This sad story comes from the Boston Globe.
I just posted an entry a while ago, mentioning that Archbp. Burke, when he was in St. Louis, saved one of their great churches by entrusting it to a traditional group.
Closure doesn’t have to be the only answer.
On the other hand… if people are not supporting it…. what to do?
Parishioners at St. Casimir, Holy Trinity gather for final Mass as churches close
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff and Christopher Baxter
Globe Correspondent / June 30, 2008
The three were the rarest of congregations: the only German Catholic parish in Greater Boston, one of the area’s last two Lithuanian churches, and the first local group of traditionalists authorized to pray in Latin.
In each case, a few hundred worshipers were bound by deep connections to history, strong sense of community, and affection for prayer in languages spoken by few in this part of the world.
The Archdiocese of Boston, strapped for cash and priests, decided it could no longer sustain the three congregations, and yesterday, it shuttered the two churches in which they worshiped: Holy Trinity in Boston’s South End, home to the German and Latin Mass congregations, and St. Casimir in Brockton, the Lithuanian parish.
In a ritual that has become familiar in Eastern Massachusetts, where Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley has cut the number of parishes from 357 to 292 over the last four years, somber and often angry worshipers packed into three funereal Masses yesterday, taking pictures, telling stories, and wondering what they will do next. Each Mass drew about 300 worshipers.
"This is a sad day, a very sad day," said Diane DuBois, who has been praying at St. Casimir for 38 years. On her lapel, she wore a pin that read, "Jesus hears us. Save our Church."
At Holy Trinity, organist George Krim, whose father, uncle, and great-grandfather also played the organ there, was greeted with applause as he played a final postlude with his teary son standing beside him. "There’s been so much joy here, it’s going to take a while," said Krim, 82.
Krim’s two brothers, both at the service, were angrier. "It was hard for me to walk out of there today," said Joe Krim, 72.
Supporters of both parishes plan to challenge the closings by appealing, first to O’Malley for reconsideration, and then to the Vatican. But the odds are long. Although a few parishes have persuaded O’Malley to reconsider, none has succeeded at the Vatican, and on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a new chief judge, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, who is viewed as likely to be even less sympathetic to opponents of parish closings than was his predecessor. [That seems like a cheap shot. I think that he would be very sympathetic indeed. However, he knows the rights of the Archbishop of Boston in these matters. He must o by the law, not by what he would prefer or what he would have done himself.]
In several other closed parishes, worshipers have occupied the buildings and refused to leave – in some cases for years. However, there are no plans for such protests in Boston or Brockton.
"We recognize that there is sadness, anxiety, and hurt being felt and expressed in these parish communities," Terrence C. Donilon, the archdiocesan spokesman, said in an e-mail. "We are committed to seeing that the parishioners of Holy Trinity and St. Casimir know that, despite these closings, that we need them to help us in building up our local church."
The archdiocese is offering to accommodate the German-heritage and the Latin Mass congregations from Holy Trinity at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is less than a half-mile away. But members of the two congregations are viewing the offer with some skepticism, in part because of their affection for the history and architecture of Holy Trinity, which was built by German immigrants and which has the marble communion rail, high altar, and dense iconography preferred for the Latin Mass.
The Latin Mass worshipers, who have been praying at Holy Trinity since 1990, have several other options. O’Malley has established a weekly Latin Mass at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church in Newton, and last year the pope opened the door to wider use of the older rite, which was replaced with Mass in English and other local languages in 1970, so there are now Latin Masses available occasionally in Brighton and East Boston, as well as, starting next week, at the cathedral.
"You become closer to God here," said Neal MacKenzie, 46, of Marshfield, who attends the Latin Mass with his wife and 10 children. "It feels more reverent."
At the same time that the archdiocese is eliminating Masses in Lithuanian and German – languages associated with immigrant populations that mostly arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries – it has been expanding its offerings in languages spoken by more recent immigrants. Currently, Mass is said in 20 languages in the Archdiocese of Boston, but O’Malley has said that the primary reason for foreign-language Masses is to enable worshipers to understand and participate in the liturgy, and not to preserve the culture of earlier generations. [If more Masses were in Latin, and people had hand Missals, many problems would be resolved.]
Lithuanian immigrants began arriving in the United States in the 1860s and established the Brockton parish, originally called St. Rocco, in 1898, according to the archdiocese. The parish, eventually renamed St. Casimir, in recent years had been dwindling, saw its school close, and last year had just one wedding, two funerals, and an average weekend Mass attendance of 161.
But the remaining parishioners were fiercely loyal. [Of course! Their grandparents made huge sacrifices to build these churches and decorate them for the proper worship of God. They received the sacraments in these churches!] In recent weeks, in a symbol associated with Lithuanian Catholicism, worshipers posted crosses in the lawn and gardens surrounding the church and attached them to the church’s fence. At yesterday’s closing Mass, parishioners held Lithuanian and American flags over an icon of St. Casimir during the final procession.
"In this time of trial, you have all tried your best to keep St. Casimir open," said the Rev. Henry Mair. "But the Holy Spirit has come to another conclusion."
Resentment toward the archdiocese bubbled through the morning’s sadness at a gloomy reception after the service. Some vowed never to forget a church they say was unfairly taken from them.
"I feel like I want to smack somebody," said Marilyn Yesonis. "We all went to the church. We paid the bills. The archdiocese has nothing to do with our parish." And Agnes Benoit, who lives next door to St. Casimir and has attended Mass there for 81 years, tapped her finger on a folding table as she said, simply, "This is my church."
The archdiocese says the St. Casimir community will be welcome now to attend St. Michael Church in Avon, and that the last Lithuanian parish in the archdiocese, St. Peter in South Boston, will help minister to the Lithuanian community.
In Boston, the reaction was mixed: Some worshipers were angry and said the archdiocese had betrayed them, while others were nostalgic. That parish was established in 1844 and the current building was constructed in 1877; there was a time when the parish had a school in Roxbury as well as a school and multiple ministries in the South End, but more recently its congregation, too, has dwindled.
"The memories just flood back," said John Doucette, 64, of Salisbury, who was an altar boy and a member of the drum and bugle corps at Holy Trinity in the 1950s, and returned yesterday to say goodbye. "But time goes on."
Michael Paulson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.