Three years... 36 months... 1,095 days...

In December 2003, the Archdiocese of Boston announced that over the following year it would "reconfigure" the archdiocese by closing and merging parishes. I thought at the time that on account of its vitality, the parish I pastored in West Concord would never be closed. As I told the people of my parish, "They won't cut down a healthy, fruit-bearing tree in the orchard."

I was wrong.

On May 25 a letter arrived announcing that both St. Bernard Parish and Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Concord would be suppressed (fancy, canonical word for "closed") and that a new parish would be erected which would worship at St. Bernard Church. The reason for this move was stated simply: the question in Concord was whether or not one parish could serve the needs of the Catholic community in Concord. The answer was yes, and we have been living that answer since October 24, 2004 when Holy Family Parish was founded and celebrated the Eucharist for the first time.

Since May 25, 2004, rivers of tears have flowed and the gorge of hurt, anger and disappointment has cut a wide trough in the spiritual substance of Catholic life in Concord. And a new parish was born and now, three years old, it stands quite tall and lives a rather robust life. One measure of the vitality of Holy Family Parish is the response of newcomers to Concord who have no affiliation with our parishes of origin and little or no sense of the recent or remote history of Catholicism in Concord. What these new arrivals encounter is a community of believers whose worship is engaging and spiritually nourishing. They hear the word proclaimed and preached in vigorous tones. They are caught up in the song of our prayer together and drawn by the outreach of our community to those in need. They are happy and grateful to have found a parish community which warmly welcomes them and promises to sustain their life of faith.

For some, the anger and hurt has not abated, has not been healed. Each week, for the past three years, we pray in the General Intercessions, For the healing of those who have been abused and betrayed and for the restoration of trust and confidence in the Church... Some months ago someone asked me how long we would pray that petition and I responded: "Until the abused and betrayed have been healed and until trust and confidence in the Church have been restored." That may take some time. While we wait for our prayer to be answered, our parish doors and hearts remain open to newcomers and to those who have been estranged.

With some frequency, I see across the Lord's table the faces of those who have been away from our prayer. What deep, deep joy that gives me - even if their return is only for a day. Whoever said, "You can't go home again..." was wrong.

This blog is read by parishioners of Holy Family and by others around the nation. I would guess that many have, for one reason or another, drifted from the life and prayer of the Church, of their parish. Let me take this opportunity to say that you are missed, that you are loved, that a place is saved for you and that many would rejoice to count you again among our number...

1 comment:

  1. Father, the Sunday we found ourselves in Our Lady's was the day that felt like coming home. I'd been "shopping" different parishes (and homilists) since moving to the area and there was no doubt in my mind that day. You baptised a little boy, maybe two to three years old, and it was amazing to me that a priest would slow down the pace of the rite to allow the little boy to fully participate in his own baptism. You even asked his permission. I figured that with this pastor, the congregation is going to be asked to be more than just sheep.

    The letter of suppression a couple of months later wasn't as harsh to us transplants from out-of-state... but it happened to one of our childhood parishes, and could still happen to the other one. We're deeply grateful that you have remained in Concord and that we have a place that feels like home.


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