After Three-year Vigil, St. Stanislaus Church in Adams Reopening for Services

By Lori Stabile
The Republican
February 19, 2012

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Adams

ADAMS – The bells rang Saturday at St. Stanislaus Kostka, which protesters have been occupying non-stop for more than three years, signaling the church’s reopening as a site for regular Catholic worship under a plan announced that day.

“We are thrilled,” parishioner Robin J. Loughman said. “It’s what we were hoping for and what we expected.”

Father Daniel Boyle, pastor of the Blessed John Paul the Great Parish community, made the announcement to the congregation on Saturday.

Boyle said that the diocese approved a plan he had submitted to reopen St. Stanislaus Church as a “chapel-mission” of the parish. His plan followed a Vatican decision to keep the church in religious use.

“The church was filled with about 500 people who all cheered at the news,” said Laurie Haas, a spokeswoman for the vigil group at St. Stanislaus.

The first Mass will be Palm Sunday, April 1, at 8 a.m., and Mass will be held once a week on Sunday mornings, as it was previously. The church also will celebrate Mass for Holy Days and special occasions, and will be open for funerals, weddings and baptisms.

Approximately 200 people have participated in a round-the-clock vigil to keep the church open since it closed in December 2008 and was merged into the new Blessed John Paul the Great Parish.

Loughman noted the announcement came on the 1,150th day of the vigil.

The merger was upheld by the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Roman Catholic Church, which also affirmed the finding of the Congregation for Clergy that adequate cause had not been demonstrated for the Diocese of Springfield to reduce St. Stanislaus Church to “profane” or secular status.

That means that Blessed John Paul the Great remains the established Catholic parish community for Adams with the primary worship site being the former Notre Dame Church, but it also signifies the reopening of St. Stanislaus.

“We had a close knit parish with a lot of Polish traditions and we wanted to keep that going,” said Loughman, adding she thinks the vigil helped their case, a position rejected by the diocese’s spokesman.

“I think it helped keep pressure on the diocese to show our dedication . . . These are the Catholics you want to keep,” Loughman said.

The goal all along was to restore Catholic worship to St. Stanislaus, and the status of the parish was always secondary, Haas said.

Haas said she is grateful to Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell and Father Boyle.

A similar, but not as final, ruling came from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy a year ago. Back then, St. Stanislaus parishioners were told that their church could be used as a mission, a chapel, a basilica or a shrine attached to the Blessed John Paul the Great Parish.

That preliminary ruling also included the closed St. George and St. Patrick churches in Chicopee.

But there is no final word yet on the fate of St. George and St. Patrick, said Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the diocese.

“No one should draw any conclusions about how the Adams situation was resolved,” Dupont said. “These are local decisions.”

Dupont said it would be “wrong to assume the vigil played any role in the decision. The Vatican would be neutral or blind to activity.”

He said Saturday’s announcement has no bearing on Mater Dolorosa in Holyoke where parishioners have been staging their own 24/7 vigil since it closed on June 30, 2011. The Vatican upheld the diocese’s decision on Mater Dolorosa although Mater Dolorosa has appealed.

The relationship between the Mater Dolorosa vigil participants and the diocese has been confrontational complete with trips to the civil courts and a quarrel over the ownership and use of a Christmas nativity scene.

Still, parishioners involved with the vigil at Mater Dolorosa were heartened by the news regarding the Adams church.

“It absolutely shows that the bishop’s not always right. But more important, for the Adams people, it’s three years worth of persistence and trying. Their faith is incredible . .. Three years is a long time, to maintain hope. They certainly deserve to have their Masses brought back,” Peter J. Stasz, an attorney involved with the Mater Dolorosa vigil, said.

Stasz said they are holding out hope that their church also will reopen.

Victor M. Anop, of Chicopee, another attorney involved with Mater Dolorosa, called it a “tremendous victory for the people.”

“It’s what our religion is supposed to be about, the people . . . The diocese in Springfield should do this with all the churches that have appealed,” Anop said. “I think it’s a wonderful day for the people in Adams.”

Protesters at St. Stanislaus, an ethnically Polish parish like Mater Dolorosa, garnered national attention, including write-ups in the New York Times and Time Magazine, for their fight to keep the church’s doors open. It was founded in 1902. When it closed, it had approximately 560 parishioners.

The Diocese of Springfield has eliminated 69 parishes in Western Massachusetts since the year 2000 in response to declining attendance and finances and a shortage of priests. Other diocese in Massachusetts have taken similar steps.

Parishioners in seven churches across Massachusetts are conducting vigils. So far, St. Stanislaus Kostka is the only group that has managed to restore Mass to its building.

Said Bishop McDonnell, “I pray that the entire Catholic community of Adams rejoices today. I am grateful that, in consultation with others, Father Daniel Boyle has developed a plan which not only provides a sustainable solution for the Catholics of Adams but promises as well to be a vehicle for healing and growth.”

Dupont said there are no “sour grapes” on the part of the diocese.

“If in two or three years this is a sustainable solution and it works for them and they’re paying their bills, nobody will be happier than the diocese,” Dupont said.








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