Merger ‘for the next generation,’ says Brockton pastor

BROCKTON — Father David O’Donnell placed over 100 possible names for a new parish on a ballot and asked everyone from the two merging parishes in Brockton — Sacred Heart Parish and St. Colman of Cloyne Parish — to cast their vote. The three names that garnered the most votes were sent to the archdiocese for approval, and Christ the King Parish was born on Nov. 21.

Long before the wider archdiocesan parish reconfiguration was announced in January, parishes in Brockton had begun their own reconfiguration. Talks — focusing on human and financial resources, the number of churches and needs of Catholics in the town — began in 2000 and led to the merger of St. Edward Parish and St. Nicholas Parish to form St. Edith Stein Parish in August 2003.

This merger served as a model for the merger of Sacred Heart and St. Colman, said Father O’Donnell, pastor of Christ the King.

Father O’Donnell had served as parochial vicar of St. Colman for two years when he became administrator of Sacred Heart in September 2002. He was then appointed pastor of St. Colman in November in anticipation that the two parishes — less than a mile apart — would come together.

The process for Sacred Heart and St. Colman began in earnest in April 2003 when representatives from both parishes met to form a drafting committee to address the needs of Catholics in east Brockton. By November, the committee had determined that a merger was the best way to combine the parishes. The merger was approved by both parishes’ pastoral councils, finance councils and staff, and a progress report was sent to the archdiocese.

The committee began ironing out the details of the merger and made a “tough” decision last April — St. Colman’s building, the larger of the two, would become the new parish’s place of worship and the Sacred Heart building would close, said Father O’Donnell.

“We never really entertained the idea of keeping both buildings. Then nothing has really changed,” he said. “It would have been easy if we were choosing between good and bad, but we weren’t. We were choosing between good and good.”

The archdiocese announced the names of closing parishes on May 25, and Father O’Donnell said he received a letter from the archdiocese acknowledging the Brockton merger. Parishioners from both churches presented moderator of the curia Bishop Richard G. Lennon with a proposal in June.

Once the reconfiguration committee accepted the plan, a transition team was formed and started meeting weekly in September.

Closing Masses for both Brockton parishes were celebrated on Nov. 14. The new parish’s opening ceremony was held on Nov. 21, the feast day of Christ the King, and brought together the two parish communities as well as Sacred Heart’s school community.

Although Kelly Sedman, a parishioner of the former Sacred Heart Parish, acknowledges that more time is needed for adjustment, she hopes both parishes will become one community.

“We’re a bigger family now,” she said.

Sedman sends her two daughters to Sacred Heart School, which will use the Sacred Heart Church building until the end of the academic year.

Sister Marguerite Normand, SASV, Sacred Heart’s principal, said the impact of the parish closing will be greater in June when the church building will close for good and the school can no longer celebrate Mass there. It will be difficult to walk 228 children to St. Colman Church, she said.

“It’s certainly an adjustment to not have the parish here,” she said. “It’s a great loss for us, but life has to go on.”

Father O’Donnell echoes the sentiment of moving forward, adding that the parish must do what is best for the long haul.

“I had to keep reminding everybody, including myself, that this is really for the next generation,” he added.