St. Frances faithful to meet with Archbishop
By Jillian Fennimore | firstname.lastname@example.org | November 23, 2005
In a face-to-face meeting with Archbishop Sean O'Malley next weekend, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioners plan to tell their story and plead their case.
More than a year after their last Mass and the start of their 24-hour vigil, a group of four parishioners will sit down with O'Malley hoping for a reprieve from the decision that closed their church.
"He will have to face this parish that has been suppressed," said long-time parishioner Margie O'Brien. "He will hear our story which I think he has not heard before.
"Hopefully this will give him a real sense of who we are and what we are doing... what we can do."
The parishioners have been meeting and sharing notes on what to bring to the table Dec. 3 when they join O'Malley in Boston, at the rectory of the Holy Cross Cathedral.
Bullet points for their plea include the need for two Catholic churches in town-both St. Frances and St. Mary of the Nativity. The need comes from a shift in demographics and a housing boom and growing population, said Friends of St. Frances member Maryellen Rogers.
"Hopefully it will be obvious to the Archbishop," she said. "We are just praying he sees the light."
Parishioners at St. Albert the Great in Weymouth went to court last year, taking their case to keep the church open before a judge. They also met with O'Malley and the decision for the church's closure was reversed in June.
The St. Frances faithful are hoping for the same results.
Parishioners will also bring with them a quilt made by fellow parishioner Bobbie Sullivan, called "Quilt of Hours," depicting on cloth the sign-up sheet that those in vigil use to help occupy the church round the clock.
Sullivan's husband David, will be one of the four heading to Boston. He sees their discussion with O'Malley going in a positive direction.
"We need to show that there is a need for this church," said the 25-year parishioner of St. Frances.
The group of parishioners occupying the church has been active since its closure, launching appeals to the Boston Archdiocese and beyond to the Vatican. They have filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to prevent the Archdiocese from selling the church building and the 25-acre Hood Road parcel it sits on. No ultimate decision has been reached in the suit and there has been no response from the Vatican.
Parishioners in vigil will take their case as far as Supreme Court if they have to, said Rogers.
"Nothing has changed, we are not going anywhere," she said.
Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon has said in the past that through the reconfiguration process, the Archdiocese is looking to build "parish communities" by merging churches and strengthening the Catholic community.
Other issues like financial woes and declining numbers in clergy and church attendance may also be brought up as issues for closure, but O'Brien maintains neither has been a problem at St. Frances.
"We are a financially viable parish," she said about their fundraising efforts to support legal fees and church maintenance costs.
In one way, O'Brien said she wants to thank O'Malley, who through closing the church brought its members closer together, strengthening friendships and allowing for life-long connections made under one roof.
But the St. Frances faithful want their church back up and running.
"We are not making demands," she said. "We simply want to reopen."