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It’s about having access to the Sacraments

This month, I’d like to break with tradition. Instead of my usual political repartee, I want to share a slightly different perspective on the threatened breakup of the Sacred Heart Parish Community.

Prior to returning to my Catholic roots, I had the privilege of serving Rev. Nicolas Zaccardi of the First Baptist Church as his administrative aide. For three years, I was a licensed Minister and also served as the Church moderator. In the latter role, I chaired the heart-rending business meetings in which that congregation anguished over selling its church building.

Unlike the faithful at Sacred Heart, the congregation at First Baptist had freedom to remain together as a faith community. We were not faced with the prospect of dispersing the flock or having to join another congregation. Our elderly members did not fear distant commutes impeding their ability to worship with their chosen assembly. In fact, to this day First Baptist Church is still a vibrant household of faith. They simply moved across the street and rented space from the good folks at Phillips. Under the guidance of Pastors Nick and Cheryl Zaccardi, their congregation sponsors outreach to the community. As well, they provide an excellent education to the children who attend Christian Life Academy.

Unfortunately, the parishioners at Sacred Heart don’t have the option of staying together. My friend and former colleague Fr. Joe Curran will be taken away from them. The flock will be scattered to distant parishes and a community will be dissolved.

The Catholic Church teaches: “The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian Life”… “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The Eucharist is so central to the Catholic faith, that the Church encourages daily communion. Many Catholics especially older Catholics attend Mass every morning. Sacred Heart welcomes over 40 such communicants every morning.

Common sense dictates the Eucharist should be made easily accessible to those Catholics who seek it. It makes no sense to close the only Catholic Church in a neighborhood that includes parts of three towns. The impact of this closure is exacerbated by the recent closings of Our Lady of Mercy in Belmont, St. Theresa’s in Watertown, and Immaculate Conception in Cambridge. I have to wonder: is the Archdiocese abandoning her sons and daughters in this tri-town swath of territory?

Catholics are indeed called to humility and obedience, but the laity does have certain rights. These rights are spelled out in the Code of Canon Law. Among them: “the right and even the duty to manifest …their opinion on matters that pertain to the good of the Church” (Canon 213) and “the right to worship according to the prescriptions of their own rite” (Canon 214).

While Canon 214 normally relates to the way the Liturgy is celebrated, it expresses the RIGHT of the lay faithful to worship. For Catholics, worship is more than private devotion or praying together. It is participation in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary; made present at every Mass. How can Catholics exercise this right if the obstacle of distance is unnecessarily placed in their way?

This is far more than a discussion about a building and who owns it. It’s even more than the nostalgic sentiments of parishioners who don’t want the symbol of sacred memories replaced with condos or a restaurant. Further, it’s not about the “Sacramental Index”. Rather it’s about the congregants of Sacred Heart in their particular circumstance being able to live out their sacramental lives as Catholics.

Since returning to the Church, I’ve dedicated myself to building bridges amongst fellow Christians by answering questions about the Catholic faith. I get a dozen or so emails weekly from people interested in what the Church teaches. Several of those emails are from would-be converts. Not surprisingly, some of these good people are scandalized by what they perceive as cold-hearted church closings. It’s time that the powers that be in this Archdiocese realize that they are putting obstacles in the way of our faithful, while also putting a stumbling block along the path traveled by potential converts. The officials at the Chancery are making it pretty difficult for non-Catholics to understand the Church.

In fairness, I must say Catholics on the East Coast have it better than those in other places. In some dioceses parishes are few and far between. One priest must tend numerous flocks spread out over hundreds of miles. These folks are lucky if a Mass is celebrated monthly in their parish.

Nevertheless, the parishioners of Sacred Heart are not the cause of the Archdiocese’s financial problems. Like Catholics from other doomed parishes, they are paying the price for the lack of evangelism, the poor religious instruction of recent decades, and --yes --the infamous behavior of the predatory serpents who once wore Roman collars.

The Archdiocese has suffered much angst in recent years. It’s time for healing and restoration. In that Spirit, I humbly appeal to His Excellency Archbishop O’Malley.

Will this church closing help bring healing and restoration? What would Jesus do?

John DiMascio

Communications Director
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government



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