ADAMS, Mass. — The Diocese of Springfield is seeking clarification on Vatican decisions related to the closing of St. Stanislaus' Kostka Church in Adams and St. George's and St. Patrick's churches in Chicopee.
In a statement released Wednesday, the diocese says, "In the case of these three churches the Congregation [of Clergy] seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law." Diocesan officials point to similar reasonings provided for the closing of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Chicopee, which the Congregation upheld.
Parishioners appealing closure of St. Stan's two years ago and their canonical legal advisers believe the decree received on Tuesday means the diocese must reopen the church as a place of Catholic worship. The Chicopee churches say the same.
The decree from the Congregation of Clergy upholds the suppression of St. Stan's parish and its merger with the two other parishes in Adams but rejects the reasoning behind its closure. The diocese, it states, failed to provide the "grave motivations" for its closing.
As it stands now, the use of the three churches is up to Bishop Timothy A. McDonnel. "It has to be stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and that any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church," according to the statement.
Statement of the Diocese of Springfield
The Diocese of Springfield has now received official notification on five appeals which were under consideration by the Congregation for the Clergy. These decisions involve St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Adams; Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Chicopee; St. George Parish, Chicopee; St. Patrick Parish, Chicopee; and Our Lady of Hope Parish, Springfield.
In the matter of Our Lady of Hope Parish, Springfield, the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell to amalgamate that parish into the new Mary, Mother of Hope Parish also in Springfield.
In the matter of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Chicopee, the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell both to amalgamate that parish into the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Chicopee and allowed its closing as a place of worship. It should be noted that subsequently the Bishop has allowed the Assumption Church to re-open temporarily while structural concerns at nearby Holy Name of Jesus Church are investigated. It is currently open as the place of worship for Holy Name of Jesus Parish.
In the matters of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Adams; St. George Parish, Chicopee; and St. Patrick Parish, Chicopee the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell to amalgamate those parishes, St. Stanislaus into Pope John Paul the Great Parish and both St. George and St. Patrick into the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Chicopee. In these three instances, however, the Congregation has indicated that, in its judgment, sufficiently grave reason was not provided to close each of these church buildings and that they should be used in some manner as determined by the Bishop. It has to be stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and that any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church.
In the case of these three churches the Congregation seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law. For example it should be noted the circumstances in these three cases was consistent with the diocesan reasoning in the case of the Assumption Church for which the Congregation did uphold closure of the Church. Because of these factors the Bishop is seeking immediate clarification from the Vatican as well as through canon lawyers.
The diocese has also received a request for additional information from the Congregation, but no decision, regarding an appeal by former parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Northampton.
Finally, late yesterday the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, issued an apology to Bishop McDonnell for having failed to provide the diocese with these decisions in advance of their public release.
ADAMS, Mass. — The vigilers of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church have been rewarded for the waiting and praying they have done for more than two years to save their church.
A decree from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome has rejected the closing of the church.
A statement from Friends of St. Stan's spokeswoman Laurie Haas says "the Congregation's decision affirms the Diocesan decree relating to suppression and merger of St. Stan's Parish, but overturns the decree that resulted in the canonical closing of our church. As a result, St. Stan's must be reopened as a place of Catholic divine worship."
The vigilers will address the decision at 2 p.m. today at the church on the corner of Hoosac and North Summer streets.
The statement and four-page decree can be found below.
The historically Polish church was slated for closure during a sweeping consolidation of churches in the Diocese of Springfield to contend with falling attendance and increasing costs. Parishioners say they were caught off guard by the announcement because they had been under the impression St. Stan's was the most fiscally and faithfully healthy.
The day after Christmas in 2008, the Friends of St. Stan's entered the church and refused to leave. More than 200 people have participated in the round-the-clock vigil, some for an hour here or there, others spending night after night in the sanctuary through the seasons.
The group joined with churches in Boston also appealing their closure after the sex abuse scandal rocked the diocese – and led to multimillion-dollar settlements. The Boston group hasn't fared well; the Vatican rejected their pleas at the end of last year after a seven-year wait. The Boston parishes are trying a last-ditch effort to prevent the archdiocese from declaring the churches available for nonreligious use.
The Friends of St. Stanislaus have been represented by a canon advocate in Rome, who, on July 10, 2009, submitted an extensive legal brief to the Congregation of the Clergy on behalf of the parishioners summarizing the facts of the case and canon law issues: particularly the procedure followed by Bishop Timothy McDonnell, the legitimacy of the parish suppression and church closure followed within the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Springfield. All appeal documents can be viewed at adamscatholics.org.
The vigilers have been buoyed by recent "split" decisions of the Congregation of Clergy that seemed to indicate a diocese could consolidate parishes – but not close certain churches without grave reason. That could mean the building would remain as a site of worship, dependent upon the parishioners.
The last week may have been the hardest in the two-year wait, knowing a decision had been made by the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome and was on the way.