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Bishop hears from parishoners

  • Bishop Mitchell Rozanski held a listening session on Wednesday to hear from the church community in Northampton. Gazette Photo/Caitlin Ashworth



For the Recorder
Thursday, March 01, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — From saving St. Mary of the Assumption Church to boosting youth involvement, dozens of people took the chance to voice their concerns to Bishop Mitchell Rozanski Wednesday night.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield stopped by St. John Cantius Hall on Hawley Street for the second of nine listening sessions throughout the region this spring. The sessions will each focus on three questions — what the church is doing well, what needs improvement and what it should be doing.

People each had one minute to voice their opinions. The bishop listened, but did not respond to issues raised.

In addition to concerns, some of the speakers praised the church for its work with Catholic Charities in supporting refugees.

Janice Ruszczyk and Michele Atkinson each used their one minute opportunity to voice concerns about the closing of St. Mary’s Church on State and Elm streets. The church closed as part of a consolidation in Northampton.

Atkinson questioned why a more thorough examination wasn’t done of costs of each building when considering merging churches.

“How is it possible that the alternate Catholic beacon on the hill in Northampton has been darkened,” Atkinson asked. “It seems as if Satan has won. You played into his hand. But it’s not too late to right a wrong and bring Northampton Catholics back to church.”

Ruszczyk presented a renewal plan for the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, which includes the return of St. Mary’s as a worship site and the sale of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton property on King Street.

She hopes the bishop would read over and consider the plan.

A diocesan study estimated $1.3 million was needed to repair St. Mary’s. But according to the renewal plan, an independent study done by an engineering firm hired by parishioners showed the cost would be $229,375 for necessary repairs.

The plan lists bids to repair Sacred Heart Church, which add up to over $1 million. Over the past eight years, another $1 million has already been spent on demolitions, a parking lot and other maintanence, the renewal report said.

The plan also proposes to sell the Sacred Heart Church at 99 King St., adding that the 3-acre property is “easily worth” $4 million. Several real estate agents in Northampton say the King Street property would be easier to sell than St. Mary’s, and would bring in three times the value of the St. Mary’s property.

At the listening session, many people voiced concerns about the lack of youth involvement in the church. The majority of the crowd was over 40 years old.

Parishioner John Lane raised his concerns about the church and politics.

“I think the church is improperly interfering in secular politics, trying to impose its moral theology on everyone else, especially in matters of sexual conduct,” Lane said.

Lane went on to say that the church’s encouragement of single-issue voting based on abortion is political endorsement to pro-life Republican candidates. He added that the church should stop its aggressive lobbying to make gay marriage illegal.

“The church has no right to impose its narrow view of marriage on other religious and civil institutions,” Lane said.

Information gathered at the listening sessions will be used in preparation for an upcoming pastoral synod.

Wednesday’s session was the only one scheduled for Hampshire County. A similar session for Franklin County took place in Greenfield last week. Other sessions are planned for Pittsfield, Palmer, Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke and West Springfield.