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Bishop accepts recommendation for one parish in Gardner

Posted By November 2, 2014 | 7:05 pm | Lead Story #1

Bishop McManus issued a letter to the Catholic community in Gardner Saturday regarding the reconfiguration of the four-parish city. He has accepted the recommendation that there be one territorial parish there instead of the current four ethnic parishes.

Presently, Father Thomas M. Tokarz is pastor to Holy Spirit Parish and St Joseph Parish. Father Brian P. O’Toole is pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and Sacred Heart of Jesus parishes.

Between now and June, when the new parish is to be established, a transition team made up of people from the four parishes will suggest names for the parish that “reflect a new vision” for the new community, the bishop’s letter states. A new pastoral team will be also be named, he says. There will be two worship sites; Holy Rosary and Holy Spirit churches, the bishop indicates.

Bishop McManus’ letter follows:

November 1, 2014
Dear friends in Christ,
On May 22 of this year, I wrote to all the parishes in Gardner to update you on the progress of the pastoral reconfiguration for the Catholic Community in the City of Gardner. That process has involved more than a year of information gathering and consultation.
Having considered the state of the parishes as they exist today, the needs of the community as a whole, and the ever growing mission to evangelize in our communities, I have decided to accept a recommendation to establish one new territorial parish with two worship sites for Gardner. This new parish will use Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church and Holy Spirit Church for regular weekend Masses.
Many people expressed to me that the ideal situation would have been to build one new church to serve the needs of the area. That idea, of course, is not financially feasible. Nonetheless, these existing facilities can serve the new parish community well in its pastoral, educational and charitable ministries.
I am grateful to the various committees which discussed the various possible configurations of the four parishes in the area. I am also grateful to those volunteers who gathered information in the initial focus groups and who worked with the Diocesan Planning Committee. The final recommendation came from all their efforts and from deliberations at the Presbyteral Council. Yet, more work needs to be done. Therefore I have asked the current pastors, through their parish councils, to select parishioners from all four parishes to work on a transition team. That team, guided by the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Committee, will work together to manage the transition over the coming months in order to lay the foundation for a vibrant parish in the community. Parishioners from all four parishes will also have an opportunity to be part of a process to recommend to me three possible names for the new parish that could reflect a new vision for the future.
Allow me to make one point clear: a parish is the living, witnessing Body of Christ through its assembled members. People bear witness to the salvific love of Jesus Christ for all, buildings do not. On this weekend during which we commemorate the liturgical feasts of All Saints and All Souls, it is fitting that we express our gratitude to those who have given sacrificially of themselves and their treasure to build our parish churches and other facilities. They sacrificed in order to preserve and to foster the faith life of the community. Today’s needs call for a new pastoral model which, nonetheless, respects and builds upon the patrimony of our past. Devotional practices unique to the Polish, French-Canadian and Irish immigrants will continue to be a part of the fabric of this new parish. The transition team, and a new pastoral team to be named next June, will incorporate as part of their mission the safeguarding of our rich and diverse ethnic heritages.
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit to guide us in the months ahead as we anticipate a new beginning for the Catholic community in Gardner.
With every prayerful best wish, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester