2015 Year in Review
Parish and school changes, Papal pilgrimages, and celebrations of religious life were some of the highlights of 2015 in the Diocese of Worcester. Bishop McManus ordained eight men to the priesthood, the largest class since 1977. The diocese also took time to honor men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving God and his people. Hundreds of local Catholics traveled to see Pope Francis during his visit to the United States, while those at home were able to follow them on social media. Two schools in Webster decided to consolidate and four parishes in Gardner merged generating new strength and vitality. At the end of the year Bishop McManus went through the Holy Door at
St. Paul Cathedral opening the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
Three buses carrying nearly 100 people left Worcester Jan. 21 for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., after attending Mass celebrated by Bishop McManus. Others left from other parts of the diocese. After attending the rally and Mass Jan. 22, they joined thousands in the march before returning home that night.
Bill Gibbons, women’s basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross, brought his basketball team to the Mercy Centre, which provides training and employment programs for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. It was the 24th year he had brought the Lady Crusaders to the Mercy Centre, and, as had happened in each of the previous 23 years, the Mercy Centre won, much to the enjoyment of everyone.
The Diocese of Worcester upgraded its website, www.worcesterdiocese.org, to make it easier to use and maintain, according to Raymond L. Deslisle, diocesan chancellor and communications director. The site is hosted by eCatholic of Texas.
Upton resident, filmmaker and former Catholic Free Press correspondent Laura Lambert left to spend most of 2015 in Lesotho, Africa, filming a documentary titled “Wom(e)n of the Year.” It will explore the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters helping the poor, especially teenage mothers affected by HIV/AIDS.
Bishop McManus inaugurated a new ministry to local Haitians Feb. 8 by celebrating a Mass in French at Holy Family Parish on Hamilton Street. A Haitian choir from St. Angela Parish in Mattapan sang in French, Creole, Spanish and Latin. The bishop received an icon sent by Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti to celebrate the relationship between the Worcester Diocese and the Diocese of Les Cayes in Haiti, which have been twinned for 25 years.
The College of the Holy Cross offered an opportunity for people in the diocese to sign up for daily emails or to download 47 Lenten daily reflections from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. A booklet also was available in the campus chapel.
The 40 Days for Life campaign began to seek volunteers to take part in public vigils across from the Planned Parenthood facility on Pleasant Street. The campaign began with a Mass, dinner and speakers’ program in St. Mary Church, North Grafton.
Bishop McManus, Father William F. Sanders and Father Adam Reid signed a memorandum of understanding Feb. 12 involving the merger of two Catholic elementary schools in Webster. Father Sanders, pastor of St. Louis Parish, signed for St. Louis Elementary School. Father Reid, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, signed for his parish’s St. Anne Elementary School. Both school buildings will be used when the schools merge under the name All Saints Academy in the fall of 2016.
Father Stephen M. Gemme, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough, was placed on five-year supervised probation after he pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to stealing nearly $240,000 from parish and parish school accounts. He was ordered to make restitution and to undergo mental evaluation and continue treatment for a gambling addiction.
The band of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in the Still River section of Harvard cancelled its appearance in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston after learning that a small “homosexual activist group will be allowed to march while publicly identifying its homosexuality.” Brother Thomas Dalton, principal, said the school was compelled by the teachings of the Catholic Church to forgo its appearance. The school had taken part in the parade for 25 years.
Father Anthony Mpagi, the first African ordained a priest for the Worcester Diocese, was installed as pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Lunenburg. He is the first African pastor in the Worcester Diocese. He was born in Nsambya, Uganda, studied for the priesthood in Uganda, Rome and Brighton, was a certified nursing assistant in Boston, became director of religious education in St. James Parish in South Grafton and, on June 3, 2006, was ordained a priest by Bishop McManus.
More than 1,000 attendees took part in the 15th annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference, said to be the longest-running event of its kind in the United States. During the conference, Bishop McManus celebrated Mass and priests heard confessions. Speakers at the one-day event in the DCU Center were Patrick Coffin, host of Catholic Answers Live; Dominic Albano, director of Arise Missions; Marian Father Michael Gaitley, author; Ron Meyer, Blessed2Play host, and Allen Hunt, a Catholic convert who once was pastor at a mega church.
The Priests, three priests from Northern Ireland who perform internationally, sang at The Hanover Theater March 27 in a fund-raiser for St. John’s food pantry. Before the concert they served breakfast to about 500 people at the parish’s soup kitchen at the St. Francis Xavier Center next to the church. That night they were joined on stage at the Hanover by Emily Suuberg, a soprano from St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury. The concert was arranged by Frank Carroll, chairman of the Friends of St. John’s Food for the Poor program.
The St. Rose of Lima Parish of Northborough’s girls basketball team won the CYO New England Basketball Tournament championship in the high school parish girls division March 29, defeating St. Ann of Boston. St. Peter-Marian 7th-8th Grade School Boys beat Venerini Academy for their division championship.
Bishop McManus joined the other Catholic bishops of Massachusetts in opposing the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted for his part in the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013,that killed three and injured more than 100. Tsarnaev was captured after a shootout with police in which his brother, Tamerlin, was killed. The bishops, in a statement, said Mr. Tsarnaev had been “neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm.” Sometime after the bishops issued their statement, a jury sentenced Mr. Tsarnaev to death.
Bishop McManus told a group of community leaders in Fitchburg April 24 at a Stand Against Racism meeting that “racism is a moral evil, a serious sin.” He said “all of us have been created in the image and likeness of God … all of us, in the sight of God are brothers and sisters.” God sent Jesus into the into the world as a Savior of all mankind. Engaging in racism “contradicts this fact,” he said.
The diocesan African Ministry became the sponsoring organization of the Free Medical Program at St. Anne Parish in Shrewsbury May 1. Father Eric K. Asante, diocesan director of the African Ministry, said the health and spiritual needs of the community will continue to be served. The African Ministry set up a board of trustees to oversee the program. Dr. John Howland of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge is medical director, succeeding Dr. Harvey G. Clement, who founded the program in 1966. Lisa Izzo of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville, a consultant at Massachusetts General Hospital, volunteered to be executive director.
Deacon Anthony R. Surozenski, director of the diocesan Office of the Diaconate, received the 2015 Massachusetts Corps of Fire Chaplains Mychel Judge Award in recognition of his years of service to the fire service. It is named for Franciscan Father Mychel Judge, chief chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, who was killed by falling debris in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Deacon Surozenski was firefighter, fire captain and, later, chaplain for the Webster Fire Department. He was one of the first 10 chaplains to respond to the 9/11 attack.
The Mustard Seed announced it was undergoing changes to make it more cooperative and open to younger people. The founders of the organization plus three others formed a non-profit corporation called The Mustard Seed Catholic Worker Community, Inc. Donna Domiziano, a volunteer for nearly 30 years at the Mustard Seed, retired, effective June 1, according to Michael Boover, one of the founders of the Mustard Seed in 1972.
Bishop McManus announced that the four Gardner parishes – Holy Spirit, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Joseph – would be merged effective July 1 to form one new parish, Annunciation Parish. The bishop said Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church will be the principal worship site. Holy Spirit Church will remain open as a chapel. Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Joseph churches may be used for liturgical services at the discretion of the pastor. The new parish boundaries will include all of Gardner and part of Hubbardston, the bishop said.
Mary Lou Retelle was named president of Anna Maria College in Paxton, replacing Jack P. Calareso, who resigned in July 2014, to take a position as president of St. Joseph’s College in New York. Ms. Retelle came to Anna Maria as assistant vice president in 2011. When Mr. Calareso resigned she was named interim president.
The lower chapel at St. John Church, renovated to resemble the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, Cal., was dedicated May 27 to Mary Carroll, whose funeral was May 26. Francis R. Carroll, parishioner and benefactor at St. John, said his wife paid for the nearly $200,000 in renovations. Mr. Carroll said he attends the Beverly Hills church when he visits motion picture and entertainment stars who have helped raise funds for the St. John Food for the Poor program.
Bishop McManus ordained seven permanent deacons June 6 in St. Paul Cathedral. They are Christopher R. Finan, 37; Bryan P. A. Lagimoniere, 65; David O. Lajoie, 58; Thomas E. Marshall, 61; Van X. Nguyen, 52; Paul J. Reuter, 51, and Thomas J. Varney, 60.
The College of the Holy Cross announced that it received a $32.5 million gift from alumnus John E. Luth, Class of 1975, and his wife, Dr. Joanne Chouinard-Luth. It is the largest single gift the college ever has received. It is to be used to expand and renovate the Hart Center athletic facility and convert the field house to a state-of-the-art student recreation center, the college said.
Bishop McManus and priests from religious congregations concelebrated a Mass June 14 at St. Paul Cathedral to honor the men and women in consecrated life. The Mass brought together several communities of religious sisters and brothers within the Diocese.
Bishop McManus ordained eight priests June 20, the largest number ordained for the diocese in one year since 1977. They are: Father Mateus Montiero de Souza, the first Brazilian ordained for the diocese; Fathers Donato Infante III and Stephen E. Lundrigan, both from the diocese; and Fathers Andres A. Araque, Juan D. Escudero, Daniel E. Moreno, Juan S. Ramirez and Carlos A. Ruiz, all from Colombia.
The diocese announced that three former diocesan priests had been laicized by Pope Francis and may never function as priests or be referred to as priests. They are: Gerard L. Branconnier, removed from ministry in 1963 by Bishop Harrington after credible allegations of sexual abuse; Robert E. Kelley, removed from ministry by Bishop Harrington in 1985 after credible allegations of sexual abuse, and Lowe B. Dongor, removed from ministry in 2011 by Bishop McManus for possession of child pornography.
Thirty-two parishes started Vital 3.0, a youth ministry process created in accordance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ youth ministry document titled “Renewing the Vision.”
Bishop McManus announced changes in assignments for priests, bringing new pastors or administrators to 14 parishes and a mission and new chaplains to two colleges. The changes, effective July 1, were made after six priests retired and others were leaving for further study.
The Town of Ashburnham ordered the diocese to “make safe or remove” St. Anne Church after Building Commissioner Richard C. Reynolds, Fire Chief Paul Rekos and Joseph Oliver, alternate electrical inspector, inspected the building July 8 and, in a letter to the diocese, said the building is unsafe, has structural damage and is in danger of collapse. Father John F. Hamm, newly appointed pastor of both St Anne and St. Denis parishes, said all Masses for both parishes would be celebrated at St. Denis Church. Parishioners agreed the church should be demolished. It later was demolished after parishioners, in August, took part in a farewell service on church grounds. In December, Bishop McManus announced the merging of the two parishes under the name St. Denis Parish, effective Jan. 3, 2016.
Bishop Reilly, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Worcester, celebrated 40 years as a bishop. He was named Bishop of Norwich, Conn., in Aug. 6, 1975. He became the fourth Bishop of Worcester on Dec. 8, 1994.
The first fundraising dinner to “Help Canonize an American Saint” was held Aug. 8 at Christ the King Parish to support the effort to make Audrey Santo a saint. At age 3, Audrey fell into the family swimming pool on Aug. 9, 1987. She was cared for at her home for 20 years while in a non-moving, non-speaking state. She died April 14, 2007. Some people consider her a so-called “victim soul” who has suffered for others. Some credit her with bringing healing to others. Deacon Anthony R. Surozenski, vice postulator of Audrey’s cause and diocesan director of the Office of the Diaconate, said documentation of reputed miracles attributed to her intercession have been given to Bishop McManus.
Father Thomas B. Fleming, who retired in July 2014, was arraigned in U.S. District Court on 12 counts of money laundering. He is charged with fraud of more than $91,000 over two years through wire transfers of money from people in Connecticut, Illinois and California and by sending $2,500 to an account in Nigeria.
Catholic Charities announced that it had received a $751,523 grant from Senior Service America Inc. Nearly 90 percent of the money comes from the U.S. Department of Labor. It will be used to pay at least 112 low-income older adults in Worcester and Franklin counties as part of the Senior Service Employment Program.
More than 350 people, including Bishop McManus, joined together Aug. 22 on Pleasant Street in front of the Planned Parenthood offices in protest against the country’s largest provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood has been accused of illegally providing fetal tissue for research. About 80 people reportedly protested in Fitchburg, about 100 in Springfield and about 300 in Boston.
St. Mary Elementary School, joined by students at St. Mary Junior/Senior High School, celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding Sept. 5. Construction of the elementary school was started in 1914 and the school opened Sept. 5, 1915, staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The high school opened in 1936.
Bishop McManus appointed Sister Cathleen Toomey, a Sister of Mercy of the Americas, as Episcopal Liaison to Religious for the Diocese. She succeeds Sister Paula Kelleher, a Sister of St. Joseph who served for many years as diocesan Vicar for Religious. Sister Cathleen’s job calls for her to represent the bishop, serve members of consecrated life and support vocations to consecrated life.
The annual Partners in Charity Appeal raised $4,881,859 in gifts and pledges, $118,141 short of the goal $5 million, according to Michael P. Gillespie, diocesan director of Stewardship and Development.
Bishop McManus, along with many thousands of people, including a large contingent from the Worcester Diocese, saw Pope Francis in Washington, D.C., when
the pope visited that city, Philadelphia and New York. The bishop said being at St. Matthew Cathedral where the pope addressed the bishops was like a 12-hour retreat. He said that the liturgy for the canonization of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was beautiful. “It was a great example for our young people to see how liturgy is supposed to be celebrated – prayerfully.” The bishop then went to Philadelphia, where he celebrated Mass and dined with a group from the diocese whose trip Allison LeDoux, diocesan director of the Office of Marriage and Family, helped coordinate.The NEWorcester office coordinated a trip for nearly 300 diocesan pilgrims to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.
Three diocesan priests died within a period of week this month: Msgr. Rocco M. Piccolomini, 69, former diocesan Vicar for Priests and secretary to the bishop, died Sept. 18. Msgr. Edmund T. Tinsley, 88, former diocesan director of the Office of Fiscal Affairs and a strong supporter of the McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys in Leicester, died Sept. 19. Father Peter Scanlon, 84, a chaplain for the Worcester Fire Department and vicar for colleges and universities, died on Sept. 24.
The Haitian Apostolate celebrated the 25th anniversary of the twinning between the dioceses of Worcester and Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 3 with a Mass at St. Paul Cathedral. Bishop McManus, along with pastors from local twinned parishes, celebrated Mass. Later the bishop, along with Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, a Sister of St. Anne who also is diocesan director of the Haitian Apostolate, traveled to Haiti to celebrate Mass with Cardinal Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes.
St. John High School held ceremonies to dedicate Founders Hall to the Xaverian Brothers. The school, which was started on Temple Street in Worcester, later moved to its campus in Shrewsbury. The new hall holds a 350-seat auditorium, band and music rooms, a language laboratory and 14 classrooms.
Bishop McManus blessed a new rectory and prayer garden along with a totally refurbished grotto at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster. The prayer garden was an Eagle Scout project by 18-year-old twins Joseph and Jacob Lutter of Lunenburg. The grotto is a replica of Our Lady of Lourdes grotto.
St. George Parish dedicated a St. Francis of Assisi Peace Pole Oct.10. It was organized by the parish Faith in Action Committee. Matt Ryan, committee leader, said it is dedicated to “end violence in all its forms and for the caring of creation.”
Immaculate Conception Parish in Lancaster celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding Oct. 18 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Reilly. Plans for the four-month-long observance also included a novena, banquet, blessing of the animals, a spaghetti supper, a discussion of Catholicism and a trip to the LaSallette Shrine.
St. Paul Cathedral named Jonathan F. Babbitt director of music, organist/choirmaster. A native of Litchfield, Conn., he is a graduate of Yale University and holds bachelor and master of art degrees in choral and orchestral conducting.
Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School named an alumna, Sarah Callinan its artist in residence. Miss Callinan, who graduated from Holy Name in 1999, studied at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and graduated from the University of Connecticut. A soprano, she has sung with Connecticut Opera and has performed around the country and in Europe.
Bishop Reilly was honored by the Knights of Columbus at an exemplification for new Fourth Degree Knights of the Bishop James A. Healy Province. Bishop Reilly is said to be the only man to have served as state chaplain for the Knights in three states; his native state, Rhode Island, Connecticut when he was Bishop of Norwich, and in Massachusetts while he was Bishop of Worcester. Ceremonies began with Mass at St. Paul Cathedral, followed by a procession to Mechanics Hall, were 105 men became Fourth Degree Knights in private ceremonies.
Bishop McManus marked the Year of Consecrated Life with a Mass and luncheon for the religious men and women of the Worcester Diocese, Nov. 7 at Assumption College. Priests from various religious orders concelebrated.
People of Polish heritage from the Diocese of Worcester joined those from other states Nov. 7 at the national shrine in Washington D.C. dedicated to St. John Paul II. The trip was sponsored by the St. John Paul II Foundation of New England. The shrine was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Carl A. Anderson, who was introduced at the ceremony by Msgr. Anthony S. Czarnecki, pastor of St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Webster, received the Officer’s Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his outstanding contribution to promote the legacy of St. John Paul II.
Dr. John Mulqueen of Gardner spoke Nov. 13 at the opening of a health clinic in Fonfred Haiti. The clinic is named for Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata. Dr. Mulqueen, a pediatrician at Heywood Hospital in Gardner, and his wife Paula, a private duty registered nurse, are founders of Forward in Health, which built the clinic with help from the Gaskov Clergy Foundation. The two non-profit foundations take Americans to Haiti to provide health care.
Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School set a new fund-raising goal in its campaign to renovate the school’s theater. The first goal of $175,000, set last May, was reached in October. Scott Anderson, the school’s director of development, said the new goal for the Set the Stage campaign is $225,000.
Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, cathedral rector, announced an $800,000 capital campaign for St. Paul Cathedral. He said the “Legacy of Faith, Hope & Love” campaign will be taken diocesan-wide. The two-year campaign will pay for a new retaining wall, eliminate accumulated parish debt, be used to refurbish the pews, and set up a fund for future emergencies.
Bishop McManus welcomed more than 180 diners to the Thanksgiving Day dinner Nov. 26 at the Cenacle in the basement of St. Paul Cathedral. Also, 1,760 turkey dinners were delivered to people at their homes. The bishop also hosted the annual Christmas dinner Dec. 25 in the Cenacle and dinners were delivered to those at home.
Bishop McManus presented Retired Religious awards Nov. 29 to two Religious Sisters and an Assumptionist priest for their service to the diocese and their communities. Recipients were Sister Paula Kelleher, a Sister of St. Joseph and retired diocesan Vicar for Religious; Sister Liliana DiLiddo, a Religious Venerini Sister, who taught at schools in the Worcester, Providence and Albany, N.Y., dioceses; and Father Donat Lamothe, a member of the Augustinians of the Assumption, who has taught philosophy, theology and music at Assumption College.
Bishop McManus opened the Holy Door inside St. Paul Cathedral Dec. 13 and urged people who had drifted away from the Church to return home. Opening “The Door of Mercy” marks the start of the year-long celebration of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the bishop said. He also named eight churches as pilgrimage sites for the Year of Mercy. They are: St. Paul Cathedral, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Gardner; Our Lady of the Rosary, Spencer; Notre Dame, Southbridge; Sacred Heart of Jesus, Milford; St. Joseph, Fitchburg; St. Joseph Basilica, Webster, and St. Luke the Evangelist, Westborough.
Pupils from St. Stephen’s and St. Peter Central Catholic elementary schools made decorations for some of the 24 fully-decorated Christmas trees that were on display at the Salisbury Mansion on Highland Street from Nov. 27 until the end of the year. Henry Albert, special projects manager for the Worcester Historical Museum/Salisbury Mansion, said he asked the Catholic schools to take part in order to make them more visible to the community.
Bishop McManus ordained three transitional deacons Dec. 19 at St. Paul Cathedral. The three, all studying for the priesthood, are Diego Amey Buritica Zauluaga and Wilmar Jiar Ramos Mosquera of Colombia and Joseph David Rice of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Worcester.
– Compiled by William T. Clew