GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 17, 2013

Archdiocese merge plan aimed at saving parishes

An archdiocese-wide plan that would merge Gloucester’s catholic parishes into a collaborative, though it has been criticized for “forcing” pastoral resignations, actually aims to save parishes, representatives of the Archdiocese of Boston said during a visit to Gloucester Tuesday.

“We want every parish of the archdiocese, not just every collaborative, but every parish to be a strong, stable, intentional and effective member,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, a leader in creating and rolling out the pastoral plan.

The archdiocese created a collaborative between Gloucester’s Our Lady of Good Voyage and Holy Family parishes as the two-year, second stage of a seven-stage process that will restructure almost 270 parishes into about 135 collaboratives. With the first stage underway and the last scheduled for 2021, the collaborative made up of the Gloucester churches can expect to hear its new clergy named by Christmas, though the group will begin work much later at the start of June. Those clergy members would work for all of the churches within the collaborative.

The collaboration plan controversially forced the resignation of Holy Family’s the Rev. John Kiley and Our Lady of Good Voyage’s the Rev. Eugene Alves.

The archdiocese created the plan with the hope of seeing each parish revitalize itself, maybe in the next 20 years or so, at which point the collaboratives would resolve and leave just the parishes. The current core issue facing the church, according to Soper, is that the number of parishioners has decreased. That, he said, has caused deficits in the numbers of priests and trained ministers and the amount of money the church has to work with.

“If you make any progress on that core deficit, the other deficits go away over time,” Soper said. “When the pastoral plan has done its work and we’re thriving again, we can fold it up and put it in a drawer.”

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