The reasons behind combining the two Gloucester-based local Catholic parishes into a single collaborative, as outlined by Rev. Paul Soper, Pastoral Planning head of the Archdiocese of Boston in Thursday’s Times, provide a look at the archdiocese’s goals and commitment to future viability.
Indeed, pulling together Holy Family Parish — essentially St. Ann Church, Rockport’s St. Joaquim’s and the seasonal St. Anthony’s on Gloucester’s Back Shore — with Our Lady of Good Voyage, may well help solidify the long-term futures of both parishes, particularly since the new collaborative will not have a separate name, and both parishes will continue to carry their own names and identities.
But while this overall Pastoral Plan may well serve the parishes and the archdiocese well, the seemingly heavy-handed manner in which this phase of the plan was announced and carried out does not – particularly given the forcing out of both local pastors. That’s especially the case at Our Lady’s where the Rev. Eugene Alves has served as pastor for 38 years, yet was forced to hand in his resignation two weeks ago with an eye toward stepping aside when a new collaborative pastor is named and then fully takes the reins next June.
And while Rev. Alves, 82, has told parishioners he’ll remain in Gloucester, it’s uncertain what role he will continue to have, including the saying of Mass. That’s because neither he nor St. Ann’s Rev. John Kiley will be able to serve as their local parish’s parochial new vicars under the new pastor, meaning that three new priests will be coming aboard for the two parishes – the same number they already have.
It’s still not clear why the archdiocese did not push back the local consolidation from Phase 2 to Phase 3, which could have brought a less jarring transition for the pastors and their parishioners.
Perhaps that would have better built the rank-and-file confidence church leaders are seeking.