EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 8, 2013

St. Michael Church designated a 'stand alone parish'

NORTH ANDOVER — As one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, St. Michael Church has been assigned as a ‘stand alone parish’ in Phase Two of the archdiocese’s reorganization plan.

“Even as a stand alone parish, it will be among the top three or four collaboratives because of its size,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, director of pastoral planning for the Archdiocese of Boston.

St. Michael has 16,000 people on its roster. It offers six Masses during the weekends. The church has 215 baptisms, 270 first communions, 194 confirmations, 57 weddings, 122 funerals annually. Its annual member contributions between July 2012 to June 13 was $1,349,340. The parish also has St. Michael School with close to 500 students in nursery through eighth grade.

“For them, there will be a bit of a challenge because there will be no structural changes, but they will take part in the training, the formation of a pastoral plan and mission focusing on evangelization,” Soper said.

St. Michael is one of 21 collaboratives made up of 44 parishes in Phase Two. Other local parishes include Holy Family in Amesbury and Star of the Sea, Salisbury; Our Lady of Good Voyage and Holy Family in Gloucester; St. Agnes, Middleton and St. Rose in Topsfield.

The pastoral plan was suggested by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to not only address the shortage of priests, but to encourage Catholics to return to church focusing on the New Evangelization that Pope Francis and O’Malley have called Catholics to follow. The archdiocese serves the spiritual needs of 1.8 million Catholics in 288 parishes.

O’Malley created a 20-member planning commission and named priests, bishops, deacons and lay people to serve, including the Rev. Paul O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Lawrence and Craig Gibson, Catholic chaplain at Lawrence General Hospital. The plan will group the 288 parishes in the archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives.

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