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Parishioners raise merger issues

Group delays finance meeting with concerns

Ted Bartlett, a Notre Dame representative on the Transition Team and Pastoral Council makes a point as Finance Committee Chairman Kurt Parent, a Sacred Heart representative, listens. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
April 15, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Around three dozen people raised vociferous objections to the ongoing Notre Dame-Sacred Heart merger process Wednesday evening, stalling the last of three committee meetings intended to vote on recommendations for the new combined parish by about two hours.

The group was largely concerned about what they see as a process that seems to be pointing to closing Notre Dame, and complained the committees were not sharing information and preventing parishioners from deciding on which buildings to use. Some even noted the committees themselves are voting without crucial information.

Michael Loin was among the latter group. He argued the parish cannot make a good decision until after engineers examine Sacred Heart structurally to estimate what it will actually cost to repair its numerous problems.

He said he has sent details to both Rev. Leo-Paul LeBlanc and the diocese, but those have been ignored. Furthermore, he added, "no precautions have been put in place" to warn people going there of danger from such things as unstable walls and mold.

Others said they've asked the diocese to have health inspectors visit it, but were also ignored. Some pledged to take the issue to the Board of Health, or even the state.

To Finance Committee member Michael Detarando, however, his board's duty is to set aside personal feelings and look solely at the fiscal issues surrounding the combined parishes' future home. Among those are short-term repairs, long-term maintenance, need for new parishioners to keep things solvent and current debt, and he noted the new parish would have to fix Sacred Heart whether it ends up worshipping there or not.

"We were told the bishop's not going to take it over, and there won't be a market for that building for a very long time," he said.

As a parishioner, he said he might make a different decision than in his role as a committee member, but did not say what that would be.

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

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