As parishioners holding vigil at the long-shuttered St. James the Great Church in Wellesley prepared for what may be their last Good Friday service at the church, a spokesperson for the parishioners sent out a letter criticizing the archdiocese, which signed a purchase and sale agreement this week with the town to sell the church for $3.8 million.
“The Archdiocese expects parishioners to simply move along as they close parishes to pay for their horrific actions and fiscal mismanagement,” wrote Suzanne Hurley, who said that it was disrespectful for archdiocesan officials to tell parishioners holding vigil of the impending sale during Easter week.
“Was it necessary for Monsignor Deeley [Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese] to advise us of this decision as we prepared to celebrate Holy Week? No,” she wrote. “He should be ashamed of his behavior.”
Friday afternoon, Terrence Donilon, spokesperson for the archdiocese, issued a statement responding:
"This being Good Friday I am not to dignify such an angry and attacking letter with a response. We wanted to show respect to those in vigil by meeting with them in person. We have kept open lines of communication throughout this vigil in a closed Church. The Cardinal has been extremely patient. The time has come for this vigil to end for the good of the Catholic community in Wellesely, the town and the entire Archdiocese.''
St. James was closed by the archdiocese in 2004 and deconsecrated last July. Deconsecration is a process that turns a house of worship into a secular building. The parishioners have appealed the closing of the church and its deconsecration to the Vatican, but have so far been denied. They are considering a final appeal to the highest church of the Vatican.
The town of Wellesley has said that they plan to tear down the church and build a playing field, swimming pool and skating rink on the 8-acre site on Route 9.
“Will parishioners continue to sit idly by, moving parish to parish, as they continue to close them?” she wrote. “Who will stand for you when your church is the target?”
The sale of the church is contingent on the completion of the appeals process and on Wellesley Town Meeting Approval. The town is holding a Special Town Meeting on June 13 to vote on whether to grant approval.
The full text of the letter is below.
For more than seven years the faithful of St. James the Great in Wellesley have maintained a prayerful vigil in our church. We have always tried to maintain a respectful dialogue with the Archdiocese but on Friday, March 30th, the treatment of the parishioners at St. James was reprehensible and the Archdiocese, and specifically Monsignor Deeley, should be ashamed.
At the request of the Monsignor, we met at St. James on Friday, March 30th to discuss our appeal. The meeting lasted approximately 15 minutes. In attendance were the Reverend Monsignor Robert Deeley, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia; Reverend Robert Oliver, BH, Assistant to the Vicar General; Reverend Robert Kickham, Cardinal’s Secretary; and Sister Marian Batho.
Monsignor Deeley conveyed to us that Rome had upheld the Archdiocese’s decree and as a result they were entering into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Town of Wellesley. They did not bring a copy of the decree and told us the Town had been advised of this decision prior to us being informed. Monsignor Deeley simply came to “convey the decision” knowing we had not received it and to see our reaction. He should be ashamed of his behavior. I advised the group we had the option to appeal to the Apostolic Signatura and the meeting concluded without discussion. Was it necessary for Monsignor Deeley to advise us of this decision as we prepared to celebrate Holy Week? No. This is the first decision ever delivered to us in person by the Archdiocese.
As I walked them thru the church to depart, Fathers’ Kickham and Oliver, and Sister Batho, genuflected in front of the tabernacle and/or in front of the altar showing the appropriate respect our church, any church, deserves. Monsignor Deeley, however, strode by as if he was simply walking down a street. You would think a man who has spent so many years in the practice and leadership of his faith would show more respect. His actions were inexcusable. He may feel that the sweep of a pen on a decree deconsecrates a church, but Jesus on the Crucifix is always to be revered and a tabernacle containing consecrated hosts is to be respected. Shame on Monsignor Deeley.
The Archdiocese expects parishioners to simply move along as they close parishes to pay for their horrific actions and fiscal mismanagement. As a vigiler I have come to accept the disdain they hold for those of us who simply want a voice in our faith. As a Catholic, however, I am appalled at the Monsignor’s lack of respect for a church.
Will parishioners continue to sit idly by, moving parish to parish, as they continue to close them? Who will stand for you when your church is the target? We did finally receive the decree on Monday, April 2nd, after the Archdiocese signed the Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Town. Oddly enough it was dated March 20th, but had not been mailed from the Papal Nuncio’s office in DC until March 31st. Coincidence?
Keeping the faith,