By Stephen W. Fielding
A seamless and natural transition to become a new parish is currently taking place between St. Mary of the Assumption Church of Revere and Our Lady of Grace Church serving Chelsea and Everett that includes a beautiful, spiritual Haitian community and a growing Vietnamese community. The newly-formed parish will be named with suggestions from Fr. John Sheridan, Pastor, the staff of both churches, and the parishioners of each church. Final approval for a new parish name will be made by Cardinal Sean O’Malley who received three final proposals last week. To be clear: Each church will retain its current name and unique history.
Both churches have shared one pastor and have been working together for ten years, the last three as a collaborative. Fr. Jim Barry was initially the pastor for seven years for both churches. Fr. John Sheridan began his tenure as pastor three years ago this coming June when the collaborative was officially formed. Being a builder of parishes, relationships, and collaboratives, he has brought a special spirituality and deep-rooted faith, joyful exuberance, and a very down-to-earth personality that is contagious and appreciated by the congregation of both churches. Through his motivation, the designation Morning Star Catholic Collaborative and the collaborative logo was created with participation by all. As a side note: Morning Star is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Since both churches are named after her, albeit with different titles, it is hoped that the new parish name will reflect the collaborative’s current name or one attributed to her.
Fr. John recently posted a letter to all parishioners on www.morningstarcatholic.org, the Morning Star Catholic Collaborative Facebook page, presented this news at all recent masses, and spoke to parishioners on his weekly Monday video to parishioners called “A Word From Our Sponsor”. He stated, “Most of what we need to do we’ve been doing for years, and in many ways, there will be no noticeable difference in the daily life of our families. This will not affect our particular churches – St. Mary’s church and Our Lady of Grace church, our buildings and facilities and programs will remain as they are – we will have one parish. This merger will simply allow us to streamline what we do and make it easier and better. Both have so much to give- Our Lady of Grace’s history and dedication to social action, Generations of Faith, a strong and vital Haitian community and a strong Prattville community; St. Mary of the Assumption’s energy, social interaction and Faith Formation program- and our united commitment to St. Joseph Parish in L’Asile, Haiti – both parishes serve as homes to groups and organizations; we share staff members, musicians and clergy.”
Fr. John continued, “Folks from both parishes have been meeting for months to build a Pastoral Council. The next step for our two parish families is to strengthen our bonds for a strong future for our faith communities. We will also embrace a new name for our parish. Both parish families are dedicated to Mary – and that identity is important to us. I trust that we can, inspired by the Blessed Mother, find the right name. I hope that we will be able to keep the Morning Star in the new name, to be able to keep and share the beautiful image of our Blessed Mother. Please keep in mind that our church names will remain Our Lady of Grace and St. Mary’s – it is our combined parish name that we are developing. I sincerely believe that this is in the best interests of our families, each of us and all of us. There have already been 16 parish mergers since last March throughout the Archdiocese, in towns like Medford, Lynn and Lynnfield, so this is far from new. Through it all, I ask your prayers and support. We have been aligning our parish families for quite a while, and we already share so much – it makes sense that at this point, particularly in this rather difficult time, we would share even more. Parishioner’s generosity has been a blessing. The fact remains that financially, neither parish can exist on their respective collections, even pre-pandemic, an essential element of a parish’s viability. I’m happy to report that we have a business manager, Linda McElwaney, to help us look ahead. Yet I am concerned that with low attendance in both churches (even before this pandemic), the weekly collections will not be able to cover the basics without going through the funds we have, but combined, we can build on each other’s strengths. The loss of Bingo, the Women’s Club’s Christmas calendar, the Christmas Bazaar, the preschool program at St. Mary’s, the Flea Market and the several fundraisers held throughout the year have taken a significant toll on us. Even with a return to these activities, which I look forward to in the near future, it will take a long time to get back to pre-pandemic interest and numbers.”
Linda DeCristoforo has been Pastoral Associate for both churches for many years and has been a vital part of both staffs. Linda holds Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Emmanuel College and earned a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from the Institute for Pastoral Ministry for Religious Education with a concentration in Liturgy and Worship at Boston College. Her steady, unwavering faith and self-assuring spirituality solidifies her inner strength that is very evident when she speaks to you. Her leadership role in faith formation, various parish ministries and services, and liturgy and worship are quite respected and appreciated by all parishioners. She and Fr, John are truly remarkable people with complementary personalities that certainly radiates positiveness and togetherness for both church communities. Linda expressed excitement with the new merger and offered, “All faith formation programs, confirmations, communions, religious education programs, all ministers (lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, etc.) together, will present new opportunities and not a real change.”
Fr. John is clearly excited for both churches and the parishioners of the newly formed parish whose name is expected to be approved in the next several months. “This good, great for the future. It will certainly help us. Now we have great hope, joy, and expectations, and can focus on families and children, and brining everyone together in fully filled church soon! We have bog plans. As I say we should look up and look ahead.”
He emphasized, “During this pandemic we have so many volunteers to ensure protocols were kept- from temperature takers, contact tracers. People sanitizing the churches, cleaners, so many, many people who gave their time and put themselves at risk. I am humbled and grateful.”
So, now is definitely a time to look up and look ahead as St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Revere and Our Lady of Grace Church, Chelsea/Everett await approval of their new parish name while keeping their current church names in a seamless and natural transition.