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After Holding Round-The-Clock Vigils For Years, Parishioners Vacate Scituate Church04:08
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Parishioners gathered for a final service at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church on Sunday, May 29 in Scituate. After nearly 12 years of 24/7 vigils, parishioners say it's time to abandon the fight to keep the building open and instead form a new church. (Steven Senne/AP)
Parishioners gathered for a final service at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church on Sunday, May 29 in Scituate. After nearly 12 years of 24/7 vigils, parishioners say it's time to abandon the fight to keep the building open and instead form a new church. (Steven Senne/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Anger and resentment marked the end of a bitter fight Sunday for control of a closed Catholic church in Scituate.

Several hundred people attended the final service at St. Frances X. Cabrini before former parishioners vacated the building, where they’ve held a vigil for nearly 12 years.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal fighting an eviction order from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

The former parishioners ended the vigil because they say they have no additional avenues in their legal fight against the archdiocese.

Rev. Terry McDonough, who led the Mass, told the hundreds of people who showed up that they are right to be disappointed.

“Compassion leads to mercy, but in this year of mercy, the appeals of this flock have fallen on deaf ears. And their shepherd, whom Pope Francis said should smell like the sheep, has not once visited the pen in almost 12 years,” McDonough said.

Losing control of the church building is not the end of this community that fought so long to save it. Parishioner Jon Rogers announced the group is ready to form a new church that is beyond the reach of the Vatican.

“We are a Catholic church,” Rogers said. “The only thing that we do not do is answer to the Vatican nor the hierarchy, any longer. We get to custom craft this the way we want going forward.”

Jon Rogers, a spokesman for Friends of St. Frances Cabrini, addresses the parish during the final service there on Sunday. (Steven Senne/AP)
Jon Rogers, a spokesman for Friends of St. Frances Cabrini, addresses the parish during the final service there on Sunday. (Steven Senne/AP)

McDonough, who celebrated a full Mass on Sunday, will be ministering to the new congregation. The Roman Catholic Church no longer recognizes McDonough, who was ordained in 1962, but later got married.

“According to the teaching of the church, 'Once a priest always a priest.' I'm still a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest,” McDonough said. “But since I'm married, I cannot perform licitly. If I say a Mass, it's just as valid as if the pope says a Mass.”

The archdiocese is inviting former parishioners at the Scituate church to join other established parishes.

"From the beginning of the vigil ... the Archdiocese has maintained an open line of communication with the prayerful hope for reconciliation between the former parishioners and the universal Church," the archdiocese said in a statement.

But worshipers on Sunday said they felt betrayed and could not trust church leaders again.

Patti Litz, a member of St. Frances Cabrini for 43 years, wept Sunday as she helped distribute communion wafers.

“It's very sad that our voice wasn't heard. There's a lot of connection with people in this church," she said. "It's been a big part of this community, and it's going to be difficult for people to go on without having another church here."

Former parishioners have begun raising money to build a new church that will be controlled and owned by them — not the archdiocese nor the Vatican. In the meantime, they plan to hold Sunday services at a nearby Masonic lodge building.

Parishioner Christine Kane, of Pembroke, cries during Sunday's final Mass at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. (Steven Senne/AP)
Parishioner Christine Kane, of Pembroke, cries during Sunday's final Mass at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. (Steven Senne/AP)

This article was originally published on May 30, 2016.

This segment aired on May 30, 2016.

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Mark Degon Executive Producer, News
Mark Degon formerly coordinated all local news coverage for WBUR as the station's executive producer of news.

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