Archbishop Asks Faithful to "Be Catholics First" Facing Reconfiguration

Explains That Process Is «Necessary and Painful Work»

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BOSTON, NOV. 14, 2004 ( Reactions following the reconfiguration of parishes in Boston has impelled the archbishop to ask the faithful to accept what he calls the hardest task he has had to do in 40 years of priesthood.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley begins his letter recognizing that the reason why many have not accepted the reconfiguration is because he has not adequately explained his actions.

Making a parallel to the early Church in which all members acted for the good of all, he appealed to the faithful of his diocese to look at the larger picture of the situation of their diocese.

«We have experienced the heartache and demoralization of the sexual abuse crisis. The human and material resources that we took for granted are no longer there,» he writes. «The only way to avoid a catastrophic debacle is for us to downsize,» he adds.

The sexual abuse scandal took a financial toll, and the archbishop emphasizes that the financial situation «is much worse than most people realize.»

«Some people think that reconfiguration will mean a great surplus of money for the archdiocese. Unfortunately, this is not true,» he adds.

The archbishop is working on a strategic plan to help the archdiocese face its financial struggles, and he will make the plan available to the public. «I am committed to financial transparency and to using our human and financial resources for the mission of the Church,» he affirms.

Understanding the difficulty parishioners have in seeing their parishes close, he appeals «to all Catholics to be Catholics first. I know that we all have a great love for our parish and parish church, but our first love must be for Christ and the Body of Christ which is the Church.»

«The very name Catholic reminds us that we are part of a universal community that looks beyond our individual parish to the local Church and the Church throughout the world,» the archbishop writes.

Before the reconfiguration, there were 357 parishes in the archdiocese divided into five regions. Since that time, 47 parishes have closed and other parish communities have welcomed those parishioners.

When reconfiguration is completed, it is estimated that 83 parishes and 67 churches will have been closed, eight new parishes will have been created and eight churches will remain open as worship sites. This activity will result in 282 parishes and 290 churches serving the cities and towns that comprise the Archdiocese of Boston.

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