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After a year of official reconfiguration plans in Lawrence and Lowell, the archdiocese’s final decision did not come as a shock to many pastors and parishioners. The closings in these two clusters were made public only last week, although parishes in Lawrence received notification letters three weeks ago and Lowell parishes received their letters two weeks ago.
"I'm not surprised," Father John W. Hanley OMI, vicar for Lowell. "We've been talking about this several years."
Father Hanley, pastor at St. William Parish in Tewksbury, returned from vacation last week and is busy planning final Masses for Lowell churches like St. Jeanne d’Arc and Nuestra Señora del Carmen — both closing at the end of the month.
"I know people are upset at all the parishes closing. That's to be expected," said Father Hanley, but he is focusing on the future for parishioners of closing parishes and of parishes remaining open.
"People from Immaculate Conception are obviously happy that their parish will remain open but aware that there's a long road ahead of them, too," he said.
No parish in the archdiocese can escape the changes of reconfiguration, and every parish is considered a welcoming parish, whether they are assigned to receive the records or territory of a specific closing parish or not.
Father Scott A. Euvrard, administrator at St. Louis de France Parish in Lowell only learned that St. Michael Parish was the designated receiving parish for St. Louis in a Pilot article published last week.
He has been helping parishioners with reconfiguration plans for a year, and many parishioners decided which new parish they would attend long before the official receiving parish was named. Most of St. Louis’ parishioners will go on to St. Marguerite D’Youville Parish in Dracut, although others will go on to several other parishes in the area, he said.
With only two weeks left until closure there are many preparations to be made for St. Louis. The parish documents will be transferred to St. Michael and the school documents will be moved to St. Marguerite D’Youville which will take over the school.
"We're a little under the gun to get things done," said Father Euvrard.
Lawrence’s vicar, Father James J. Ronan, said he is also busy but glad to have plans to work with after a year of discussion. The official recon-figuration plan is “bits and pieces of different models,” he said. “I’m very happy to accept it and move on. We’ve needed to refocus and reshift our gears for years.”
At the turn of the century immigrants from many nations came to work in the bustling mills of Lawrence and Lowell and sought to establish their own churches and schools as a means of preserving their culture. Most of those ethnic groups are no longer present in the way they once were, Father Ronan said.
Father Ronan hopes that the Archdiocese of Boston will be made stronger by the reconfiguration process. “We’re looking to create more vibrant parishes,” he said, adding that he hopes the remaining parishes will be able to offer more programs, unencumbered by the large number of buildings.
He hopes to establish a transition team and address major concerns. Language is already one of them. Many people who move to the area do not speak English and need a Mass in their native language, usually Spanish or Portuguese, he said.
"We're going to work closely with the community to decide what's important," he said.
DeFiore has been a parishioner of Holy Rosary for all of his 61 years. He understands the economic reasons behind parish closings, but is sad to see Holy Rosary cease to exist as parish, he said. At least the building will remain open, he said.
"It must be difficult for the other parishes, Holy Trinity and Sts. Peter and Paul," he said.
Mostly DeFiore remains hopeful that “once the new parish emerges, we’ll be one community.”