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1,000 days: A milestone for church vigil

By DIANA SCHOBERG
The Patriot Ledger

Julie Ashnault, left, of Tucson, Ariz., formerly of Weymouth, and Jane Redmond of Scituate pray Sunday at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. (JEFF LOUGHLIN/The Patriot Ledger)

SCITUATE - Adults sit on lawn chairs in circles as music blares.

Others play horseshoes and Wiffle ball.

And cake, cookies, chips and watermelon make the perfect summertime treats.

It’s the stuff of church picnics, and parishioners at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church appeared to be no different than the many people out on Sunday enjoying picnics across the South Shore.

But unlike the others, their picnic had a higher purpose. They were celebrating the 1,000-day anniversary of an around-the-clock vigil they have held to stop the Boston Archdiocese from shuttering their church.

Children congregate at a nearby crafts table, gluing their names or messages on visors they - and the grownups - wear.

One of the children at the picnic, Daniel Brown, was the last baby baptized at the church while it was still open. These days, he is walking and talking with the others.

‘‘It just shows that we’re a strong family,’’ says Maryellen Rogers, looking at the gathering. ‘‘The people here are living their faith. They walk the walk every day.’’

‘‘We’re stronger now than we were on day one,’’ said her husband, Jon.

The church was one of 67 ordered closed in October 2004 by the Boston Archdiocese as part of a cost-cutting reconfiguration. It is one of five in which parishioners are holding a sit-in to keep the doors from being shuttered permanently.

‘‘It’s such a great group of people here,’’ says Barbara Nappa as her 7-year-old granddaughter, Natalie Talbot - who sometimes comes with Nappa as she takes her turn sitting vigil - snacks on some goodies. ‘‘It’s a real conglomeration of the talent there is. ... All we need is a priest.’’

The 1,000-day anniversary of their vigil is actually today. Parishioners celebrated it Sunday with a lay-led Communion service and the picnic. They have been conducting their own services for more than two years now.
‘‘I think the lay-led services is probably the wave of the future,’’ said Marian MacIsaac, who has been leading the services. She mentioned a recent study by the Boston Archdiocese that highlighted a priest shortage in the region. ‘‘We could be a success model for the church to follow.’’

Ruth Eaton, a parishioner at St. Albert’s in Weymouth who took part in the vigil there, was one of the 50 or so people who dropped by the Scituate picnic.

Eaton, who lives in Cohasset, is known by the St. Frances protesters because she often stops by the church to pray for the vigil or lend her support in other ways.

‘‘It’s just fabulous what they’re doing,’’ she said. ‘‘If there’s anything I can do to help them, I’m all for it.’’

Diana Schoberg may be reached at dschoberg@ledger.com .

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, July 23, 2007