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Monday, November 27, 2006

From near extinction, Newton's Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish is on the rise

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Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton Upper Falls.
(Photo by Janet Knott/Globe Staff)

NEWTON

What a difference two years makes.

Thanksgiving 2004 was not a happy one for the parishioners at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton Upper Falls. Their church was on a list of those being closed by the Archdiocese of Boston and in danger of being sold as excess real estate.

Less than a month later, though, the Archdiocese said it was reconsidering its decision and put the closure on hold. Now it appears that not only will the parish survive, but that it will likely become the archdiocesan home of the traditional Latin Mass, a spokesman says.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, said this morning that church officials had "open and candid" discussions yesterday with parishioners at Mary Immaculate and at St. Philip Neri in Waban, which was originally supposed to stay open but is now expected to be merged with its Upper Falls neighbor.

While no "final decision" has been made by O'Malley, Donilon confirmed that a key church body, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, has recommended that Philip Neri be merged into Mary Immaculate.

The archdiocese is also leaning toward moving the traditional Latin Mass to Mary Immaculate from its current home at Holy Trinity Church in the South End, which is also expected to close, Donilon said. The Rev. Charles Higgins, who oversees services in Latin for the archdiocese, is also expected to become Mary Immaculate's new pastor.

Moving the Latin Mass makes sense, Donilon said, because people come to it from all over and, as Catholics in the archdiocese have migrated to the suburbs, Newton is closer to being a geographical center for the archdiocese.

One still unanswered question is what will become of the archdiocese's Korean Catholic community, which called St. Philip Neri its spiritual home. Donilon said the community will have at least a year at Philip Neri while discussions continue.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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