Bosley Aims to Save Berkshires Churches

By Derek Gentile
Berkshire Eagle

August 13, 2008

Diocese bristles at Bosley's call for community input

NORTH ADAMS State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, saying he was caught off guard by the recent announcement that six local churches will be closed by Jan. 1, is calling for Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell to impose a moratorium on the closings to enable the community to discuss the issue and possibly find a solution.

But a spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield said such a moratorium is extremely unlikely, and questioned the propriety of Bosley's request.

"It is an inappropriate and unrealistic response to the situation," said Diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont, who added that the Diocese believes that Bosley's request "runs awry of the Constitution," which he said mandates the separation of church and state.

On Monday, Bishop McDonnell announced the consolidation of churches in North Adams, Adams and Great Barrington. In the case of North Adams, St. Francis and Our Lady of Mercy Churches would be closed. Services would be consolidated at St. Anthony's Church. The new consolidated church would be named St. Elisabeth of Hungary, after a 13th century saint.

In Adams, St. Stanislaus and St. Thomas will be shutting their doors, with services consolidated in Notre Dame Church. That church would also undergo a name change, to Pope John Paul the Great, after Pope John Paul II.

In Great Barrington, All Saints Church in Housatonic would be merged with Corpus Christi Church, also in Housatonic. The new Housatonic church will be called Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and would be yoked to St. Peter's Church in Great Barrington.

North American Martyrs Church in Lanesborough is also slated for closure.

"This is more than a church issue," Bosley said in response to Dupont's point. "This is a community issue. These churches in both Adams and North Adams are community churches. In Adams in particular, the pulse of that town goes through St. Stanislaus.

"St. Stanislaus might be one of the most beautiful churches in the country," he said, "and St. Francis is a community resource."

Bosley said many residents of North Adams believe that St. Anthony's, which is smaller than St. Francis, will have difficulty accommodating parishioners during holiday masses.

Bosley was also critical of the church's deadline.

"A January 1, 2009, closing is simply not a realistic timetable," said Bosley. He termed the Diocesan decision-making process, a "heavy-handed, top-down policy" that appears "strictly financially driven."

He added that the Diocese did not notify any public officials in Adams or North Adams of the announcement.

"I never heard anything about this, and I spoke to Mayor (John) Barrett, and he was unaware of this as well," said Bosley. "I'm not sure the community had a lot of input into these decisions."

He said he has been "inundated" with calls since the announcement. Virtually all the communications have been opposed to the closings.

Dupont replied that the issue is only partly financial: The dwindling population of the churches and a much smaller pool of priests are the principal issues for the Diocese.

"I would be interested in hearing how (Bosley) plans to address our lack of priests and our maintenance issues with many of these buildings," said Dupont.

Dupont added that community discussions about the potential closing of all the churches in Berkshire County have been ongoing for years, adding that the decisions were arrived at after months of discussion.

"In North Adams' case in particular, there has been some discussion about closing churches, in some form, for at least 10 years," said Dupont.

But Bosley suggested the Diocese was turning a deaf ear to the community.

"This transcends the religious aspect of the community," he said. "It has to do with the people who identify themselves with their parish. These people don't want to lose that.

"I think, in the end, this is all about real estate, and that's sad," he said.


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