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Royalston mission closes

Posted By June 28, 2012 | 1:00 pm | Local
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By Tanya Connor

SOUTH ROYLSTON – Thanks and support were repeated themes at the closing Mass at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Mission Sunday.
Tomorrow the mission merges with its mother parish, Our Lady Immaculate in Athol. The mission’s building will be a chapel.
Father Richard A. Jakubauskas said it can be used for baptisms, weddings, funerals and prayer. Father Krzysztof Korcz is considering possibilities.
Father Jakubauskas has been pastor of the mission and its cluster parishes –  Our Lady Immaculate, St. Francis of Assisi in Athol and St. Peter’s in Petersham. Tomorrow he becomes associate pastor of St. Peter and St. Joan of Arc parishes in Worcester and assistant chaplain of UMass Memorial Hospitals. Father Korcz has been associate pastor, and tomorrow becomes pastor, of the cluster parishes.
Father Jakubauskas said after he came in 2008, Our Lady Queen of Heaven parishioners were informed that, when the cluster had only one priest, Masses at the mission would cease. He said he and Father Korcz told parishioners, “This isn’t the end; you’re part of a group. The Church needs you more than ever.” The cluster parishes have been doing pastoral planning and working together, he said.
“We thank God for 56 years” of worshipping him every Sunday in this chapel, Father Korcz said Sunday.
He welcomed cluster parishes’ members, who practically doubled the congregation, which included seven members of the mission. The priests said usually seven to nine people attend Mass there.
The priests said a letter and the decree were sent to about 35 households whose members are registered at Our Lady Queen of Heaven but not attending Mass there. Five or six of those have an elderly member visited by eucharistic ministers, he said.
“We want them to know we care about them,” Father Jakubauskas said of those not attending. He said they would be listed in Our Lady Immaculate’s records, and volunteers from the cluster parishes would call them to help them with any grief about the merge.
Assisting at Sunday’s Mass were the deacons who serve the cluster parishes – Deacons Scott Colley, Paul Mello and James L. Linderman. Since organist Peter Kraniak was in Poland, another organist, Terry Parker, played.
After the homily Deacon Linderman helped Father Korcz distribute “thank you” cards to parishioners and visitors.
“When it first started, every pew was full, Virginia Gingras, a member for 54 years, said afterwards.
“You couldn’t get into this place,” it was so full, recalled Helen Feleciano, who said she’s been coming about 40 years. They lost many parishioners when the weekly Mass was changed to 7 a.m., she said.
“This church was always asked to change times, which wasn’t fair,” she said.
“We did big fairs at Christmas,” played whist to raise money for the church and later hosted the luncheon after the town’s Memorial Day parade, Mrs. Gingras said. (Movable chairs make the chapel and its adjoining room multi-purpose.)
“It’s been a nice little church,” she said. “It’s sad to see it go. The people were like a family. Everybody knew everybody. It was very close.”
She said she’ll go to Our Lady Immaculate and/or St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Baldwinville.
“It’s going to be missed,” Sherry Miner said of the mission. “A big family.” She said she received an open-armed welcome when she came 12 years ago. Where she goes now will depend on schedules, she said.
“I hadn’t been to church in 30 years,” said Lenny Hoffmann. Someone invited him to the mission, and “I haven’t missed a Mass in 10 years. They’re taking it out from under me.” He said he’ll probably go to St. Peter’s, where he went when he couldn’t make Mass at the mission, or St. Vincent de Paul.
In his homily for Sunday’s feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Father Korcz noted that John prepared people to recognize and receive Jesus.
“When we celebrate our birthday, we recall our mission,” Father Korcz said. “Our mission is to create unity.… Let us join our strengths…to build Jesus’ Church.
“We gather today to celebrate the final Mass at Our Lady Queen of Heaven. There is sadness, and I also share it with you. But something good happened here” – friendships, weddings. When he came nearly three years ago he didn’t know how he would be received, he said, adding, “I have found nothing but love, care and kindness.”
Fifty-six years ago parishioners gave thanks they could come hear, “This is my body,” Father Korcz said, urging listeners to remember Jesus is with them when they hear those words.
“I will continue to keep you in my prayers,” he said, and asked for theirs.     “I hope that this Mass is not a farewell Mass,” he said, adding that they are welcome in his cluster parishes.
He told visitors, “Please pray for them; please welcome them to the cluster parish.”
He said a chalice, sacramentary, Divine Mercy image and statue of St. Francis from Our Lady Queen of Heaven would be presented at the 4 p.m. Mass at Our Lady Immaculate June 30 and become part of the merged parish.
He blessed the congregation with the eucharist after Mass at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, and it was taken to Our Lady Immaculate, where he blessed people there with it.