Welcome to Our Parish

Minutes of the meeting of PPC of June 27, 2019

Present: Rev. Joseph McCarthy, Christine Sullivan, Deacon Chuck Landry, Deacon Jack Sullivan, Michelle Byrne, Sean McLaughlin, Mary Doller, Allen Eppich, Pat Sweeney, Barbara McMorrow, Sue Runne, Peggy Reynolds, Jim Neenan, Kelly Holland, Mary Bower, Steve Dodge

Also in attendance, as guests, were twelve members of the parish

Co-chair, Chris Sullivan called the meeting to order at 7:05. We began with a prayer to ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Fr. Joe opened by reporting on a recent Vicariate priests’ meeting. From 2014 to 2019, church attendance, numbers have dropped.

Eight years ago, it was thought that the Collaborative process was the best way to keep the priests close to the people, but as it plays out, difficulties emerge. There are currently 288 parishes in the Archdiocese and 262 priests to serve them. The number of active priests is being reduced by about 13 per year, due to death and retirement.

Christine announced that the remainder of the meeting would center on one topic: the proposed merger with Holy Mothers Collaborative. She asked each member of the Parish Council to make a statement about their current feelings and ideas about the merger. Then, the guests would be invited to speak, as well.

The Discussion:

It was pointed out, at last week’s meeting, several people stood up to speak on behalf of our proposed merger. These speakers were forceful in their support of their existing parish. However all of them were from St. Mary’s and none from St. Helen’s. It would have been more informative for us to hear from St. Helen’s parishioners as their position is the same as ours would be. How were they accepted? What about their programs? Do they feel that their identity as St. Helen’s parishioners has been respected?

Dissapointment was expressed with Archdiocese’s handling of the situation. We had come to understand and accept the collaborative process, how it works, and what would be our role. In February, Fr. Joe was told by Fr. Soper and Fr. Flatley that we might be joined with St. Mary’s and St. Helen’s. One of our parishioners, who had been at Mass at St. Mary’s, attended an announced meeting out of curiosity. It was at this meeting that she learned of the plans for the new church. When she asked Fr. Soper if St. Thecla’s might be included, she received a definitive, “no”. The Council decided to invite Fr. Soper to our next meeting so that we may get answers. It was not until he attended our April meeting that we were introduced to the concept of merger as opposed to collaborative. We were being asked to absorb a whole new concept and then to make a decision. This was all overwhelming and we felt that there were many questions to be answered. When we asked about options, there was not a definitive response. This was confusing, so it was then that we decided to schedule a town hall style meeting with both Fr. Soper and Fr. Hickey to be present. When that meeting took place, some felt that they left with more questions than answers.

Some spoke on our identity as a small, close knit, homey community and questioned our ability to maintain  that identity as well as our existing programs in a new locale. Some pointed out that while we have wonderful programs, many of those programs are due to the efforts of a few. Conversely, support of efforts such as the over $80,000 that has been raised for ASP is a full parish effort.

We do not meet the criteria to remain open as a stand alone parish. While we are self supporting, financially, we do not have the attendane or the sacramental numbers to meet that criteria. If we choose not to merge, we will be made a part of some collaborative down the line.

Others spoke in support of the meger as a wonderful opportunity for us to be involved in something that will probably become the future of the Church. While such mergers into new, larger churches is little known here, they are quite common in other parts of the country. These larger churches have more in terms of human resources resulting in greater potential for broader ministries and programming. Some felt that this step is inevitible, so why postpone.

People found the e-mail forum extremely helpful. In seeing the many viewpoints expressed, some said that they found themselves going back and forth in their own mind sets in an effort to adequately absorb the pros and cons of all viewpoints.

It was pointed out that feeling a connection is important and that there are people who doubted that they could feel a connection at being one in many. Those people will simply walk away to another parish where they might be able to feel more connected. A sense of belonging is important. Questions were raised about our participation as a merged church. Would we have 1/3 of the decision making power such as 1/3 representations on Finance and Parish Councils?

The subject of Evangelization was discussed. Four characteristics put forth are:

Love
Friendship
Personal Relationship
Giving of the self to others

How and where are these characteristics best nurtured?

We discussed Fr. Joe’s role. If we choose to remain open, Fr. Joe would remain on as pastor, with the associated canonical rights. If we close, he would have options. He could remain in the newly formed parish as parochial vicar or he could be reassigned by the Archdiocese. He pointed out that for many years now, with the present uncertainty, the Archdiocese is not appointing pastors but parish administrators. All priests have strengths, preferences, and leadership styles. Some are holy men, some excel at administration, and some can do both. Both are needed in every parish. The ideal would be that the priest would be a priest and be responsible for the spiritual welfare as well as the sacramental work of the parishioners. In every parish there would be an administrator who would handle the every day nots and bolts work of the parish.

Both mergers and collaboratives bring resources together. Some collaboratives experience difficulties over this. One nearby collaborative experienced a very rocky beginning as one parish could pay its bills and the other could not.

Everyone acknowledges the tremendous value in Holy Mothers Lifeteen program. Many young families love the energy of St. Mary’s family and teen Masses. However, it is not for everyone. Some younger families have come from Holy Mothers to St. Thecla’s because they prefer for their children to be nurtured in a more intimate and personal form of faith. Many more mature people also prefer the more personal connections and worship style of a smaller parish. With the financing secured and the necessary permits having been secured from the town of Hanover, the new parish will go on with their building plans with or without St. Thecla’s.

When, at the meeting, Fr. Hickey was questioned about our keeping of our staff and our charitible programs, he responded that we would hang onto good things, but cited duplication of effort as reason to centralize staff. A meeting guest who works in with the elderly in Norwell cited St. Helen’s turkey dinner program for the elderly, which was cancelled one year into the Collaboration.

A  meeting guest, a CPA and former member of our Parish Finance Council, raised the issue of finances. He feels strongly that we must see numbers before entertaining a decision. Although there are $6,000,000 in pledges and another possible $5,000,000 from the sale of three properties, there is still the matter of loans to reach the $35,000,000 cost of the new church. The estimate of the monthly payment of a $14,000,000 mortgage is $85,000. With this kind of financial obligation, would there be money for anything else?

Fr. Joe requested that Parish Council members put their recommendations into writing and sending them to him. He will read carefully and take points of view into account before he, prayerfully, makes the necessary decision.

The meeting adjourned at 9:40

 

 

 


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       4:00 p.m.  Fr. McCarthy        
  8:00 a.m.  Fr. McCarthy
10:00 a.m.   Fr. Quinn
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