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Closed church sees 1,000th day of vigil

Metro Boston | Tuesday, July 24


Bobbie Sullivan and Sean Arnold, 8, make lavender wands yesterday outside St. Francis X. Cabrini church in Scituate.
Bobbie Sullivan and Sean Arnold, 8, make lavender wands yesterday outside
St. Francis X. Cabrini church in Scituate.

BOSTON. The confessional serves as a bedroom, and the room formerly used for baptisms is now filled with coffee, paper plates and other necessities for the parishioners of St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Scituate.

But, to those who have occupied the building for every minute of 1,000 straight days since the Archdiocese of Boston closed it in 2004, it’s more a church than ever before.

“It’s finally the church I’ve envisioned all my life,” said parishioner Jon Rogers, who, with wife Maryellen Rogers, has helped organize a round-the-clock occupation since the Archdiocese accidentally left a door to the church unlocked nearly three years ago.

Sign-up sheets just inside the main entrance ensure that all times slots are filled — including the overnights. Despite summer vacations and busy family schedules, it’s no problem filling the pages.

That spirit was once missing when the church — built in 1960 — was controlled by the Archdiocese and filled with parishioners who, as Maryellen Rogers puts it, just wanted to put in their 45 minutes each Sunday and race out of the parking lot.

“It’s truly a gift we have been given,” parishioner Heather Santosuosso said after yesterday’s celebration of the milestone. “When that door was left open, we were given a do-over.”

Jon Rogers and Santosuosso claim they hardly knew fellow parishioners before the vigil began.

Their church family has now grown to include dozens who attend services each week led by parishioners, and at times an anonymous priest.

Legal wranglings persist, including a case pending in the Vatican that will determine ownership of the church, which rests on a prime 30-plus acre property steps from the ocean. Until then, and perhaps for another 1,000 days, it’ll be a home for both worship and defiance.

“Keep the faith, change the management,” Jon Rogers said with a nod toward the Archdiocese.