo by Mark M. Murray

To date, the Diocese has announced closures and consolidations for five regions.

Five more remain, including Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Hampshire County and the eastern part of Hampden County, officials said.

"We mark this as halfway through a very difficult but thorough process," Mark E. Dupontf, a spokesman for the Springfield Diocese said.

Changes, set for Jan. 1, 2009 include the closing of All Saints parish and its two church buildings in Agawam. All Saints formed in 2000 from the merger of St. Anthony and St. Therese.

West Springfield will see the closure of St. Louis de France and St. Ann Mission. Immaculate Conception will be retained.

All parishes in Westfield will remain as currently configured as long as the number of diocesan priests available for assignment do not fall below projections.

Greenfield will remain as currently configured.

The Pastoral Planning Committee, meanwhile recommends the two parishes in Deerfield, St. Stanislaus and St. James, continue to work towards merging as soon as possible. It also recommends that St. Mark remain a mission of the result merged South Deerfield parish

The recommendation calls for the parish of St. Joseph in Shelburne Falls and its two missions, St. Christopher in Charlemont and St. John in Colrain to stay as is for now.

The St. Joseph parish is, in area, the largest parish in the diocese. Although some, during listening sessions, suggested that one of the missions might be closed, the outgoing pastor strongly recommended against closing both.

An incoming pastor there will be given pastoral lattitude to assess the mission question at St. Joseph.

Meanwhile St. John in Millers Falls should be closed as soon as is practicable.

Although a University of Masschusetts study recommended Our Lady of Peace in Montague be linked with St. Patrick parish in Northfield, the commitee recommends that it not be linked unless it becomes infeasible for the Diocese to maintain a resident pastor in Northfield.

If that time comes for Northfield, however, the committee recommends that the Diocese give consideration to assigning a deacon, religious or layperson as administrator.

The recommendation for All Saints and Corpus Christi in Housatonic section of Great Barrington to merge into one church building and a new name for the resulting parish.

St. Mary in Lee, St. Joseph in Stockbridge and the mission in Otis will remain in its present configuration. However, due to modest seating capacity and proximity to Lee. St. Joseph should become a mission to St. Mary by Jan. 1.

Current configurations for Sheffield, Monterey and New Marlborough will also be maintained. However, if the number of priests drop below expected levels, Our Lady of the Valley in Sheffield could lose its current priest.

The Adams recommedation calls for merging the two parishes there into one.

North American Martyrs in Lanesborough, meanwhile, should be closed considering its limited seating capacity, modest attendance and reasonable proximity to the parishes in Cheshire, Dalton and Pittsfield.

In North Adams, the parishes of St. Anthony, St. Francis and Our Lady of Mercy should be merged into one parish. Also, the recommendation calls for both St. Francis and Our Lady of Mercy church buildings to close.

The parish of St. Patrick and St. Raphael in Williamstown should remains as presently as configured.

McDonnell said assets from the closed churches will remain with their community parishes.

"This will help parishes to overcome their needs," McDonnell said, adding that 40 percent of the Diocese's parishes are currently operating in the red.

McDonnell stressed that nothing can take away parishioners' memories of the churches and buildings they have long known and loved.

"The memories can't be taken away and we carry our memories with us," McDonnell said.

The changes, McDonnell said, will put a different face on the Diocese of Springfield. "But, I believe it will be a face that has a new vitality.



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