Appealing Prospects

according to a bylined article in the Republican, the following have appealed the parish-killing program of the Springfield Diocese:

Parish appeals

The following parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have filed appeals to keep their churches open:
Chicopee: Assumption of the Blessed Mary, St. George, St. Patrick
Easthampton: Sacred Heart of Jesus
Holyoke: Mater Dolorosa
Ludlow: St. Mary of the Assumption
Northampton: St. John Cantius, Sacred Heart
Springfield: Immaculate Conception

The reporter, Jeanette Deforge, did a great job of rounding up all the latest information.

The article continues below:

Members of Assumption of Blessed Mary Church in Chicopee appeals closure plans by Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield

By Jeanette DeForge

Springfield Republican

Nov. 4, 2009

CHICOPEE – They call their church an “exquisite jewel” with stained-glass fleur-di-lis doors, an altar created in Italy and a relief panel in which the building’s architect is said to have depicted the face of his granddaughter on one of the cherubs surrounding Mary.

Members of Assumption of the Blessed Mary Church here are joining a growing number of parishes across Western Massachusetts which are appealing plans by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield to close their doors.

Nine among the 19 churches in Hampden and Hampshire counties identified in August by the diocese for closure have filed appeals. The diocese says the changes are needed to address dwindling numbers of Catholics and a shortage of priests.

Already one church – Immaculate Conception in Springfield’s Indian Orchard neighborhood – has won a temporary reprieve from the order to close. Its parishioners have used everything from highway billboards and social networking on Twitter to draw attention to their, and other churches in the diocese are lining up to ask – and pray – for reconsideration by the diocese.

At another church, St. Patrick’s, also in Chicopee, parishioners are set to hold a vigil on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at the church at 319 Broadway to bring attention to their fight to stay open.

Assumption parishioners gathered recently to develop a strategy and came up with a long list of reasons for why it should not close, said Marie Proulx Meder, who is leading the fight.

“One of the main things is the condition of the church,” she said. “Our church has been fully renovated, not one but twice with funds donated by parishioners and has been fully maintained.”

The final Mass at Assumption, as at St. Patrick’s, is to be Nov. 29, the first Sunday in Advent. In all, five parishes in Chicopee are to be affected by the diocese’s plans for the future, and the parishioners know they have their work cut out for them.

“We talked about having a vigil in early November and fund-raising to hire a Vatican lawyer,” Meder said.

The group of about 20 parishioners has also asked the Rev. John J. Bonzagni, the monsignor who heads the Pastoral Planning Committee that decided the churches to be closed, to meet with the congregation. It has also filed a second appeal asking the diocese to delay the closing until at least December, Meder said.

The church, which now has about 1,200 members, was formed in 1874 in a building on Academy Street. It then moved to Front Street, but when a fire destroyed that building it built the existing building on Springfield Street in 1922.

Meder’s grandmother was among some of the first parishioners and her daughters, who are 22 and 28, are the fourth generation of her family who attends the church.

“I remember my grandmother would tell me they used to have French plays,” Meder said. “These were big, elaborate productions.”

The church has no debt, is located in the so-called “Catholic corridor” of Chicopee that includes Elms College and the new Holyoke Catholic High School. Its church hall has been used by many organizations, according to the parish group. Its location, in fact, apparently prompted the diocese to float a plan to have the church and its hall become part of Holyoke Catholic if it is closed as a parish church.

“People are concerned about the many French parishes that are closing,” added Meder. “We want to make sure the French heritage is maintained, and our church is a beautiful example of the French-Canadian heritage.”

While that is a legitimate goal, there are still a number of French churches in the area, including St. Rose de Lima Church, also in Chicopee, said Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the diocese. Dupont noted that St. Rose and Immaculate Conception church in Holyoke continue to offer French masses.

Dupont also said the diocese is working to ensure the churches which do close are memorialized. Artifacts such as statues are to be incorporated into the parish which receive the new members, and some traditions may be adopted by the new church.

The Pastoral Planning Committee, which included a dozen people, including some lay people, selected the churches to close. It conducted listening sessions with parish members before making the final decision, Dupont said.

While geography was important, the group also looked at demographics, the financial health of parishes and examined the number of baptisms and deaths to see if the parish was growing, he said.

Dupont said Bonzagni has been willing to visit any parish to discuss the closings.

Church law calls for an official decree to be issued before parishioners can file an appeal. The decree is expected to be finalized this month, but the bishop, the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, is accepting the appeals early, Dupont said.

“From the time the decree is issued, the bishop has 30 days to act on an appeal,” he said. If McDonnell denies the appeal, or does not act on it, the parish members can then take their pleas to the Vatican, according to Dupont.

The diocese declined identify parishes which have filed appeals, but many have sought help from members of St. Stanislaus Church in Adams. St. Stanislaus has been fighting a decree to close since August 2008, holding a round-the-clock vigil for more than a year, said Francis J. Hajdas, a vigil organizer.

Of the six parishes which sought advice for filing appeals, Assumption, St. George’s and St. Patrick’s are located in Chicopee. Others are Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Sacred Heart of Jesus in Easthampton and St. John Cantius in Northampton, he said.

Additionally St. Mary of the Assumption in Ludlow, Mater Dolorosa in Holyoke and Sacred Heart in Northampton also filed appeals early, members or church officials told The Republican.

Members of several other parishes, including St. Joseph in Hatfield and St. Patrick in South Hadley are discussing if they will file an appeal once the decree is issued.

The bishop delivered the reprieve to Immaculate Conception at Mass on Sunday. The parish, among the most vocal to date to fight the closures, has been raising money to hire a lawyer, held a number of vigils and petitioned the city for a zone change to protect the church in the event it is ever sold.

Some churches are simply closing. Others, including Assumption Church and Immaculate Conception, are to be merged with existing parishes.

The plan calls for Assumption to join with Holy Name Church, which is located less than a mile away and was the first parish of the diocese. The two already share a priest, the Rev. David Darcy, according to Dupont.

The plan recommends the Assumption church, and hall be used by the new Holyoke Catholic which was built without a gymnasium or auditorium. But, there is no final decision if that will actually happen, Dupont said.

“That clearly will be a matter of discussion between Holy Name, Holyoke Catholic and the diocese,” Dupont said.

Parish appeals
The following parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have filed appeals to keep their churches open:
Chicopee: Assumption of the Blessed Mary, St. George, St. Patrick
Easthampton: Sacred Heart of Jesus
Holyoke: Mater Dolorosa
Ludlow: St. Mary of the Assumption
Northampton: St. John Cantius, Sacred Heart
Springfield: Immaculate Conception