[The “springtime of Vatican II” comes again to West Springfield, Massachusetts: Originally seven parishes and a mission – consolidated in 2008 to two parishes, now in 2016 re-consolidated to one – How soon before there are none?]
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church
Special to The Springfield Republican By Anne-Gerard Flynn on June 06,2016
WEST SPRINGFIELD – St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish will close this fall, a request that was made by the parish after a year’s study, agreed to by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and announced at the parish’s weekend Masses.
The final 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sept. 4 at St. Frances, formed in 2008 with the merger of two other parishes and a mission church, will leave St. Thomas the Apostle Parish as the only Roman Catholic parish in West Springfield, according to the diocese.
Reasons given for closure were an aging congregation, as well as an aging church in need of structural repair, and limited financial resources.
“It is unusual but not unheard of,” said diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont of the decision by the St. Frances’ parish and financial councils to request its closure.
“The parish did not rush into it and that is why Bishop Mitchell Rozanski was comfortable with it. It is a way forward. The parish was caught with a small worshiping community and a large, older infrastructure that requires attention. The two worked against each other, despite parishioners doing their best to keep up with the structural needs.”
Dupont said that the parish at 475 Main St., originally Immaculate Conception, was formed and renamed with the merger of Immaculate Conception and St. Louis de France parishes and St. Ann Mission, both on Memorial Avenue. The diocese has since sold St. Louis, and St. Ann’s was razed last year.
Total attendance at St. Frances’ three weekend Masses has been around 200, Dupont said.
Dupont said the Rev. Kenneth Tatro, pastor at St. Thomas, 47 Pine St., and the Rev. Piotr Pawlus, administrator at St. Frances for about 18 months, will “swap pulpits” for some weekend Masses, to help St. Frances’ parishioners make a “smooth transition” to St. Thomas, a larger parish that has a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school.
However, Dupont called the choice of which parish to attend an “individual one” and said that St. Frances’ parishioners will have the summer to consider “options of where they are comfortable each week.”
According to a letter, released by the diocese from St. Frances’ Deacon Donald Philip, Philip told parishioners that, from the beginning in 2008, “our parish has suffered from a lack of growth, aging buildings – in particular water and masonry problems in the church – and a chronic lack of funds despite your consistent generosity.”
“For more than a year, our parish and finance councils have been meeting together, seeking a solution to what became a ‘perfect storm’ of a changing neighborhood, aging buildings, and small numbers in the pews,” the letter from Philip says.
“We explored many ideas, including becoming a mission of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. Finally, on May 23, a consensus was reached that it is time to gracefully move towards closing our parish, and putting our energy into helping each one to find a new spiritual home with dignity, respect and active participation on the part of both parishes.”
In the release, Philip also said the parish “recently suspended our religious education program for reasons of both numbers – no anticipated First Communions or Confirmations in the coming year – and finances.”
According to diocesan statistics, the Springfield diocese has 81 parishes and nine missions and has a Catholic population of some 217,274. The diocese includes the four counties of Western Massachusetts.
Other headlines concerning church closings and demolitions in the Springfield diocese:
North Adams church to be demolished immediately after bricks fall from steeple
Springfield Historical Commission OKs removal of stained glass windows from closed Our Lady of Hope Church
Holyoke Friends of Mater Dolorosa hold Christmas memorial event at closed church
Demolition of Holy Name School and Parish buildings in Chicopee to begin