2004: Five years into the journey


Reconfiguration begins

Jan. 9: In two letters, one to the faithful and one to his priests, Archbishop O’Malley addressed the need for the reconfiguration of the archdiocese to begin immediately. “The reallocation of resources, reconfiguration, is urgently needed and must move from the mode of planning and conversation to that of action and implementation,” the archbishop wrote. “Now is the time for decisive action.”

Mailing to Catholic

households to protect

traditional marriage

Jan. 16: Anticipating the Feb. 11 vote in the legislature that would begin the process of placing the legality of same-sex marriage on the ballot, the four dioceses of Massachusetts mailed more than one million copies of informational literature on the threat to the family posed by the state sanction of same-sex marriage. The piece was titled “Marriage in Massachusetts: Crisis and Challenge,” and it aimed to inform, challenge and encourage Catholics to make their voices heard in support of traditional marriage.

Beliefnet.com: Archbishop 2003’s ‘Most Inspiring Person’

Jan. 16: The editors of Beliefnet.com, a multi-faith information and community Web site, chose Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, as their “Most Inspiring Person of the Year” in recognition of the healing manner by which he assumed the leadership of Boston’s Catholic Church. In his nearly five months as archbishop, he has reached out to the different groups in the archdiocese, meeting with priests, victims, faithful Catholics in the parishes, immigrants and the poor, they said. “Archbishop O’Malley is a rare religious leader who has managed to unite and inspire a wide variety of people,” they said. “Even those who dislike his conservative views on sexual or moral issues appreciate his heartfelt efforts to restore spiritual credibility to the Church.”

Bishop Malone named bishop of Portland

Feb. 10: Another of the growing number of Boston’s auxiliary bishops is given his own diocese with the appointment of Bishop Richard J. Malone to the Diocese of Portland (Maine). Like another native of Salem, Bishop Louis Walsh, Portland’s bishop from 1906 to 1924, Bishop Malone has served as both a parish priest and a teacher in Catholic education.

St. John’s Seminary reduces faculty

March 19: In line with the closing of the school’s undergraduate program in 2003, Brighton’s St. John’s Seminary announced it was reducing its teaching staff by seven. Four were reassigned and three resigned. The move was prompted by a meeting with the archbishop, who told the school that their high teacher to student ratio was a luxury it could not longer afford.

Sale of the land at Brighton campus to BC for $99 million

April 20: Standing with Father Leahy, the president of Boston College, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley announced the sale, for $99.4 million, of 43 acres of its 60-acre Brighton campus to the Jesuit university, whose main 140-acre campus is across the street. The property sale allows the archdiocese to fund its settlement with the survivors of clergy abuse scandal without tapping other funds, such as parish or appeal campaign accounts. “The sense of loss, in terms of our history here, is certainly very great,” Archbishop O’Malley said of the lasting effect the sale will have on the historic chancery campus. Nevertheless, “people are more important than money, and the Church is more important than buildings,” he continued. “Hopefully [the sale] will help us on the road to recovery both spiritual and economic.”

Archdiocese to close net 60 parishes

May 25: Parishes were informed by the May 25 receipt of a thin white envelope that their community was one of the 70 parishes suppressed in the archdiocesan reconfiguration. Five of the church buildings were chosen to stay open as worship sites and five other church buildings would be opened as new parishes formed from other suppressed ones. At a press conference held the same day, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley said, “We may think of ourselves as liberal Catholics, as Latin Mass Catholics, Irish Catholics, Italian Catholics, Lithuanian Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, French Catholics, Vietnamese Catholics, Haitian Catholics, Cape Verdean Catholics, the Voice of the Faithful or the Silent Majority. We need to put the accent on Catholic and come together as one people ready to make sacrifices for our Church,” he said. “My hope is that the major step we are taking together today will set us on firm ground so that we can focus our attention once more on our primary mission to preach the truth of our Catholic faith in both word and in deed.”

First suppression decrees issued

July 21: Twelve parishes received official word of their suppression July 21, the first wave of a process that will close 70 parishes. Each decree, bearing the heading “In Nomine Domini” (Latin for “In the Name of God”), signed by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, contained an explanation for the specific suppression decision and the rules for the appeal process, as well as the planned date of suppression and the instructions for the disposition of Church records, territory and special groups or ministries. Each parish was asked to provide an appropriate timetable for its closure. All parishes in this round were scheduled to close by Sept. 1.

Once the parish received the decree, the clock began for the appeal. The parish had 10 days to appeal to the archbishop, who then had 30 days to respond to the appeal or not. If the parish wished to proceed, it could appeal its suppression to the Holy Father within the 15 days following the 30-day period after their appeal was presented to the archbishop.

Archbishop calls for a halt in violence in the city

Aug. 6: Beginning with: “My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: As the summer hastens to a close, I invite you to join with me to pray for peace and safety in the neighborhood,” Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley wrote a letter in response to the breakout of violence, especially gun violence, in the city of Boston, which he asked to be read at all Masses in the archdiocese. In the letter, the archbishop called on everyone to work together with social agencies, law enforcement and community leaders to unite in our shared heritage as children of God to bring peace to the city. “As citizens of Boston and as people of faith, we must resolutely work together to see that God’s gifts of light and love prevail over the dark shadows of evil and violence,” he wrote.

Archbishop makes ‘ad limina’ visit to Holy Father

Aug. 29: As the metropolitan archbishop of the Boston See, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley presented himself in Rome to Pope John II in his first ad limina visit, which is the visit that heads of dioceses are required to make every five years to report on the status of their dioceses.

The Pilot marks 175 years of publication

Sept. 5: The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston turned 175 Sept. 5. The paper, first called The Jesuit, is the oldest Catholic newspaper in the country.

Committee to review reconfiguration process

Oct. 7: A newly appointed reconfiguration review committee will review the ongoing reconfiguration process. The committee’s purpose will be to “take a sampling” and “come up with the best practices that might be invoked in working with parishes that are slated to close and also with receiving parishes,” Archbishop O’Malley said. “At the same time, we might also identify areas that were troublesome, and where we can learn something from that so as not to repeat our same mistakes over and over again.”

First closed churches put up for sale

Nov. 15: The Archdiocese of Boston announced Nov. 15 properties from parishes closed in reconfiguration were up for sale. The 16 properties include St. Joseph in Hyde Park, St. Peter in Malden, St. Joseph in Salem, St. Mary Star of the Sea in East Boston, St. Jerome and St. James in Arlington, Assumption in Bellingham, Blessed Sacrament in Cambridge, St. Joseph in Waltham, St. Margaret in Brockton, St. James and Sacred Heart in Medford, Notre Dame and Nuestra Senora del Carmen in Lowell, St. Mary in Marlborough and Star of the Sea in Quincy. “Each decision will be based on the many factors including proposed property use, price and contingencies,” said David Smith, the chancellor of the archdiocese. “It is our hope to maximize the financial consideration consistent with the needs of the communities we serve.”

Committee to oversee reconfiguration funds

Nov. 30: Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley announced the establishment of a Parish Reconfiguration Fund Oversight Committee that will conduct an independent review of the financial aspects of reconfiguration including monitoring the receipt and spending of funds from closed parishes, the sale of parish property, and making recommendations regarding the integrity used in this process.

Meade: Committee seeks to make reconfiguration fair

Dec. 20: In an interview with The Pilot, Peter Meade, who was the co-chair with Sister Janet Eisner of the External Review Committee, focused on the archdiocesan reconfiguration set up by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley which was, in Meade’s words, “the process was--given all the circumstances--as fair as it could be made.” Meade said the committee made recommendations, subsequently accepted by the archbishop, which took into account new information from parish appeals. Meade noted that the process of reconfiguration is very difficult and emotional. Catholics have a relationship with God, but that relationship is nurtured within a parish setting, he said. “Closing a parish becomes a very difficult thing to do. I don’t think there’s any place in the world where you can say, ‘Boy, that really went easily.’”

Compiled by Neil W. McCabe