Parishioners End Vigil at Mater Dolorosa in Holyoke

June 11, 2012

[with video]


Members of Mater Dolorosa gathered both inside and outside of the church Sunday afternoon.

They showed solidarity in ending their 24/7 vigil 20 days shy of a full year.

The decision followed a directive issued by the Vatican earlier this month that stated those who occupied the church must leave.

However, in the same announcement, the Vatican also said they will hear an appeal on the status of the church building, which helped make the decision easier for the parishioners.

"The Vatican is like our Supreme Court in the United States," said church spokesman Vic Anop. "They need not take your case if they don't think it is meritorious. It has to meet a threshold before it goes before the entire Supreme Court. We met that threshold with the information we sent to Rome."

Anop said that information contradicts the diocese's information on the safety of the church's steeple. Parishioners say they have to believe they're doing the right thing.

"By going by what the Vatican says and not by what the bishop says, I think there is that glimmer of hope that we have," said parishioner Christopher Boruch. "It may be a small little doorway opening, but we still have that glimmer of hope."

While they will no longer occupy the church 24 hours a day, members say they will keep a close eye on their building.

"We have to continue protecting the church, because of what's happened with other facilities that the diocese was supposed to protect," said Anop. "St. Patrick's in Chicopee had its copper stolen and the St. George's church has been wrecked by vandals."

Bishop Timothy McDonnell released a statement later in the day.

It read, "It was gratifying to see the good will of the occupants of Mater Dolorosa Church in following the Vatican directive to leave the building. The Diocese of Springfield will continue to act in compliance with church law and these same recent directives. In a special way on this day in which we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and the gift of the Eucharist, I would hope that we might all unite at the table of the Lord, setting aside our differences in our greater love for our God, and God's holy church."

Mater Dolorosa parishioners said they will continue to meet for weekly prayer at a site to be determined.


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