Various changes have occurred in the past two months in Brockton's city and area parishes.They make it clear that we can expect further significant changes in the way we organize our parishes.
On August 1, Fr. Brian Flynn, one of a two-priest team with Fr. Brian Smith at St. Edith Stein Parish was reassigned to St. Mary Parish, Lynn. There will be no replacement for him.
Last Tuesday, Fr. David O'Donnell left Christ the king Parish for a health leave. He will be reassigned elsewhere on his return. There is no immediate replacement for Fr. O'Donnell. A new priest is expected by Sept. 20; meanwhile, I will act as temporary administrator of the parish.
In the Brockton area, Fr. Lou Palmieri will be leaving St. Michael, Avon, at the end of the month and no replacement is available at this time.
Fr. John Swencki, who was at Holy Ghost Parish, Whitman, has been reassigned and there is no replacement as of this writing.
As we review the City of Brockton, in 1992 there were 18 priests assigned to 9 parishes, 10 if we include Our Lady of the Rosary. Today, there are three full-time priests and two half- time priests covering four parishes.
Be clear. We do need these four parishes. In fact, Cardinal O'Malley's policy is not to close any parishes. So whatever happens in Brockton, there will be no further parish closings. It is estimated that in 2015, there will be 170 priests in the Archdiocese to serve 250 parishes; this means that Brockton will have 2 or 3 priests.30 percent of Catholics were at Sunday Mass across the Archdiocese 10 years ago. Today, there are 17 percent present on Sunday.
What does this all mean for us and our parish? The picture is certainly not clear to anyone, much less me. But I think it means at least three things if we are to have a sound and healthy church community that is capable of fulfilling its baptismal responsibilities:
1. Laypersons must assume more responsibility for the direction and support of the church's work. This will mean training, education, time, energy and financial support including more prominent roles for women as well as men.
2. Priests will have to stay exclusively with the areas of church life for which they were prepared and educated: Sacraments, organizing pastoral care and the spiritual leadership of the parish so that it grows in holiness and becomes a healthy human community. This will ensure that the parish fulfills its responsibility to be a servant in the world through ministry to the poor and working for a more just society. Groups such as the Brockton Interfaith Community are an example.
3. The whole area of buildings and finance will have to be the responsibility of qualified trained and salaried laypeople. Real salaries allow a family to put food on the table, pay a mortgage and take care of their children. I am personally excited that along with you I will be part of a time of great transition in the history of the church. I welcome the challenge and I hope you do as well.