Archbishop Sean O'Malley announced May 25, 2004 that 60 churches in the Archdiocese of Boston must be closed. Quoting from the Archbishop's statement, here are a few excerpts:
"This morning all of our pastors and parishes were notified of the results of the reconfiguration process. Many parishes received the news that they would be remaining open and welcoming people from other parishes in the months ahead. As a result of this process there will be 65 less parishes, but this translates into the closing of 60 churches since five of the former parish churches will continue as worship sites. Although this reconfiguration responds to the very special needs of the present, a radical reconfiguration of the archdiocese has been discussed for many years."
"This process will challenge all of us to move beyond a parochial mindset and realize that we are Catholic, which means universal. We may think of ourselves as liberal Catholics, as Latin Mass Catholics, Irish Catholics, Italian Catholics, Lithuanian Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, French Catholics, Vietnamese Catholics, Haitian Catholics, Cape Verdean Catholics… We are part of something bigger than ourselves... If we all see ourselves as part of the Catholic family, we will realize that the entire Church is the winner if everybody is willing to work together for the common good and to promote the Church's mission as we move forward."
"I appeal to every Catholic in the Archdiocese to accept these changes in the spirit of faith. I am calling on everyone to make the sacrifices necessary for the good of our Church… I hope that this time of crisis will help us to focus on what is essential, our fidelity to Christ and our connectedness to each other in His Church."
"We need to be united, we need to help and support one another. It is not a time to foment divisions but a time to strengthen relationships and build a strong Church. The Lord is counting on us. We cannot let Him down. We are His people."
Most Reverend Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Boston
Click to read Archbishop O'Malley's complete statement.
Four primary factors were sited as main reasons necessitating this process of reconfiguration.
Demographics - Over the years the dramatic shift in population has resulted in an increase of parishioners in some areas and a rapid decrease or steady decline in other parishes. Walking a mile in some older neighborhoods might take you past four or five Catholic Churches. These were built in an era when many people walked to Mass, families were generally larger and lived in the city as opposed to the suburbs.
Decline in number of clergy - As is commonly known; the number of ordained priests has decreased considerably over recent decades. Since 1988 the loss of 341 diocesan priests in Boston equals a decline of over 37%. In this Archdiocese the median age of priests is 59, with 132 being over age 70.
Financial troubles - For years many parishes have been struggling with serious money issues and the inability to meet all their financial obligations. Many factors have contributed to this situation including the rising cost of living (insurance, salaries, general maintenance involved in running a parish and services provided) and the decrease in number of active Catholics.
Deterioration of Archdiocesan properties - In the city of Boston alone a recent survey determined that it would cost around $104 million to bring these buildings up to usable standards. That doesn't include unnecessary renovations or repairs, but only the cost to make them safe and suitable for parish and school use.
The Archdiocese of Boston was originally created as a diocese in 1808 and became an archdiocese in 1875. It comprises Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Plymouth counties, excluding the towns of Marion, Mattapoisetts and Wareham. A total of 2,465 square feet, the archdiocese serves 144 cities and towns.
Peace in Christ,
© Melissa Knoblett-Aman