Keeping the Faith at St. Frances Cabrini

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 14, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Dissent

The parishioners are not letting  their church get taken from them and sold.

St. Frances Cabrini was among dozens of churches that the Archdiocese of Boston decided to close and sell in 2004, partially to help pay the costs associated with the priestly sex abuse scandal. While most churches closed without a fight, parishioners at St. Frances rebelled.

Kim Brown, 36,  said she had become convinced that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was a victim of its real estate.

Built when this South Shore community was considered the Irish Riviera, the church towers over a wide clearing on the side of a wooded road; ocean views beckon just over the treetops. ”The biggest problem is we have 30 acres of buildable land,” said Marsha  Devir, 50.

Brown said church leaders never understood the commitment parishioners had put into the parish and the vigil. ”They’re not seeing the whole picture,” she said. ”They’re just seeing dollar signs. You know what? Sell some of your Vatican jewels. We need this church as a town and as a community.”

For over 1,560 days, the group at St. Frances has taken turns guarding the building around the clock so that the archdiocese cannot lock them out and put it up for sale. They call it a vigil, but for many it has become part of the way of living their faith.

“It’s much more of a living 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week faith,” said Margy O’Brien, 78,  a parishioner since  St. Frances opened in 1960. “My generation of Catholics have paid, prayed and obeyed, but you get to a point where you’ve had it.”

Many of the people involved in the vigil describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the church. mother_c_lg.jpg

“You would think because there are fewer and fewer priests that the various archdioceses would welcome a new configuration,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “Let the lay people do everything but the sacramental.”

Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but the consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including the distribution of Communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described by Mrs. MaryEllen Rogers as “sympathetic.”

Parishioners hold suppers in the vestibule and meet Tuesdays to say the rosary. They raise money as a nonprofit group, donate to charities, and open the church to outsiders seeking comfort or repose.

“Lots of troubled people have come through and all they need, really simply, is someone to connect to,” said Karen Virginia Shockley, 43, who participates in the vigil with her two teenage sons. “Usually there’s an older person here who will sit down and just listen to you.”

Some parishioners have grown so disenchanted with the church hierarchy and so fond of the vigil routine that they cannot imagine returning to the old way.

“I cannot go back to the priest and the vestments and all that, I always felt, prince-of-the-church approach,” said Mary Dean, 61, who keeps vigil at St. Frances at least four hours a week. “I’ll always be a Catholic, but I may not be able to worship in the mainstream Catholic Church.”

”A very good thing has happened in this vigil,” Margy O’Brien added. ”A strong faith community has formed. There have been many little miracles happening. People’s lives have been touched, some improved. And I think this group of vigilers will be a strong community forever. I don’t regret doing this at all. Not one moment.”

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One Response to “Keeping the Faith at St. Frances Cabrini”

  1. Benny the Bridgebuilder Says:

    Am I missing something here, or is the Church using funds from sales of property, which they own purely due to the subscriptions of parishioners over the years, to fund the consequences of the the abuses perpetrated on the self same parishioners.

    There has to be something wrong with this.

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