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'Another chapter' opens for local Catholics

Churches celebrate merger into one parish

Antonia Correa takes a short break during Friday’s clean-up effort with the new sign for the combined parish, Blessed John Paul II Parish. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
July 05, 2011
SOUTHBRIDGE — After a couple years of trouble and uncertainty, local Catholics celebrated the unification of Southbridge's four parishes into one last weekend and hope the change bodes well for the future.

"The Catholic community has been in turmoil so long now that it's nice the decision has been made and we can move forward," said Karen Loin. "We're going to be all one, all together, and that will make us stronger and make the town stronger."

Loin has been a long-time member of Notre Dame Church, one of the parishes merging into the new Blessed John Paul II Parish with Rev. Peter Joyce as its priest. Last year, Notre Dame melded with Sacred Heart, and that short-lived combination formally blended with St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's last Friday.

According to Bishop Robert McManus' merger decree, the new parish serves about 2,400 households in town and will use Notre Dame as its "primary worship center." St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's will stay open for some uses, but Sacred Heart "will close given that it is almost impossible to repair due to its significant level of disrepair and the exorbitant cost" (about $1 million), he wrote.

Noting the new parish starts with a debt of about $2.5 million, McManus observed, "To increase this indebtedness will only serve to place an extreme and unwarranted financial burden on this parish." In a separate decree specific to Sacred Heart, he added it "is to be closed and may be relegated to profane but not sordid use."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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