Church making another appeal
Council of Parishes co-Chairman Peter Borre said filing a second appeal to the Vatican is not a step that is taken lightly. But nine parishes suppressed by the Boston Archdiocese, including Scituate’s St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, have taken that next step to save their churches.
Despite receiving word last month that 10 parishes that filed canon appeals to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy in Rome were denied, nine of those parishes have pushed forward to the next appellate level - the Apostolic Signatura.
"I was astounded that all nine appealed," said Borre considering the quick 30-day deadline to file, and the requirement of obtaining a qualified Vatican advocate and a retainer of $6,000-$10,000. "It’s not a free throw -speaking in basketball terms."
According to Borre, the first appeal to the Congregation did not require the services of canon law specialist and are usually handled within a year of filing.A further appeal to the Apostolic Signatura will take "at least two years or more" to be dealt with.
During this time, the Archdiocese of Boston is precluded from interrupting or selling the properties in question, he added.
Other churches and members of the Council of Parishes that filed an appeal include Infant Jesus-St Lawrence in Brookline, Our Lady of Lourdes in Revere, Our Lady of Mercy in Belmont, Sacred Heart in Natick, St. Anselm in Sudbury, St. James the Great in Wellesley, St. Jeremiah Framingham, and Star of the Sea in Quincy.
Out of the nine parishes that have appealed, Borre said six of them are in vigil and continue to show no signs of backing down.
"They have an emotional connection," he said. "That tells me they are determined."
St. Frances’ vigil leader and appeals organizer Jon Rogers, said in knowing the "long and arduous" process they have embarked on, parishioners are dedicated in moving forward with their plea to reverse the decision of Archbishop Sean O’Malley.
"Ultimately I think we are going to end up in a much better place," he said about the ongoing grassroots efforts to put pressure on the Archdiocese. "This is the new American Revolution on the level of faith."
Since being closed by the Archdiocese in October of 2004, parishioners have found their faith as a family of more than 100 holding a 24-hour a day vigil within the walls of the Hood Road church.
St. Frances is among 80 churches originally slated to be closed through the Archdiocese’ consolidation. O’Malley has claimed dwindling church attendance and a shortage of priests were contributing factors in the decision to close the parishes. The archdiocese began parish reconfiguration in January of 2004, and to date has closed 62 parishes as part of the process.But some of the decisions have been overturned allowing parishes to reopen. The decision to close St. Albert the Great in Weymouth was reversed last June.
With a new path of legal recourse to follow, Rogers said their church is determined to have St. Frances’ story heard and have their church’ assets and property rights protected.
"It’s not change for the sake of change," he said. "It’s change for the sake of making things better."
Parishioners are also awaiting a response from the Archbishop regarding a second meeting with him to discuss possible new options for the 25-acre property as they move forward.
O’Malley’s recent elevation to cardinal has also called into question what direction this will take their parishes.
Installed as archbishop on July1, 2003, O’Malley will join the ranks of his former predecessor Cardinal Bernard Law in the College of Cardinals.
O’ Malley said he was "deeply humbled and honored" to be named a Cardinal in statement issued by the Boston Archdiocese
"While there are certain additional responsibilities that come with the privilege of serving as a Cardinal, I wish to reaffirm a commitment I made during my Installation Homily to the priests, deacons, religious and laity, who together form this great Archdiocese of Boston," he said. "Together, we have faced many challenges and I look forward to continuing our work together towards strengthening our Church. I continue to pray that all people of the Archdiocese will renew their commitment to our shared mission of faith and rebuilding the Church."
St. Frances parishioners like Maryellen Rogers said this will hopefully be a move that will prove positive for their church.
"Maybe this will empower him to do the just and moral thing for all the vibrant, vigiling parishes," she said in an email. "And to open them and make the Archdiocese flourish even more."
Borre said the decision could also prove as a "loud stigma" in that O’Malley will instead fully endorse the Vatican’s rulings
St. Frances parishioners are expecting to meet with O’Malley at the beginning of next month, said Rogers.
Possibilities of future land use, beyond keeping the church and its parking lot as it stands, have increased for the use of a parochial school, cemetery space, or additional property for a much-needed fire station or other town purposes.
According to a spokesperson for O’Malley, discussions of the issue remain ongoing.