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Look back at 2013

Posted By January 2, 2014 | 12:13 pm | Featured Article #1
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Jan. 2013

An orphanage built in Grand Goave, Haiti to honor Britney Gengel of Holden was dedicated Jan. 5. Britney, daughter of Leonard and Cherylann Gengel of Holden, was on a mission trip when she was killed Jan. 12, 2010 in an earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti.
Mr. and Mrs. Gengel, their sons, Bernard and Richard; Father John F. Madden, pastor of St. John Parish in Worcester where the Gengels are parishioners, and about 60 others flew to Haiti for the dedication.
The Gengel family established a non-profit organization called “Be Like Brit” which, by the time the orphanage was dedicated, had raised $1.8 million or the project. It had been Britney’s dream to build an orphanage in Haiti, her family said.

Msgr. Francis D. Kelly, a Worcester diocesan priest who was the superior of Casa Santa Maria at North American College in Rome for eight years, was inducted Jan. 20 into the College of Canons of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Msgr. Kelly said the primary duty of a canon is to conduct liturgical services in St. Peter’s. Canons are the principal celebrants at solemn Mass on Sundays and feast days, presiding and preaching in turn. The first American to be named in 50 years, he was named to the position by Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop McManus called upon the people of the Diocese of Worcester to take part in a Day of Prayer and Penance on Jan. 22. He also asked that people take part in the new initiative of the U.S, Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty, which continued throughout 2013. Jan. 22 was the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe V. Wade decision which legalized abortion.
In a letter to the people of the diocese, the bishop said Jan. 22 was to be “a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed students, faculty, and guests at St. John High School in Shrewsbury as part of the Abdella Center for Ethics Lecture Series. Seven people who protested the school’s invitation to Mrs. Albright held a vigil in the cold outside the school.
“We tend to approach … questions with a bias,” Mrs. Albright, said in her talk. Many people are willing to die or kill for alleged truths based less on research than on hate. Children around the world are taught their leaders must never be criticized, she said.
The search for reliable truth might begin with the Biblical injunction to “be swift to listen, slow to speak.”

Father Frank Liistro, 67, pastor emeritus of Madonna of the Holy Rosary Parish in Fitchburg, died Jan. 26 after a long struggle with pulmonary difficulties and diabetes. He was pastor of Madonna of the Holy Rosary from 1994 until 2010. He retired because of health concerns.

February 2013

Bishop McManus, in a letter to the people of the Worcester diocese, explained why he had asked Robert Spencer not speak at the Catholic Men’s Conference to be held in March. He said that the Catholic Church “has engaged herself in inter-religious dialogue with Muslims. This dialogue has produced a harvest of mutual respect, understanding and cooperation throughout the world and here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
The bishop said his decision to ask Mr. Spencer not to speak at the conference “resulted from a concern voiced by the Muslim community in Massachusetts, a concern that I came to share. That  concern was that Mr. Spencer’s talk about extreme militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims and possibly generate suspicion and even fear of people who practice piously the religion of Islam.”

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would resign drew reactions from throughout the Worcester Diocese. Bishop McManus said he was stunned by the news, but not surprised. He called the resignation “an act of great humility.” Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College, said the pope “looked at the Church and the challenges and what the Church needs and decided the Church needs some other person to lead.” Sister Hilda Ponte, provincial of the Venerini Sisters in the United States Province, said the pope set a good precedent for the Church. Ronald Thompson of Shrewsbury, a member of the Knights of Malta, said the pope’s decision “required a tremendous amount of strength. I respect him for that.”

Father James Kerrigan, 69, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Rutland, died  Feb. 15 after an illness. He served in several parishes before he was named pastor of St. Patrick’s in 1989.

On Feb. 22 Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Michael W. Banach, a priest of the Worcester Diocese, an apostolic nuncio, which carries the title archbishop. Msgr. Banach has been serving in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1994. Later, Archbishop Banach was one of three archbishops ordained at the Vatican April 27. He was named nuncio to Papua, New Guinea.

March 2013

Father Lowe P. Donger, former associate pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish, Fitchburg, received a 2 1/2-year sentence, which was suspended, and he was placed on probation for five years, on charges of larceny and child pornography. He had pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and theft of more than $250, which he took from the parish cash drawer in $50 to $70 amounts several times and sent to his family in the Philippines. He was ordered to pay restitution of $750 to the parish. Bishop McManus had removed him from public ministry.

The Worcester Diocese announced the laicization of three men, David Blizzard, Thomas Kane and Robert Shauris. The three were removed from the clerical state, Mr. Blizzard in 1988 and Mr. Kane in 1993 by Bishop Harrington, and Mr. Shauris in 1995 by Bishop Reilly. All were removed from ministry after credible allegations of abuse.

The Diocese of Worcester was found to be compliant with the national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 10th consecutive year, after an on-site audit of its records and procedures by an independent auditing firm.

When Bishop McManus preached on the opening day of the
90th annual Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier at St. John’s Parish, it was several days after Pope Benedict XVI had announced his resignation but before the College of Cardinals had elected his successor.
The bishop said it was providential that the 90th novena was being celebrated during the Year of Faith. He spoke of the faith of the people who attended the novena over the years. The day before the novena ended, the College of Cardinals elected a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio of Argentine, who took the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
Religious and laypeople throughout the diocese and beyond, including those from other faith communities, expressed their hope and prayers for the new pontiff. Bishop McManus said the new pope “is a pastor with a priestly heart fashioned after the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

Nearly 1,000 men from the diocese and beyond attended the annual Worcester Diocesan Men’s Conference March 16 at the DCU Center. Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, an organizer of the conference, said that, despite having to overcome some challenges, the conference was a success. “A lot of people said it was the best they’ve ever been to,” he said.

April 2013

Bishop McManus celebrated the annual Mass for Life  in St. Paul Cathedral and presented awards on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The awards honored pro-life workers in the diocese.

Francesco C. Cesareo, president of Assumption College, was named chairman of the National Review Board, which advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection. He was named by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Jesuit Father Fred Enman, a Worcester native and founder of Matthew 25, received the Madonna Della Strada Award as a founder of a non-profit that embodies the Jesuit tradition of direct service to the poor or those advocating for a more just society. The award was presented by the Ignatian Volunteer Society. Matthew 25 rehabilitates houses, including eight in Worcester, for low-income residents.

Bishop  McManus received the Ruth V.K. Pakaluk Award April 25 at the 8th annual Visitation House dinner at Our Lady of Mt Carmel/St. Ann Parish Center. Visitation House is a home in Worcester that provides material, emotional and spiritual assistance for pregnant women. The bishop said he was proud to receive the award named for a local pro-life leader about whom he has heard great things.

Msgr. Francis J. Scollen, pastor of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s parishes; Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, rector of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, and Father John F. Madden, pastor of St. John Parish, signed a letter asking the Worcester City Council and city administrators to reject a proposed slots parlor on the former Wyman Gordon site near downtown Worcester.
“The damage that any such slots parlor will have on those most vulnerable by reason of addiction, poverty, illness or youth is an unmitigated evil,” they said. Bishop McManus said he endorsed the letter.

Bishop McManus announced that St. Joseph and Thomas-a-Becket parishes in Barre would be merged on July 1 to form a new parish. He said both churches would continue to be used, but St. Thomas-A-Becket would be the primary worship center. St. Joseph’s would be used for one Sunday Mass. Later the bishop named the new parish for St. Francis of Assisi.

May 2013

Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish held a reception and Mass May 10 for Archbishop Michael W. Banach before he traveled to Papua, New Guinea. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, represented Pope Francis at the Mass. Archbishop Banach is a Worcester native who was a member of the parish.

Bishop McManus reinstated the permanent diaconate program in the diocese. Deacon Anthony R. Surozinski director of the Office of the Diaconate, said nine different pastors in the diocese requested deacons. The program was stopped for two years to assess whether permanent deacons were needed, he said.

The St. Francis Xavier Center at 20 Temple St. was opened on May 31 with a ribbon-cutting and a blessing by Bishop McManus. The 5,500-square-foot building near St. John’s Church was built to house the parish’s Food for the Poor program. It includes a soup kitchen and food pantry. Francis P. Carroll, chairman of Friends of St. John’s Food for the Poor program, said $1.5 million was raised to pay for the building.

Bishop McManus, in a front-page letter in The Catholic Free Press, apologized to the people of the diocese for what he called “a terrible error in judgment by driving after having consumed alcohol with dinner.” He was found guilty of driving under the influence in Rhode Island, paid a fine and was prohibited from driving for six months.

June 2013

The Diocese of Worcester joined the second annual national Fortnight for Freedom, which began with Bishop McManus presiding at solemn vespers June 21 in St. Paul Cathedral. The fortnight ended July 4. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said threats to religious freedom included the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate on contraception, redefinition of marriage and other concerns about immigration and humanitarian services. The bishop also celebrated a Mass for Religious Freedom July 1 in St. Stephen Church.

Three permanent deacons and a transitional deacon preparing for the priesthood were ordained June 1 in St. Paul Cathedral. The permanent deacons ordained are William A. Bilow, William G. Ferrarone and John F. LeDoux. The transitional deacon is James M. Boland.

Students at St. Joseph Elementary School in Webster, below, took part in a ceremonial ground-breaking June 5 for the Richard A. Nowak Gymnasium on property next to the school. Mr. Nowak, a 1955 graduate of the school, donated more than $1 million toward the estimated $4 million cost of the building, Msgr. Anthony S. Czarnecki, pastor of St. Joseph Basilica Parish, said.

Bishop McManus confirmed eight young people and adults in the diocese’ first SPRED program for individuals with special needs. Seven were in the Special Religious Development programs at St. Andrew or Madonna of the Holy Rosary parishes in Fitchburg. One received individual instruction.

Three men were ordained priests June 30 by Bishop McManus. They are Father Dario Acevedo, who was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Milford; Father John Hamm, Jr., who was assigned to St. Bernadette Parish, Northborough, and Father Mark Rainville, who was assigned to St. Joseph Parish, Charlton.

Notre Dame Health Care, operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, marked its 20th anniversary June 23 with a Mass celebrated by Msgr. Rocco Piccolomini. The Health Care Center offers services which include the long term Health Care Center, the du Lac Assisted Living Center, the Educational Bridge Center, hospice, affinity care management, palliative and pediatric care.

July 2013

St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Upton began a “Beyond Bundles” program which provides lunch to school-age children during the summer when school-subsidized lunch programs are not available. Parishioners delivered lunches to 29 children in 11 families during the summer.

William L. Dow, 17, was awarded his Eagle Scout badge by devising, planning and completing a project of sprucing up a garden honoring a deceased deacon and his wife, Bill and Jean Vigliotti, at St. Patrick Parish, Rutland. He is a member of Scout Troop 141 of Rutland and Oakham, which helped with the project.

Bishop McManus and Father John F. Madden, pastor of St. John Parish, traveled to Haiti to visit the Be Like Brit orphanage in Grande Goave and meet with officials from the Diocese of Les Cayes, with which the Diocese of Worcester is twinned. The orphanage is named for Britney Gengel, who died in the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Bishop McManus named Father Richard F. Reidy diocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, effective July 6. He also named Raymond L. Delisle diocesan chancellor, replacing Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, pastor of Christ the King Parish. Mr. Delisle, former vice chancellor, also is diocesan communications director.

Members of Blessed John Paul II Parish took to the streets in Southbridge on a Neighborhood Mission of evangelization during the Year of Faith, according to Father Peter J. Joyce, pastor. He said parishioner Severina Rios came up with the idea in response to the call of Pope Francis for Catholics to get out of their churches and into the streets.
August 2013

Six men who spent a year as novices with the Augustinians of the Assumption made their first vows during the Rite of First Religious Profession at Mass at Assumption College. They are  temporary professed brothers, a profession to be renewed each year until they make their final vows. They are Brother Eddy Gonzalez, a native of Mexico; Brother Cristiari Sabtaria, a native of Equador; Brother Renju Paul, a native of India; Brother Hoang Nguyen, a native of Vietnam; Brother German Gonzalez Alvare, a native of Mexico, and Brother Ryan T. Carlson, a native of Colorado, U.S.A.

Four teachers and two specialists resigned from Assumption Elementary School in Millbury and the names of two others were on a resignation e-mail sent to Father Paul M. LaPalme, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish. They complained that they were unable to meet with Father LaPalme and a diocesan mediator. They said Father LaPalme created a “disrespectful and offensive environment” which they called “inconsistent with the basic values of Catholic education.” Father LaPalme said they did not speak to him as a group or tell him their concerns. He said they did not give reasons why they wanted to meet with him and a third party, and he didn’t think this was the way to operate. He said he was surprised by their resignations because they all had signed contracts in June.

Bishop McManus announced the  appointment of Elizabeth Cotrupi as the director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Dr. Zenon P. Szlyk of Dudley, retired surgeon and physician, received the “Pride of Poland” award from the Polish National Apostolate Aug. 28 in Doylstown, Penn. The award is given to an individual for service to the community, the Church, social and cultural outreach and philanthropic activities on behalf of students going on to higher education. Msgr. Anthony S. Czarnecki, pastor of St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Webster, national coordinator of the Polish Apostolate Committee, was among those who recommended Dr. Szlyk for the honor.

The Diocese of Worcester renewed its covenant with the Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug. 22. Bishop McManus and Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes signed the covenant at Mass in St. Paul Cathedral.

St. Stanislaus Parish in West Warren celebrated its 100th anniversary. It served the Polish community in the area when it was founded in 1913.

September 2013

The annual Partners in Charity Appeal raised $4,868,683, or 97 percent of its $5 million goal, Michael Gillespie, diocesan director of stewardship and development, announced. That was $33,526 more than had been raised in the previous year. The fund drive helps support charitable, educational and ministerial organizations in the diocese.

Responding to the request of Pope Francis that Catholics around the world join him in prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the world, Bishop McManus asked people in the Worcester Diocese to take part in prayer on the weekend of Sept. 7 and 8. Among the parishes that took part was St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville, which held an ecumenical service to which Father Tomasz J. Borkowski, pastor, invited members of other Christian congregations in town to take part. Father Aram Stepanian, archpriest and pastor of Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church in Whitinsville, praised Pope Francis for asking for prayers for Syria and the Middle East, and St. Patrick’s for “opening its doors for my people.”

A popular Hispanic devotion, the Novena al Divino Niño Jesús (Divine Child Jesus) was held for the second consecutive year at St. Paul Cathedral.

The parish center built at St. Patrick Parish in Rutland was dedicated Sept. 29 to Father James P. Kerrigan, the pastor who died in February.

Bishop McManus celebrated the 35th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood by traveling to Rome, where he met Pope Francis after a general audience Sept. 18. He said he greeted the pope in English and the pope replied in English, “Pray for me.” The bishop said he later concelebrated a Mass with the pope, along with at least six cardinals, 50 bishops and several hundred priests. He said about 100,000 people attended the Year of Faith celebration for catechetical leaders. The only other American concelebrating the Mass with the pope was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.
October 2013

A youth rally in Fitchburg to mark the conclusion of the Church’s worldwide Year of Faith drew about 175 youngsters and parents from several parishes in North Worcester County for a program of speakers, music and a teen Mass.

Three members of religious orders received diocesan Retired Religious awards at the 14th annual Mass honoring retired religious Oct. 20 in St. Paul Cathedral. The awards were presented by Bishop McManus. Honored were Sister Jacquelyn Alix, pfm, who entered the Little Franciscans of Mary in 1961, left for a time and returned

for good in 1965; Sister Lorraine Normand, SASV, who joined the Sisters of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in 1946, and Sister Theresa Khen Doan, MPV, who joined the Lovers of the Holy Cross in her native Vietnam. She fled that country after the Communist takeover and came to the United States, where she eventually joined the Religious Venerini Sisters, with whom she had been working here.

Father Stephen M. Gemme, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough since 2003, resigned after it was alleged that he used more than $110,000 in school funds and more than $120,000 in parish funds over four years for gambling. In a letter to the diocese, Bishop McManus said he placed Father Gemme on a medical leave of absence so he can receive “professional, residential care and treatment.” He said the misuse of funds was referred to the District Attorney’s office.

St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Athol celebrated its 100th anniversary Oct. 27. Bishop McManus and Father Krzysztof Korcz, pastor of St. Francis and Our Lady Immaculate parishes in Athol and St. Peter Parish in Petersham concelebrated a Mass, along with several priests, some of whom had served at the parish.
The parish was formed to serve the Lithuanian people who had settled  in the area. It was to have opened in 1911, when a priest from Lithuania, Father Joseph Montvilas, was to be the first pastor. However, he sailed for the United States on the Titanic and was lost when that ship hit an iceberg and sank. A year later, Father Francis Meskauskas became the first pastor. The parish, which was to be named St. George, was named instead for St. Francis.

A one-day retreat for Hispanic youth of the diocese was held Oct. 19 at St. Joan of Arc Parish. It was sponsored by the Hispanic youth group, JESUS, of St. Paul Cathedral Parish. It was titled “Youth Expedition,” and featured a day of talks, skits, discussion, adoration, confessions and singing. Guest leaders came from Youth Expedition in Providence and Jovenes de Valor in Brooklyn, N.Y. About 250 attended.

November 2013

Bishop McManus, in a Nov. 1 pastoral letter to the people of the diocese, asked that they recognize the importance of prayer and Mass at the time of death. With a drop of the number of funeral Masses in the diocese in the last few years, the bishop reminded Catholics in the diocese that the funeral rite consists of three parts – the wake, the Mass and a committal service.
He said the Church reminds us that the Mass is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral. The Mass of Christian burial is the time to pray for the dead, ask God to forgive their sins and to render a merciful judgment on them. A family that eliminates the Mass as a part of a person’s funeral denies “that person a source of healing and forgiving grace,” he said.

The diocesan Catholic Schools Office conferred the Elizabeth Ann Seton award on Stephen A. Perla, a former Mayor of Leominster, former diocesan superintendent of schools, past chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Federal Advisory Committee, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Education Committee and the diocesan Board of Education. He served as executive director of Parents Alliance for Catholic Education (PACE). He is senior director of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The Seton award honors exemplary a service to youth and Catholic  education.

The annual diocesan Women’s Conference was held at the DCU Center. It was sponsored by the diocesan Commission for Women.

The St. Thomas More Society of Worcester County honored five people at the 56th annual Red Mass Nov. 16 at St. Paul Cathedral. Those honored were Judge Andrew M. D’Angelo, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Trial Court, District Court Department, distinguish jurist award;  David E. Surprenant, Managing Partner, Mirick O’Connell, distinguished attorney award;  Burton Chandler, Seder and Chandler, LLP, Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan, ecumenical award; Joseph A. Sacco, Court Office, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Trial Court, Catholic layperson award, and  Matthew R. Chouinard, North Grafton, Bishop Timothy Harrington scholarship recipient.
St. Mary Junior/Senior High School, which was scheduled to close at the end of the school year because it was losing money, was given a reprieve by Bishop McManus. He said that, after a surge of interest in keeping the school open. He had asked Father Thaddeus X. Stachura, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish and headmaster of the school, to give the school 75 days to develop a plan to keep the school open. Later, Father Stachura announced that because an anonymous donor has promised a large sum of money the school will remain open.

Bishop McManus asked people to imagine sharing their faith with those without faith or church affiliation. The bishop spoke at solemn choral vespers Nov. 24 in St. Paul Cathedral to mark the closing of the universal Year of Faith. He told the nearly 200 people in attendance that he hoped the Year of Faith strengthened and revitalized their faith and helped them place Christ as the center of their lives.

St. Anna School in Leominster celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding Nov. 21. It was founded by the Venerini Sisters. Bishop McManus attended the celebration.

The attendance at the bishop’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at St. Paul Cathedral drew from 160 to 170, an increase over the 140 who attended last year. Delivery of meals to homes fell by about 80 from last year.

Bishop McManus, citing concerns about parish financial transparency, debts and misappropriated funds, announced new policies and plans in a letter  Nov. 22 to pastors.
He said many parishes are flourishing, with programs supported by sound fiscal policies and effective finance councils. Others, he said, are struggling due to pastoral and demographic realities but have been prudent and transparent in order to seek increased support.
He said that, to assure parishioners that their parishes are following  sound financial policies, parishes must submit to the diocese a series of annual reports on their financial status. He said that by December, 2014, parish financial reports will be shared on the diocesan website and in The Catholic Free Press. He said the diocesan focus for the year will be to educate and assist financial councils and pastors in effective administration.

December 2013

The Mercy Centre school program will close in June because of decreasing enrollment, Catherine Loeffler, director of Catholic Charities Worcester County said Dec. 11. Mercy Centre provides special education for children ages 6 to 22 with intellectual disabilities, and training and employment programs for adults 22 and older with intellectual disabilities. As of January,  113 are enrolled in the adult program, but just 14 children enrolled in the school program. Eight years ago there were 35. Ten years earlier there were 54. No new students were enrolled this year and no new enrollments are foreseen, she said. The tuition for each student, paid by the town where the student lives, is $84,000 a year. It does not cover the full cost, so Catholic Charities has subsidized the program by $100,000 a year, Ms. Loeffler said.

Christ the King Parish signed a twinning agreement with Immaculate Conception Parish in Les Anglais, Haiti. Christ the King also placed a statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the patroness of Haiti, in a prominent place in its sanctuary.

Bishop Reilly celebrated Mass in Princeton as Prince of Peace Parish Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was a mission church before  Bishop Flanagan made it a parish Dec. 8, 1963.

Msgr. Francis T. Goguen, 71, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, died Dec. 12 in St. Vincent Hospital. He was a Gardner native who attended Assumption Preparatory School and Assumption College, attended North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He was given the title monsignor in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. He served in several parishes in the Worcester Diocese before being named to St. Cecilia as an associate in 1976. He was a member of The Catholic Free Press Board of Governors for 16 years.