Quincy church closing stuns worshipers

Parishioner Sean Glennon, shown planting flowers at Mary Star of the Sea Chapel, lamented not having time to prepare. Parishioner Sean Glennon, shown planting flowers at Mary Star of the Sea Chapel, lamented not having time to prepare. (Tom Herde/ Globe Staff/ File 2005)
By David Abel
Globe Staff / September 7, 2010

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Near the end of Mass on Sunday at Mary Star of the Sea Chapel, Auxiliary Bishop John Dooher walked from the back of the 54-year-old church in Quincy’s Squantum section and stepped to the lectern to deliver bad news.

In about five minutes, he told the parishioners that they had just heard their last Mass at the church and that the doors would close for good after they left.

“I almost had a heart attack,’’ said Maureen Mazrimas, cochairwoman of Friends of Star of the Sea. “It was shock, absolute shock. It really blindsided everyone.’’

The parish, which has been existence since 1945, was named in 2004 one of the 83 Boston-area parishes to be closed in the aftermath of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. It was closed for nine months. But Mary Star of the Sea was among 10 local churches to appeal the closure to the Vatican, and the Archdiocese of Boston had allowed the church to remain open for Sunday Mass since June 2005, pending the appeal.

In May, the full college of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court at the Vatican, rejected the appeal to reopen. Mary Star of the Sea was among 70 parishes nationwide that appealed to a Vatican facing declining attendance at worship, financial crises, and demographic shifts.

Church officials said they did not receive the decision until July, and on Sunday, Bishop Dooher told the parishioners that the Signatura dismissed their appeal.

“The cardinal and I appreciate your fidelity to your Catholic faith,’’ Dooher told them after Friar John O’Brien, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, celebrated the Mass.

Archdiocese officials said neither Dooher nor O’Brien would be available for comment.

In a statement, they said they took action as soon as the appeals process was complete. “Now that there are no further appeals allowable by Canon law, Cardinal Seán [O’Malley’s] promise has been fulfilled, and Star of the Sea parish will not reopen,’’ they said. .

Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the church chose this weekend to close the parish because of scheduling issues. He said the archdiocese now has 291 parishes, 66 fewer than in 2004.

“At the end of the day, given folks’ schedules, we felt it better to conclude it now rather than wait any longer,’’ Donilon wrote in an e-mail.

Mazrimas and other parishioners, however, have not given up hope that they will be able to keep the church open. They believe they have additional avenues of appeal within the Vatican and that they are also considering whether to file a civil lawsuit.

She said the news, delivered to about 120 parishioners — there were more than 500 families in 2004 — left many in tears.

“This parish is part of my history,’’ Mazrimas said. “My children were all baptized there, My daughter got married there. We spent almost 40 years there, and we’ve given a lot of our time, talent, and treasure. We did all of that. It seems so unfair.’’

Like many other parishioners, Sean Glennon, cochairman of Friends of Star of the Sea, was away during the weekend and learned about the closure when someone called him.

“The news was worse than the initial announcement,’’ Glennon said. “Then, we had time to prepare a final Mass, to grieve together, and to give our parishioners a chance to be a part of the final Mass. To find out after the fact is just stunning.’’

David Abel can be reached at