By Tanya Connor
St. Anne and St. Denis parishes in Ashburnham are being merged and a new parish named St. Denis is being formed, effective Sunday, Jan. 3, Bishop McManus has decreed.
Histories of St. Anne’s say a mission church was built in South Ashburnham in 1893 at the junction of Center and Cross streets. In 1895 the mission was made a separate parish. In the 1930s the church building was moved across the street.
St. Anne’s church building, at 162 Center St., was demolished several weeks ago, and the property is being appraised to be sold, said Father John F. Hamm, who became administrator of both parishes July 1 last year.
The town declared St. Anne’s unsafe July 8 and ordered that it be made safe or removed. Since then, St. Anne’s parishioners have been worshipping at St. Denis. St. Anne’s 35-40 families couldn’t afford to renovate the church and reached a consensus to demolish it.
The statue of St. Anne and her daughter, the Virgin Mary, outside St. Anne’s church was relocated to St. Denis, and a parishioner is to landscape around it for his Eagle Scout project, Father Hamm said. The statue will help keep alive the memory of St. Anne’s, he said.
Parishioners voted unanimously to donate some other items from St. Anne’s to St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Foster, R.I., whose pastor contacted him, Father Hamm said. He said St. Paul’s named their new chapel St. Anne, and used the Ashburnham parish’s altar, tabernacle stand and stations of the cross for it.
St. Paul’s pastor, Father M. J. Bernard Doré, sent a thank you note and photos, which Father Hamm called a Christmas gift that made St. Anne’s parishioners happy. The note and photos are displayed on the parish bulletin board.
Father Hamm said some parishioners wanted a pew from St. Anne’s, and one used wood from a pew to make crosses for parishioners.
“It’s like having a little piece of St. Anne’s they can take home,” he said.
In Nomine Domini. Amen.
Saint Anne Parish is a territorial parish serving the needs of the Catholic community in the southern section of the Town of Ashburnham, Massachusetts. Its parish church was located at 162 Center Street, Ashburnham. The church building was erected in 1893 and added onto in the 1930s. It was established as a parish in 1895. In 2014, the parish census listed between 35 and 40 families as members of the parish.
On July 8, 2015, the Ashburnham Building Commissioner issued an order to the Diocese of Worcester declaring that the building was “unsafe and dangerous and would be especially dangerous in case of fire, because of the proximity to a public way and the public at large, and the impending weather.” The Commissioner’s order went on to state that the building has structural failure, is in danger of collapse and has numerous other state building code violations. The Town of Ashburnham officially condemned the building and it has been demolished.
Saint Denis Church was a former Methodist Church, originally built in 1822 and purchased by the Diocese of Springfield in 1871. Its church building is located at 85 Main Street. It was established as a parish on September 5, 1951. There are currently approximately 600 households registered there.
Upon the condemnation of Saint Anne Church building, all worship formally occurring there was moved to Saint Denis Church in July, 2015.
After prayerful consideration of the present circumstances, and after hearing the parties mandated by law, most especially the Presbyteral Council, in accord with canon 515, §2, of the Code of Canon Law I, the Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester, holding before me my pastoral responsibilities to this particular church, hereby declare and decree the following:
Saint Anne Parish and Saint Denis Parish, both located in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, are hereby merged to form one parish, in accord with canon 121;
The title of this newly-created parish will be known as Saint Denis Parish;
The boundaries of Saint Denis Parish will be co-terminus with the boundaries of the Town of Ashburnham;
Saint Denis Parish will assume the goods, assets, including property and patrimonial rights, as well as the burdens and liabilities of Saint Anne and Saint Denis Parishes, respecting the intentions of the founders and donors, concerning the allocation of goods and the fulfillment of obligations, in accord with canons 121 and 123;
Saint Denis Church will retain its respective title, in accord with canon 1218;
Saint Anne Church has been demolished, in accord with canon 1222, §1, given that is was officially condemned by the Town of Ashburnham and the cost of repairing or replacing would have been prohibitive and well beyond the financial means of the parish;
The sacramental records of Saint Anne and Saint Denis Parishes are hereby placed under the guardianship of Saint Denis Parish;
Saint Denis Parish will enjoy public juridic personality by the law itself, in accord with canon 515, §3.
The effective date of this decree is January 3, 2016, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, at 12:01 a.m.
I order that this decree be published.
Given at Worcester, Massachusetts, in the halls of the Chancery, this the twenty-eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord, two thousand fifteen.
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, S.T.D.
Bishop of Worcester