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Parishioners Gail Trainer (left) and Betty Foley prayed yesterday at St. Anselm Church in Sudbury, where parishioners began a vigil in an attempt to save the church from closure by the Archdiocese of Boston.
Parishioners Gail Trainer (left) and Betty Foley prayed yesterday at St. Anselm Church in Sudbury, where parishioners began a vigil in an attempt to save the church from closure by the Archdiocese of Boston. (Globe Staff Photo / David Kamerman)

2d vigil seeks to halt church closing

Page 2 of 2 -- Parishioners also describe the church as vibrant. It has a chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, and the pastor, the Rev. John Fitzpatrick, has attracted younger families with his offbeat style: He sports a silver ponytail and rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

At Fitzpatrick's request, St. Anselm's parishioners welcomed a regional program for the deaf, after its former location closed in Framingham about two years ago. Some parishioners learned sign language, and the church delivers a Mass in sign language twice a month. The deaf parishioners said they were touched by the way they were quickly accepted and saddened they would have to adapt to another community, in either Newton or Framingham.

''People here at St. Anselm were very generous and open-minded," Ruth Collari said through an interpreter. She has been running community socials for the deaf program for 24 years. ''More and more people have been coming to our socials here. We don't want to go."

Some of the hearing-impaired parishioners also intend to take part in the vigil.

Fitzpatrick said he has given parishioners his blessing to hold the vigil, but will not participate.

''Do I believe they will stop what's going to happen? No," said Fitzpatrick, who is retiring. ''I'm pretty cynical about that, but they have to do what they need to do."

Colin Riley, a spokesman for St. Albert's parishioners, applauded the decision by St. Anselm's parishioners to hold their own vigil. Some St. Anselm's parishioners have been participating in St. Albert's vigil.

''We wish them all the best," Riley said. ''The process to close vibrant churches is a sin."

While most parishioners were upbeat and positive, one parishioner was angry at the end of Mass and criticized O'Malley for not responding to the more than 100 letters parishioners wrote, requesting that he come to the church to explain his decision.

''Sean O'Malley is the assassin from Rome," said Thomas Hardiman, a parishioner of 24 years and a finance commission member. ''What is he trying to accomplish? It's just brutal what he is doing. He has no care or compassion."

Coyne said it is not possible for O'Malley to visit all of the remaining 64 churches scheduled to close this year. Eighteen have already closed. He said the pastor in each church is the archbishop's representative to speak on the issue.

As for Hardiman's words, he said, ''Unfortunately, in this situation the first thing that gets lost is basic Christian charity."

Yesterday's 2-hour Mass at St. Anselm coincided with its annual picnic, where children crawled around inflated moonwalks, and others feasted on chicken, hamburgers, and potato salad. A few parishioners remained in the church as the vigil began, and hoped their actions and those of parishioners at St. Albert's would inspire other churches slated for closure. 

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