Catholic Free Press

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  • Dec
  • 15

Seven Catholic churches benefit from closing

Posted By December 15, 2011 | 12:17 pm | Lead Story #2
By Tanya Connor Seven Catholic churches were among 30 beneficiaries of the closing of The Adams Square Congregational Church of Worcester, according to the Rev. Karen L.M. Haringa, pastor there since 1978, who is currently retired. As a non-profit worshipping community, the Congregational church could not divide its money among its remaining 40 members; it had to be distributed to other worshipping communities, Rev. Haringa said. She said the total amount, from remaining funds, and the sale of the church building at 26 Burncoat St., was approximately $390,000. “Ours has often been described by others over the years as a small church with a big heart,” said a letter to beneficiaries from the 112-year-old church’s members.

By Tanya Connor

Seven Catholic churches were among 30 beneficiaries of the closing of The Adams Square Congregational Church of Worcester, according to the Rev. Karen L.M. Haringa, pastor there since 1978, who is currently retired.
As a non-profit worshipping community, the Congregational church could not divide its money among its remaining 40 members; it had to be distributed to other worshipping communities, Rev. Haringa said. She said the total amount, from remaining funds, and the sale of the church building at 26 Burncoat St., was approximately $390,000.
“Ours has often been described by others over the years as a small church with a big heart,” said a letter to beneficiaries from the 112-year-old church’s members.
“It is in this spirit, then, as part of our closing and dissolution, that the members of our church have decided to present this gift to your church so that we might, in some small way, still be able to assist you in your own mission to continue to serve Christ.
“It is our hope and prayer that each church receiving a portion of our final assets may carry on its own important work of reaching out to help those in need in the community.”
Catholic churches on Rev. Haringa’s beneficiary list included Our Lady of Providence, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Joan of Arc, Blessed Sacrament, Christ the King and St. John, all in Worcester, and  St. Anne in Shrewsbury.
“We wanted to give to people who were doing outreach in Worcester,” she told The Catholic Free Press. “We stretched that to Shrewsbury because people (in the Adams Square Church) had heard of their outreach. … None of the money had any strings attached to it.”
They also gave to non-Catholic churches in Worcester and other towns, some of them involved in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which was one of the three major beneficiaries, she said. The other major beneficiaries were United Church of Christ – Massachusetts Conference in Framingham, and the Salvation Army Citadel Corp. in Worcester, she said.
Father Chester J. Misiewicz, Blessed Sacrament’s pastor, said his parish would use some of the money to continue helping the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
“What a beautiful gesture the church made to the wider community,” he told The Catholic Free Press. “We’re ever so grateful for the example they set for us to follow in continuing the good work they’ve been doing for over 100 years.”
In a letter to the members of the congregational church he said, “We are humbled by your action and by your big heart, which will continue to beat through so many congregations in Worcester and beyond for years to come.”     In the letter he told Rev. Haringa how he too knew something of the pain of closing and moving on, as he was pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish for seven years before it merged with Blessed Sacrament. He said it must be harder for someone like her who has pastored a church for 32 years.
Rev. Haringa said she’d received the “lovely note” from Father Misiewicz.
Father William F. Sanders, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, said he too had sent a note.
“I thought it was very thoughtful of them,” he said of the gift. “I’m very happy that they included Catholic churches.”
Rev. Haringa said she’s heard from about 12 of the beneficiaries, and plans to send copies of their letters to her church’s members. Most said they will use the money to continue outreach in the community, she said.
The first Sunday of Advent Greendale People’s Church had her preach there, gave her a certificate of appreciation for her church and said they will plant a tree in recognition of the gift, she said.
Rev. Haringa said her parishioners discussed closing the church throughout 2009 because of declining membership, then voted unanimously to do so and sell the building. In March 2010 they sold the building to the Nuevo Amanecer Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church, which took it over in May and allowed them to continue worshipping there until their final service last January, so they didn’t have to close at Christmastime, she said.
“They bent over backwards for us,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better landlord.”
Rev. Haringa said the closing process involved members of her church setting up a timeline and contacting potential beneficiaries to get information about them, which was submitted to a lawyer, who submitted it to the state. The state attorney general’s office had to be sure that the potential beneficiaries met the requirements. Once they were approved, their representatives had to pick up their checks at the lawyer’s office.
Technically The Adams Square Congregational Church is still a church body, because the state has not yet declared them unincorporated, Rev. Haringa said.
“They were my friends,” she said of members. “We still keep in touch with cards and e-mail” and got together this summer for a picnic. “They’ve moved on to other churches.”