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Churches asked to collaborate on vision

Bernie Labonte and an unidentified companion greet passersby during one of the regular protest vigils at Notre Dame Church Tuesday, May 4. File photo/Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
May 18, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The town's Catholic parishes are ahead of the game when it comes to considering the future.

Although they recently received letters from Bishop Robert McManus asking them "to begin the process of developing a town-wide, shared vision for the Catholic Church in Southbridge," local parishes sent the diocese such a plan several years ago.

"When the Cluster started five or six years ago, we were instructed to do that," said Patrick LoConto, who stepped down as a St. Mary's representative to the four-parish Cluster Committee last month. "We filed a plan with the bishop, so if he's asking us to do that now, it means he didn't review his own files."

Devised over the course of a year or so, that plan "constructed the fact there'd be one parish."

"We never selected a church — that wasn't within our purview," he said. "… We talked about how we would blend the parishes" in terms of religious education, ministry services, staff and other issues.

"The diocese office gave us four plans and we didn't like any of them, so we created our own," LoConto added.

The bishop's May 9 letter asks the parishes to undertake this process "in the spirit of continuing the beneficial effects" of nearly two years of planning for the merger of Notre Dame and Sacred Heart. That will become official this weekend, when the two parishes formally become Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish.

"Our focus must be on what we can learn together as a community of faith, without predicting at this stage what the outcomes might be," McManus wrote, further noting the communities the parishes serve have themselves changed over the years.

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

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