By William T. Clew
The weekend Mass schedule at Our Lady of Loreto Parish has been expanded to accommodate parishioners from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – St. Ann Parish after that parish church was closed May 1.
Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, pastor of both parishes, said that Loreto “is a beautiful church and they’re waiting for us.” He said Loreto is the “daughter church” of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and that the parishes share an Italian-American heritage.
The new weekend schedule at Our Lady of Loreto will have a 4 p.m. Mass Saturdays and Masses at 8, 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sundays, he said.
Msgr. Pedone said he and Father Jesus E. Martinez, associate pastor at both parishes, will serve at Our Lady of Loreto. Weekday Masses will be at 7 a.m. and all religious education classes will be held there beginning in the fall.
Msgr. Pedone said that Mount Carmel Church had reached a point of disrepair and structural engineers and Gorman Richardson Lewis, the architectural company that had been studying the condition of the building, said the building is unsafe and that they could not certify its integrity or safety.
The parish had been trying to come up with a solution to the structural problems of the church. Initial estimates indicated that about $1.3 million would be needed to fix the building. But more problems were discovered once preliminary work on its facade began.
The front inner wall of the church was found to be pulling away from the frame and roof of the building, exposing roof beams. This was discovered after the top part of the facade was torn down and the cap stones were removed. The facade was leaning away from the front of the church and the bell tower supports were eroding, Msgr. Pedone said.
The front door of the church had been closed earlier because of the potential danger that debris might fall on people entering the church. Parishioners had to use the side entrance.
The architects had come up with a plan to stabilize the inner front wall but it was deemed too dangerous for the workers, Msgr. Pedone said. They suggested a tie-back system that would cost $120,000 might stabilize the building but there was no guarantee, he said.
He said he told Bishop McManus what the architects and structural engineers had reported. The bishop told him Saturday that they can’t have a building that is unsafe and that they had to close the church.
Msgr. Pedone said the parish has two problems. It cannot afford to repair the church and it cannot afford the expenses to run the parish. He has said it costs about $9,000 a week for expenses and the parish takes in only $4,000 or $5,000 a week.
He said it has been known for some time that the church needed repair.
“We asked for money in 2007, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
“No priest, no pastor, no bishop wants to close a church,” he said. Msgr. Pedone said closing Mount Carmel is painful for him, “I grew up here.” It’s where he celebrated his first Mass.
He said sacred items in the church are being catalogued so they can be salvaged. Already someone has shown interest in buying the stained glass windows.’
He said the church is a historic building and it would require a year-long waiting period and hearings before it could be leveled. He said he planned to ask for a waiver so that the church can be razed sooner.
“We can’t wait,” he said.
Msgr. Pedone said The Gene DeFeudis Italian-American Cultural Center, the parish recreation center, will remain open, but it will need money for rehabilitation.
Masses will not be celebrated there, he said.
“It’s a gym, not a church,” he said.
Bishop McManus said in a statement, “I thank Msgr. Pedone, his committee members and all the parishioners who have been trying over recent years to find a solution to the building’s structural issues while seeking to build a more vibrant parish community. My prayers are with them as they must focus now on a transition plan to make this parish merger welcoming for both parish communities.”
Worshippers saddened by closing of Mount Carmel Church
By Margaret M. Russell
Sunday all the Masses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish were well-attended. It was the last time that the Worcester church, built by Italian-Americans in 1928, would be open for public worship. On Saturday Bishop McManus made the decision to close the church following Sunday’s 11:30 a.m. Mass at which 14 children received their first Communion.
“It is a reminder that life goes on,” pastor Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone said of the day that saw both an ending and a new beginning in people’s faith lives.
“This is a sad day for the parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann and our hearts go out to them for the pain of this loss they are facing today, Bishop McManus said in a statement. “However, the safety of those attending Mass and in the vicinity of the church building are of primary concern.”
On Friday Gorman Richardson Lewis, the architectural company that has been studying the structural condition of the church, told Msgr. Pedone, other diocesan representatives, and city building inspectors, that they could not certify the integrity or safety of the building, Msgr. Pedone said. The decision to close was made Saturday after a conversation with the bishop, he said.
The parking lot was full of vehicles Sunday as people attending the 10 o’clock Mass were somberly leaving the church, greeting Msgr. Pedone after Mass. Others were standing in the rain waiting to enter the building for the 11:30 Mass, many of whom already knew the fate of their beloved church.
Tom Simone, 87, was there to attend his great-grandson’s first Communion. He was baptized in the church, received all his sacraments there and was an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. “I’ve got to go where God says to go,” he commented about what he would do now that the church was closing.
“It is a bittersweet day,” said Lisa Scola leaving the earlier Mass with her daughter Giana Cariglia, 9. “My great-grandparents built this. The stained glass window over the side door was in their name,” she said.
Inside, before Mass began, people were milling about, some taking pictures, others talking about the old days when the church was full every Sunday.
When Bill Caffone was a youngster he was an altar boy at the parish. He said he used to ride his bicycle from his home on Franklin Street to church to serve Mass. He has attended Mount Carmel all his life, he said. For the past few years, the 81-year-old has helped with the collection. Yesterday he took up the last collection at his boyhood parish. “People are used to coming here. You think it going to be full (of parishioners like before), but it’s not,” he said.
“This is extremely sad,” said Earl Duncan, who married Mr. Caffone’s daughter, Marguerite, on Nov. 26, 1989 in Mount Carmel Church. The Duncans returned to the parish about four years ago, he said. “Everybody is pointing fingers of blame, but the church needs a lot of money, or major prayers to be answered” in order to stay viable.
Mr. Caffone said he will worship at Our Lady of Loreto Church, which was once a mission of Mount Carmel-St. Ann and also is of Italian-American heritage.
“I want to know what they are going to do with all the statues,” said Madeline Petrone, 65, whose parents and grandparents on both sides were members of the parish. She said she was feeling “total sadness.”
“I just don’t want the legacy lost – our culture, our heritage,” she lamented. She guessed that many people would move to Our Lady of Loreto Parish, and admitted that she had not attended church regularly.
Of the financial problems the parish has been facing, she said, “There is only so much that you can give. It has always been a poor church.”
Nancy Leary who had moved to Cape Cod was back at Mount Carmel Sunday morning to take pictures and to savor the memories of the church in which she had been baptized and received her first Communion. She said her brother, Gerald Montiverdi, has been the deacon at the parish for many years.
“I believe the state should have put in money” to help fix the failing structure, she said. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church fronts Mulberry Street, which separates it from Interstate 290. Some contend that the traffic on the highway has been the reason for the weakening of the front walls of the church.
“This is very sad,” said former Worcester Police Chief Edward Gardella, a longtime parishioner who was baptized there “in the 1940s.” He cited several factors that he believes have contributed to the demise of the parish. Many people moved out of the neighborhood, he said. And he wonders if things would be different if the mission church of Our Lady of Loreto had not been established. “It divided the parish,” he said. “But the reality is that not as many people attend church anymore,” he said.
After Mass people were taking pictures again and lingering inside the church. Worcester School Committee member Dianna Biancheria said, “My heart is broken. There are so many memories, so much that is good about the parish. The diocese could step in if they wanted to keep this community.”
“I am concerned that they already have made a decision about what to do with this property; it is the most valuable property the diocese has,” Ms. Biancheria said. “I would like to see rebuilding on this property. I don’t want to see it lost. It is part of the heart of our city,” she said, remembering its role in the aftermath of the 1999 warehouse fire in which six city firefighters died. “The night of the fire, we came here,” she said.
“We are the church. Church is not a building,” Msgr. Pedone said during Mass. “When we come together, we are Church. We are just changing houses, we are moving down the street. Sometimes you have to say goodbye; goodbye to childhood.”
Domenic Mercurio, chancellor of the parish Knights of Columbus, was the last person to receive Communion in Mount Carmel Church. He said he finds it hard to separate his faith from the building where so many things have happened.
“I love this church,” he said. It will be difficult to move to the new community of Our Lady of Loreto, he said. “The Italian-Americans are all bonded in the faith of Christ,” he said, but for him that feeling of community is “associated with this place.”
For the 14 children in the First Communion Class, Sunday was their special day. They took part in the readings and petitions, brought up the gifts, and when the time came, received the Body of Christ from their pastor.
“This may be a time of death, but it is also a time of life,” Msgr. Pedone said before the children received their first Communion.
Their song to the congregation emphasized that hope for new life. “We are the children, children of the light,” they sang. “We are shining, in the darkness of the night, hope for this world, joy through all the land … Join the song of all the earth, we’ve a dream, a dream to share and a promise of rebirth.”
Mount Carmel Church closing Sunday
By Margaret M. Russell
The decision has been made and the determining factor was safety: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church will be closed after Sunday’s 11:30 a.m. Mass.
Msgr F. Stephen Pedone, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St Ann Parish, said Saturday night that Bishop McManus made the decision that this will be the last weekend that the church is open. There was a funeral Saturday, and Sunday children will receive their first Communion at the final Mass. Beginning Monday everything will take place at Our Lady of Loreto Church, 37 Massasoit Road, where Msgr. Pedone is also pastor.
Friday the architectural company that has been studying the condition of the church, Gorman Richardson Lewis, told Msgr. Pedone and other diocesan representatives, that they could not certify the integrity or safety of the building, he said.
The Bishop told Msgr. Pedone Saturday that they can’t have a building that is unsafe and that they had to close the church. Msgr. Pedone said he fully agrees.
The parish had been trying to come up with a solution to the structural problems of the church. Initial estimates indicated that about $1.3 million would be needed to fix the building. But more problems were discovered once they started to do preliminary work on its facade.
The front inner wall of the church was found to be pulling away from the frame and roof of the building, exposing roof beams. This problem was discovered after the top part of the facade was torn down and the cap stones were removed. That part of the facade was leaning away from the front of the church and the bell tower supports were eroding, Msgr. Pedone said. The front door of the church had been closed earlier because of the potential danger that debris might fall on people entering the church. Parishioners had to use the side entrance.
The architects had come up with a plan to stabilize the inner front wall but it was deemed too dangerous for the workers, Msgr. Pedone said. They suggested that a tie-back system that would cost $120,000 might stabilize the building but there was no guarantee that it would be the only repair necessary, he said.
The pastor was hoping to buy the parish some time, but it became apparent that the costly repairs would be “throwing good money after bad.” Money that the parish doesn’t have, he said.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church fronts Mulberry Street, which separates it from Interstate 290. People and vehicles on both the street and the highway could be endangered if the structure were to fall, he said.
Deterioration of the church building, which was built in 1928, has continued over the years, and discussions, some of them contentious, have been held with parishioners. After he announced the closing at Saturday’s vigil Mass there were a lot of tears, Msgr. Pedone said. “They are sad, but they understand,” he said.
Monday he will seek bids for “selective destruction.”
“We will package up all the statues and all the sacred objects,” he said. The stained glass windows will be preserved and the Stations of the Cross which came from St, Ann Parish, will be taken to Our Lady of Loreto, he said.
“We have to get this done quickly before the city says take it down,” he said.
“When I look at the building and think of when it was built … there must have been so much joy and excitement … and all my predecessors. I never thought when I came here in 2012 that it would end like this,” Msgr. Pedone said. “It is the end of an era.”