Bishop McManus Announces Parish Changes for Fitchburg
March 5, 2010, WORCESTER, MA -- This weekend, a letter from Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester, will be shared at all Masses in the City of Fitchburg announcing his decisions following a year-long process that has been analyzing the Catholic Church’s needs in that city. He announced his decision on Thursday evening to the City-wide planning group which has been working on the analysis and recommendations since early last summer.
In summary, the bishop stated that the charters of all eight parishes, some of which had geographic territories while others were established to serve specific immigrant communities in the past, will cease on July 1, 2010. New charters as territorial parishes will commence for four parishes in various parts of the city. He writes, “The four new parishes will be as follows: St. Bernard Parish worshipping at St. Camillus de Lellis Church and serving the northern part of the city; St. Anthony Parish at St. Anthony Church serving the downtown area, St. Joseph Parish at St. Joseph Church serving West Fitchburg including the Cleghorn neighborhood, and St. Francis Parish at St. Francis Church serving the south and east neighborhoods of the city.” The decision was ratified by the Presbyteral Council on Tuesday, March 2.
Bishop McManus stressed to the group that their “rich Catholic heritage in the City of Fitchburg” is to be cherished in those new parishes and that all assets and liabilities in any of the parishes remains with the new territorial parishes. “The patrimony, including assets and liabilities of St. Camillus de Lellis Parish and St. Bernard Parish, which includes St. Bernard Elementary School and St. Bernard Cemetery, will all be part of the new St. Bernard Parish at St. Camillus Church. The patrimony and traditions of Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Madonna of the Holy Rosary, as well as their assets and liabilities, will be assumed by the other three newly established parishes. Over the coming weeks, the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Committee will meet with parish focus groups and, together with the Fitchburg Planning Committee, will present recommendations for the assignment of patrimony and specific territorial boundaries. One of the new parishes will also welcome those celebrating the Mass in Latin using the Extraordinary Form.”
The city-wide focus group had met from July to October and defined the needs of the community today and in the foreseeable future. It then developed various recommendations for configurations based on no more than four worship sites remaining in the city. No single recommendation was presented to the bishop, but all discussions supported a variety of worship spaces in various geographic areas of the city. The committee’s new vision for the city’s parishes, when seen as a whole, includes greater human and financial resources to build parish ministries, including education for all ages, youth and young adult programs, more social services and outreach to the poor and new immigrant populations, improved access for those with physical challenges. The committee also underscored that the many devotional and ethnic traditions in the city should continue to be cherished in the new parishes.
Bishop noted in his letter that this process is part of a diocesan-wide pastoral planning process “for more vibrant parish life.” To date, pastoral planning has impacted Worcester, Clinton, Harvard, Bolton, Upton, and Mendon with both closed and new parishes being announced or established.