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Seeking closure

Posted by Ralph Ranalli June 10, 2007 10:26 AM

catholicphoto.jpg
After Assumption Parish in Bellingham closed, parishioners joined St. Blaise and have made its community stronger, Pastor Michael Kearney says.
(Photo by Rose Lincoln for the Boston Globe)

REGION/FAITH

As he looked out over the sea of faces in the packed hall where members of the St. Blaise community had gathered, Bert Galipeau couldn't help but smile.

Two years earlier, as head of the closure committee for Assumption Parish, he had overseen the heartbreaking move of the statues of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Ann, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Blaise, another Bellingham parish 5 miles away. He could still remember the looks of pain and reproach from his fellow parishioners at Assumption, who were being asked to join St. Blaise -- and the looks of wariness and suspicion at St. Blaise.

But the faces of the members of the combined parish last weekend were full of warmth and joy as they marked the 25th anniversary of the ordination of their popular pastor, the Rev. Michael J. Kearney.

"For the first time," said Galipeau, a 66-year-old retired technology executive, "I saw one parish, not two. It was like getting married all over again."

In May 2004, the Archdiocese of Boston announced it would radically reconfigure its parishes in order to address demographic shifts, a shortage of priests, and the huge financial deficits caused by settlements from the clergy abuse scandal. In Boston's western suburbs, 10 parishes were closed, merged with other parishes, or had their parish status downgraded.

In the aftermath, thousands of local Catholics had their religious lives turned upside down, according to a story on the cover of today's Globe West. By archdiocesan estimates, as many as 20 percent of parishioners in closed or merged parishes have either stopped attending Mass or have become so-called "roaming Catholics," who continue to attend church but have not registered as members of a new parish.

Check out the story online or view a photo gallery showing how local Catholics are adapting to life after reconfiguration.

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