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Parishioners take case to street

Suspect closed process means Notre Dame closing a 'done deal'

Most of the parishioners who turned out Tuesday joined the group prayer on the steps, while some continued to wave signs at passing cars. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
May 04, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Notre Dame parishioners started taking to the street this week to protest what they see as the likely closure of their church.

Ironically, that comes after the parish finance committee combining members of both Notre Dame and Sacred Heart voted 6-4 in favor of keeping Notre Dame two weeks ago. Two other joint parish panels voted in favor of keeping Sacred Heart, but all three votes are essentially just recommendations to Rev. Leo-Paul Leblanc. The priest will himself make a recommendation to Bishop Robert McManus, who ultimately decides.

The two parishes are slated to formally unify May 23 into Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish, and the meetings have been considering which of several buildings and programs the new parish would keep .

But to several of the roughly 20 protesters praying and holding signs on Main Street Tuesday, secrecy and other problems they see in the process make them think it's a done deal. Most of them spoke using pseudonyms, saying they were concerned about unfair treatment by the priest, whom some said they don't trust anymore.

"We hope being out here will change the decision, but from what we've heard, we think the decision's been made, but won't be announced until June," said one who wished to be called "Gladys." "Closing Notre Dame would be a disaster. Most Notre Dame parishioners won't go to Sacred Heart, they'll just leave."

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

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