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Church merger has many awaiting fate

Closing of building is next step

A visitor to Notre Dame Church in Southbridge takes pictures inside, unsure how much longer the church will remain open after it merged with another parish on Sunday. Christopher Tanguay. (click for larger version)
May 24, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — When Bishop Robert McManus of the Worcester Diocese asked Catholic churches in Southbridge to draft a collaborative plan for a shared vision of the future, they responded by enacting a plan a long time in the making.

On Pentecost Sunday the controversial merger of two Southbridge parishes, Notre Dame and Sacred Heart, became official.

Parishioners of both churches now, while understanding of the financial and attendance issues that led to the merger, are questioning whether or not creation of Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart was right way to go.

They also are waiting to learn which building will be closed forever.

Members of Notre Dame, which has stood as one of the most grandiose structures on Main Street for nearly 100 years, fear the joint parish will eliminate use of that building in favor of Sacred Heart, ending its reign as one of the most recognizable buildings in town.

As of press time, no decision had been made as to which of the two churches will serve as the primary meeting place.

On Sunday, two Masses were celebrated — an 8 a.m. at Sacred Heart and an 11 a.m. at Notre Dame.

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

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