By William T. Clew
And Tanya Connor
More serious damage has been discovered at Our Lady of Mount. Carmel Church, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish said Thursday.
Msgr. Pedone, who is also pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Parish, said George O’Neill, lead architect for Gordon, Richardson, Lewis Architects of Hopkinton, told him Thursday morning that the base wall of the church’s facade has pulled away from the building about five inches.
Msgr. Pedone said the wall also holds rods that help support the roof of the church building and the separation could compromise the whole building.
The architect could not immediately estimate the cost of repair and said that by law, the City of Worcester must be informed of the problem. The city can inspect it and, if the problem is considered too dangerous to continue use of the church, could order that it be closed, Msgr. Pedone explained.
Workmen have been removing the upper part of the facade because it was leaning away from the front of the church. The front doors were closed some time ago and church-goers used the side entrances. The plan had been to take the top off and waterproof the rest. Msgr. Pedone said about 83,000 pounds of stone has already been removed.
He said he and the transition committee of the two parishes met Wednesday night at the Our Lady of Loreto parish center to discuss a proposed merger of the two parishes. The meeting came before Msgr. Pedone learned of the newly discovered problem.
He said that another meeting with parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann Parish to discuss the proposed merger of that parish and Our Lady of Loreto Parish has been scheduled for March 20, Palm Sunday, at 1 p.m.
A recommendation he made to Bishop McManus to merge the parishes on Sept. 1 has been postponed after an emotional meeting last Sunday with parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – St. Ann, he said. The recommendation was to merge the two parishes and use Our Lady of Loreto as the parish church and close the Mount Carmel Church, but continue to use the recreation center. He said the recreation center would be renovated at a cost of about $2 million. He said it can hold large groups and be rented.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has deteriorated since Interstate 290 was constructed. It is separated from the church by the width of Mulberry Street and some people have blamed the original construction work and continual vibrations from traffic, especially truck traffic, on the highway for causing the damage.
Mount Carmel owns the playground equipment behind its center and investigations are being made about who owns the adjacent ball field used by the Joe Dimaggio Little League, Msgr. Pedone said.
At last Sunday’s meeting he told parishioners that it is too late to fix the church.
“An era of history is past,” he said. “It’s not coming back.”
Msgr. Pedone said he prefaced Sunday’s meeting by saying, “Shame on us” for not taking care of the church “our ancestors” gave their dimes and quarters to build as a tribute to their faith and Italian heritage.
He said he thought most parishioners at Sunday’s meeting liked the suggestion someone made of tearing down Mount Carmel Church and building a new church. But he said they don’t have the money to build another church, and don’t need one, as they have Loreto.
Msgr. Pedone said he didn’t know who set up a GoFundMe account in an effort to raise money for the parish. The account, titled “Please save our Parish,” had raised $1,450 from 17 people, as of Wednesday afternoon. The online site can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/9w68js.
Yesterday, in an interview, he said the parish has found itself in a perfect storm. The church is in need of repairs and there is not enough money coming in each week to pay the parish bills.
Msgr. Pedone said it seemed parishioners were venting Sunday, and he thought they were disrespectful. They threw about $500 at him and claimed, “You never said you needed money,” he said. He said he has repeatedly presented the parish’s financial problems – at Masses and in the parish bulletin. There have also been stories in The Catholic Free Press and the Telegram & Gazette.
“I said (to myself), ‘Wow! We’ve got to work on Christian charity,’” in light of parishioners’ behavior, he said. “I couldn’t believe it. Where have you been?”
Where they have not been is at Masses there, he said. He said he knew most of the people who went to the microphone Sunday, and has not seen many of them at Mass. Saying they want the church to continue but not attending Mass and supporting the parish is not legitimate to him.
On a more positive note, he said that since Sunday he has received several notes of encouragement, in which people let him know they are praying for him. And Father Cornelius F. O’Leary, a retired priest of the diocese who grew up in Mount Carmel, gave him $50 to use however it is needed, he said.
“It’s a very passionate community,” said Mauro DePasquale, a lifelong parish member. He said they are very grateful to Msgr. Pedone for listening to parishioners and for all that he has attempted to do.
Mr. DePasquale said he and other parishioners are looking at raising money in an attempt to get matching cultural or facility grants. He said the hope is to get money to fix Mount Carmel’s church or cultural center or to build a new church.
The group started meeting before Christmas, stopped for the holidays, and is hoping to start meeting again, he said.