Saving a heritage church in Fall River

In the near future, we will face more church closures.  Some won’t be that much of a loss.  Some, however, are part of our patrimony, lovingly built by our forebears, irreplaceable.

I bring to the readerships attention the plight of parishioners at one such church.

From The Herald News:

Peaceful protesters want transparency from church officials and a chance to save St. Anne’s

FALL RIVER – The people built St. Anne’s Church 112 years ago, and it’s the people intent on saving it today.

A crowd gathered Sunday afternoon in front of St. Anne’s to pray and peacefully protest the Fall River Diocese’s decision to close the beloved landmark Catholic church and shrine on Nov. 25.

“It’s the building, the history and the heritage,” said Bryan Boyle, whose family was one of many that built St. Anne’s. “You can’t remove the spirit of what it represents.”

Boyle said his French-Canadian great-grandfather purchased bricks that helped to erect the Romanesque marble structure in the early 1900s.

“This is a structure to last centuries,” he said.


Brian Boyle is a long-time reader and commentator here. I’ve had a lot of contact with him off the pages of this blog and he is a solid guy, not given to exaggerations.

Time and time again, I’ve heard about dioceses which want to close churches and sell off the land (guess what for!). They do so in such a way that parishoners and others hardly have any say or way to raise the money needed for structural repairs, etc. Some bishops take a more enlightened and creative path, and think inside the box: TRADITION.  In many places where TRADITION is tried, it succeeds.

We must not squander our patrimony if it is possible to retain it.  We don’t have to GIVE UP.

This church is in Fall River.  Tomorrow, it could be your church.   That’s why we all need to pay attention and even add our voices.  You may live in, say, Idaho, but that church is also part of who you are.

Speaking of a place where TRADITION is being tried, HERE is a related story in Cincinnati:


We just watched at the 2018 Synod (“walking together”) on Youth stumbled to its predictably embarrassing and cliche-ridden surcease. They mouthed over tired ideas about liturgy, as if we haven’t watched the last 50 years of implosions and erosions.

Maybe we should start thinking inside the box again.

The inside of the box is the new outside of the box.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TonyO says:

    One could do some worthwhile investigating by piecing together how often the bishop targets old and beautiful churches, and/or traditional / conservative parishes, for demolition or sale, versus picking 1960s to 2000 era disasters.

    In a perhaps not-so-odd reversal, in many places it is the suburban parishes that sprang up like mushrooms overnight in the 1950s and 1960 that NOW are seeing the drastic drop in weekly attendance. The urban parishes already saw that process happen during the suburban boom period, and are now a (relatively) stable mix of old people who “always lived there” and the new urban young couples who (in order to afford living in the city) either both work full time, or where one works in a high paying industry like a It is the suburbs that are undergoing the changes.

    More interesting still would be a demographic study showing which parishes the new priests are coming from, and whether the bishop has taken that into consideration when he closes parishes due to lack of priests. Hey, if a parish has provided more than its “fair share” of the diocese’s priest over the past 2 decades, then it is contributing to the diocese in a very substantial way and that should count! My current parish has had 4 seminarians over the past 10 years, this is far above the average. If some parish hasn’t had one vocation in the past 20 years, that should be evidence that there is something not quite right in that parish and maybe that’s a parish that could be “improved” by being absorbed into a neighboring parish. (Hint: since it is traditional, solid, orthodox teaching and practice that encourages young men to discern God calling them, these are the parishes that should be preserved when at all possible. How many such parishes have liberal bishops intentionally closed precisely because he is uncomfortable with their “brand” of Catholicism,, i.e. the straight-up variety that seeks to be wholly Catholic and nothing but?)

    Of course, such thinking might force a bishop into admitting that modernist “Catholicism” doesn’t tend to produce vocations, which might force him to either change his mind all the way back to tradition, or to go “whole hog” into modernism (instead of the ‘catholic’-lite flavor of modernism that is so comfortable) and admit that he no longer believes in a real Church at all. Would that those bishops who are true heretics had opted for publicly just leaving the Church altogether in honesty and integrity, instead of pretending that their error is “Church teaching” when it never really was.

  2. Bthompson says:

    One sad fact of the massive wave of church closures that are needed is that so many of the beautiful, timeless, and worthy churches are smaller than the modern, dated, monstrosities.

    Church clusters are awful. Bad for the priest, bad for the people, and stagnating for the development of a parish. We can and should expect people to travel a bit further to get to Mass than we could expect 100 years ago. However, it’s sad that small beautiful churches are disproportionately casualties of this reality.

  3. APX says:

    Churches can be moved/disassembled and relocated and rebuilt for less than the cost of building a new church. There is a beautiful church two hours from where I live that has been shuttered. I have often said they should disassemble it, and give it to the FSSP here to reassemble and re-open, do the needed repairs to the roof and build a new rectory. People think i’m Crazy save for the engineers I’v Run it past.

  4. Ave Maria says:

    Oh my! This holy Shrine needs to be saved! I have been there several times in journeys east, most recently in 2017 when we could not visit the upstairs but only the crypt then. There was once a thriving Catholic community surrounding it but still it is in the midst of a good population. If a parish needs to close, I would hope one of “lesser” historical and beautiful value would be chosen.

  5. Thorfinn says:

    The parish website has all kinds of dodgy links. EWTN. The Catholic World Report. First Things.
    Father Z’s blog…

  6. nemo says:

    Archbishop Chaput gave the FSSP a beautiful church which had been closed four years ago, St. Mary’s in Conshohocken. They celebrated their first Mass in Sept. Info here:

  7. Luminis says:

    We in Philly are blessed with Archbishop Charles Chaput!!

  8. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    The following is my published letter to the “Fall River Reporter,” emended slightly….

    I was administrator of St Anne’s for nearly two years (2012-14). From the perspective of demographics and economics, St Anne’s has not been a viable parish for years. It has long relied on non-parishioners for most of the income received from weddings and funerals. The average Sunday Mass count for November 2012 was 511; were it not for the Sunday evening Mass (attended mostly by outsiders) it would have been 143. And while revenue from the votive candles in the shrine kept the parish afloat (utility bills were paid), a great deal of money was owed to the Diocese for insurance and pensions. Even if the parish had all the money needed to repair the upper church, for how much longer could the bishop assign a severely limited number of priests to keep alive old parishes as shrines? The problem is not just lack of funds but lack of people.
    I am heartsick over this, and cannot help wondering what could have been had my efforts to attract more souls been given more time to bear fruit. The key to a promising future, I believed (and still believe), has to do with my happiest memory from my time there: the Solemn Mass in the older, traditional Roman Rite which I celebrated one Sunday in October 2013. The event was widely publicized and drew hundreds of people from far and wide (including clergy and seminarians from Boston and Providence). Visitors who “stumbled in” upon the Mass stayed ’til the end. “Can we have this every Sunday?” asked more than a few people who were deeply impressed by the beauty, the mystery, the profound sense of the sacred conveyed by this ancient form of worship (which, thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, has become more widely available). But we weren’t ready to do that on a regular basis, because the traditional Latin Mass in its solemn form requires not only a priest but also a deacon and subdeacon, a choir competent in Gregorian chant, and several well-trained altar servers. “We’re not there yet, but give me time,” I promised. A few months later, without any advance notice, the bishop (George W. Coleman at the time) ended my charge of the parish.

  9. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Thorfinn: I put those links there. I also linked to that other subversive website, NLM. ;)

  10. ChesterFrank says:

    I remember form grade school (60’s) days, the nuns clamoring that that the old churches didn’t meet the Church’s needs. That is why the Church needed to replace the old with the new. It was rubbish then as it is now. Imagine how much could be raised by teaching artists and craftsmen the techniques of church restoration. If an old historic church is located in a neighborhood that is no longer Catholic, isn’t that old church situated perfectly for new evangelicalism? Rome doesn’t raze its ancient churches to meet today’s needs, do they?

  11. One of the links here makes reference to the Oratory in Cincinnati, and the two parishes they administer, Old St Mary’s in Over-The-Rhine (the historically German downtown neighborhood), and Sacred Heart in the Camp Washington neighborhood. Whenever I go home, I go to Sunday Mass at one location or the other. I have also served Mass at one or the other.

    Some interesting facts about Old St Mary’s, by the way …

    man with black hat: Altare Privilegiatum

  12. Kathleen10 says:

    This is the heartbreaking stuff, the closing of churches. If a RICO investigation comes, this may happen more and more.

    As terrible as a church closing is, I would rather we burn our churches down than sell them to mosques. This is something that may be in play in upcoming months or years. I hope we can all agree selling Catholic property to Islam would be the worst possible result and we must never do it.

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