Alex Bonnar uses snowshoes to climb a 9-foot snowdrift and shovel out a window Feb. 10 at St. Malachy's Church in Burlington while Gabriel Arcaro lends a hand. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo
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BURLINGTON -- After the Blizzard of 2013 dumped over two feet of snow on New England Feb. 8 and 9, Catholic parishes in the region faced the challenge of digging out after the storm.
That weekend, the Archdiocese of Boston reminded Catholics that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass can be waived in exceptional circumstances, such as the travel ban in effect during the storm.
"In the event that roadways are not clear for travel on Sunday, the faithful are reminded that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation," a statement from the archdiocese said.
Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston saw heavy snowfall. When the storm passed, local churches rushed to clear snow in time for weekend Masses.
At St. Malachy's Parish in Burlington parishioners brought shovels, brooms, a snow-blower, and even a pair of snow shoes to dig out in the afternoon on Feb. 10.
"We had a whole bunch of parishioners. Every age, I would say, from about say 50s down to elementary school came and helped shovel the side of the church," said pastor of St. Malachy's Father John M. Capuci.
At a Sunday morning Mass, the church announced the need for help removing snow from the building because of the unique shape of the church.
"Our entire building is all roof, because we are kind of almost a half-circle kind of building and the snow drifts went up about nine feet," he said.
Father Capuci said the snow-melt could have damaged the church after recent renovations where the entire structure was coated with multiple layers of paint and protective materials to stop leaks.
"We have been in a four-year renovation program here, and I was so afraid that the snow on the building could cause havoc on the work that we have done," he said.
Parishioners who came out to help said they accepted the task as an act of responsibility to the community in the local parish.
"If this is your parish and you care about it, it's like your house. You take care of your house, same thing here. This is our house," said parishioner Mary Beth Arcaro, who came with her two teenage sons to help clear snow from the church.
Her sons used shovels and an extendable brush to help their mother remove snow from the church building.
"It feels great. This didn't take a lot of time. It didn't really take that much effort, but still I helped out my parish and that's all that matters," Philip Arcaro, a freshman at Burlington High School, said.
Walter Zenkin, a Burlington selectmen and parishioner, came to help remove snow also. He said the desire to help each other and the church characterizes the community at the parish.
"It's all teamwork. It's all working together and supporting your church, and that's why I'm here, not only for my community, for my church," he said.
Alex Bonnar, 32, even brought his snow shoes, which he used to climb snow drifts and shovel out church windows.
"I saw how deep the snow was this morning at Mass, and thought it might be a good idea. So, I brought them along, put them on, and it worked out," Bonnar said.
"It was better than sinking up to your waist in the snow," he said.
The pastor said he felt pleased to have the help.
"It was very heart-warming to see so many beautiful people of different ages, and generations, up there to help shovel," Father Capuci said.