Two of Newton's Roman Catholic parishes, Sacred Heart on Centre Street and Our Lady Help of Christians on Washington Street, are at the epicenter of a plan by the Archdiocese of Boston to reorganize the long-standing parish structure as a result of years of falling attendance and a dearth of priests.
The Newton churches are the first of 28 parishes to be grouped into a dozen "collaboratives" across eastern Massachusetts that will replace the single church/parish tradition in what is being called "Disciples in Mission – A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston."
"During this first phase, we pledge our full support to the dedicated priests, parish staffs, parishioners and lay volunteers who will lead the way for our efforts to fully embrace the New Evangelization," said the press release.
Unlike the controversial closing of parishes two decades ago that was met with anger and dissent, none of the churches named Thursday afternoon will close or have the number of masses cut, according to a press release by the archdiocese. In addition, parish councils will still run the finances of each church although it will soon be a single group.
But the current setup with one priest and one clergy per church will soon go away, and the new collaborative will be run by a single priest and "pastoral team."
Sacred Heart's Father John Connelly and Father John Sassani at Our Lady's, will be asked by the archdiocese to resign and then be reassigned, although they can apply for the pastorale of the new collaborative in Newton.
It is not known when the priests will be leaving their posts but the press release stated that the new collaborative pastors will be named by March.