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May 8, 2004

Sudbury parish is placed on list: Archbishop expected to make final decision before June

From: Shrewsbury Chronicle, MA - May 8, 2004

By Peter Reuell / News Staff Writer
Saturday, May 8, 2004

A handful of MetroWest parishes are among the latest tapped for possible closure by the Boston Archdiocese, but at least one yesterday remained hopeful it would be allowed to keep its doors open.

After identifying about 100 parishes in March that might be shuttered, the archdiocese this week sent letters to 37 additional parishes, including four in MetroWest.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley is expected to announce which parishes will close May 25.

Among the parishes named in the recent letters was St. Anselm Church in Sudbury. Deacon Joe Ramrath, however, said he was hopeful the church, which houses the Deaf Community Center, would stay open.

"It certainly is a relevant factor in thinking about closing parishes," Ramrath said, of the deaf community's involvement in the church.

The center was relocated to the church about a year ago, Ramrath said, and hosts regular masses for the deaf, as well as special spoken and signed masses on special occasions.

Those communities will be factored into the decision to close parishes, the Rev. Christopher Coyne, archdiocese spokesman, said.

"Obviously, the archbishop is not making any kind of decision in a vacuum," he said. "They've actually been (considered) all along."

The weight of groups like the deaf community or minority populations was considered as early as March, when the 80 parish clusters in the archdiocese first met to discuss which, if any, churches would be closed.

Those recommendations were then sent on to local vicars, then to regional bishops, who fine-tuned the lists. Following that review, Coyne said, a committee of laypersons and priests reviewed the recommendations.

Despite the archdiocese's claims that the process is all-inclusive, Darrell Simpson yesterday claimed too little consideration has been given to those the closures will ultimately effect -- the laity.

"As much as the diocese will talk about the lay participation, we see less and less of it happening," said Simpson, a Wayland resident and Voice of the Faithful member. "What's going on here is a major disruption in people's lives.

"There wouldn't be concern if we knew what was going to take place, (but) it is still not transparent, this whole process."

The final decision on which parishes will be closed, however, is still weeks away, giving local church officials like Ramrath hope they can make their case to archdiocese officials.

Closing St. Anselm would seriously disrupt the Catholic Church's attempts to reach out to deaf parishioners, he said.

One of the few other deaf ministries in the region has relocated six times in seven years, making it difficult to hold on to parishioners. Bringing the two groups together under one roof, he said, makes sense.

"(It would be) kind of mainstreamed into the life of a smaller parish," he said. "We think there's an incredible opportunity to create something that would almost be a national model for deaf ministry."

Officials at other MetroWest parishes could not be reached yesterday, but in a letter posted on the church's Web site, the Rev. Austin Fleming of Our Lady of Help Christians Church in Concord said he remains confident the church's doors will remain open.

"I continue to have confidence the archdiocese will not fell a healthy tree," he wrote. "We should pray that we will be allowed to continue to grow, flourish and yield that rich fruit God's spirit has ripened within us."

The other two MetroWest churches on the new list are St. Isadore in Stow and Sacred Heart in Waltham.

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