EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 20, 2013

Methuen churches to be combined under sharing services plan

METHUEN — St. Monica and St. Lucy churches are among the first 12 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston chosen for the Phase 1 implementation of the Pastoral Plan that would group the 288 parishes of the archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives.

“This is a restructuring of how to best serve the parishes,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, director of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley suggested the collaboratives to address the shortage of priests and encourage Catholics to return to church. 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.

After announcing the collaborative in Methuen, the Rev. Richard Burton, pastor at St. Lucy and the Rev. Patrick Armano at St. Monica had to resign from their posts in order to shed appearances of favoritism. Application for pastors of the St. Lucy/St. Monica is open to all priests of the archdiocese including Burton and Armano, and are due on Jan. 29.

A new pastor will be named in March.

The collaborative will have one pastor who will work with one pastoral team, made up of priests, deacons, lay ministers, members of the pastoral and finance council. The team will develop a pastoral plan for their collaborative, focusing on serving the needs of the parishes in their particular collaborative and advancing the mission of the New Evangelization. At the core of the collaborative is evangelizing as called by Pope Benedict XVI.

Training has already started at the Pastoral Center in Braintree. On Wednesday, there were talks on the founding of the church, the history of evangelization, prayers, sacraments and grace. On Thursday, Soper had an informational meeting at St. Monica Church and listen to people’s thoughts and concerns.

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