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Blizzard wreaks havoc with Sunday Masses

By Christine Tolfree
Posted: 1/28/2005

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Last weekend’s blizzard, which started on Saturday, kept many people inside on Sunday morning. Mass attendance was low throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, and some Masses were cancelled all together.

Father Brian K. Parrish, vicar forane and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Plymouth, said he planned to celebrate Sunday Mass, but in the morning he could not open the church doors because the snow drifts were too high.

All three of the Masses that day were canceled, and most Catholics showed “good judgement” by staying indoors, Father Parrish said.

"I've been a priest 16 years, and I don't ever remember not celebrating Mass at a parish on Sunday," he added.

The five baptisms scheduled for the day were also canceled, and only two people showed up for daily Mass on Monday. By Tuesday morning, daily Mass attendance was “gaining ground,” Father Parrish said.

Msgr. Francis V. Strahan, vicar forane and pastor at St. Bridget Parish in Framingham, had to cancel all five Sunday Masses because the parking lots were full of snow. Most parishioners stayed home anyway and others attended the vigil Mass on Saturday, which was standing room only, he said.

But parking on Sunday was no less of a problem than walking. At St. Brigid Parish in South Boston where pastor Father Robert E. Casey said about 75 percent of parishioners walk, all the Masses dropped in attendance — tens rather than hundreds came.

"People just couldn't get out of their houses," Father Casey said. "They couldn't open their doors."

All Sunday Masses at Our Lady of Good Voyage in Gloucester were canceled because the streets were impassable. All were cancelled at Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Boston because no parishioners came.

Custodians at other parishes put in overtime in order to clear sidewalks, steps and parking lots for parishioners. Father Paul E. Ritt, pastor at St. John the Evangelist in North Chelmsford said an “outstanding job” was done clearing huge snowdrifts. While very few showed up to the early Masses on Sunday, many were able to make it to the 5:00 p.m. Mass, he said.

Father Michael Drea, parochial vicar of St. Ann Parish in Quincy, said that although Mass was not cancelled, only 16 parishioners came to the three Sunday Masses. Usually the parish has over a thousand Catholics at Mass on Sundays, but no one came to the 7:00 a.m., seven came to the 9:00 a.m. and nine came to the 11:30 a.m.

The Saturday vigil Mass, on the other hand, was packed because many people planned ahead, Father Drea said.

"It was absolutely mobbed," he said. "It was almost a Christmas Mass."

Father Drea said even though he wants Catholics to come to Mass, he urges people to stay home when the weather is dangerous.

"Use you're good judgement," he said. "We never want to put anyone in harm's way."

Catechism 2181 says, “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.”