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'It's in the hands of the bishop'

Notre Dame members fear their church will be closed

Above, wondering how long he’ll be able to do so, Raymond Desrosiers uses the Marcy Street doors to exit Notre Dame Church Monday. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
April 13, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Is Notre Dame Church closing?

That seems to be the direction in which the three committees coordinating the merger of Sacred Heart and Notre Dame parishes are leaning. Two of them have already voted 6-5 and 7-3 to recommend doing so, and the third meets tonight to vote on the issue.

"I think it'd be an awful blow to Southbridge if that church were closed," said Raymond Desrosiers, who has been a parishioner at both during his life. "… [P]eople should open their eyes because the unexpected is about to happen."

Desrosiers was one of around 80 Notre Dame parishioners who met this weekend at the request of some members of the joint Pastoral Council. (That body has four elected by each church's members and four appointed by the priest, Rev. Leo-Paul LeBlanc.) The other two panels investigating the issue are the shared Transition Team and Finance Committee, which meets tonight. LeBlanc appointed all members of both, and six people have seats on two or more boards.

At issue, he and others claim, is a feeling among some Notre Dame members that LeBlanc has "stacked" the merger process to favor using the smaller church, Sacred Heart, because it's somewhat cheaper to run. But they claim that goal ignores expensive repair needs Sacred Heart has before it can start being used regularly — a minimum of $525,000 vs. a maximum of $140,000 at Notre Dame, Desrosiers and Notre Dame council representative Gerard Proulx said.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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