In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says,
“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22.
My reflection has been leading me to this statement, especially in re-engaging in aspects of life following the stay at home advisory. Many friends, acquaintances and parishioners and I have reflected on how this new and unfamiliar experience, having to stay at home had caused us to realize how much extra stuff had, deliberately and unknowingly, crept into our lives and filled our routines. Friends have told me that with forced change in their lives, they discovered more family time without all the extra activities, they ate meals together with more frequency, and to get out of the house, would go for walks, do yard work, etc. These same friends had shared that they had no plans on completely restoring their previous routines after this newfound freedom they discovered in a time of restrictions. Many have made an effort to let some of those things go.
We have had a similar experience here at the Catholic Community of Billerica. Our three (at the time) independent parishes – like every other parish – had taken on activities, programs, material things, and yes even bad habits, over our long histories, some of which no one could remember the origin. There are elements of our parish ministry, parish life, and parish properties that had a specific purpose and need at one time. For example, When parishes had three or four priests assigned, there was a need for a rectory large enough to accommodate these priests. These large stately homes, that have become of the fabric of our parishes, have become costly to operate, maintain and repair not to mention excessive for our present needs. This has turned into a long introduction to my point at hand.
For the past month we have been operating as the consolidated Saint Matthew Parish; new wine if you will. I am grateful for your notes of encouragement, and support, I also appreciate your messages of concern for this significant change in the Church in Billerica. The decision to consolidate our parishes came from three independent sources: a re-evaluation of our human resources, finances, and property resources in the fall of 2019, discussions regarding the benefits of consolidation that surfaced in both the Collaborative Pastoral and Finance Councils also in the fall of 2019, both of which were followed by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We now emerge with new opportunities to address our needs for the Catholic Community of Billerica in 2020. I would like to elaborate on some of the developments and changes that I would like to share, these are the new wine skins.
Saint Matthew Parish Offices. Our offices are now consolidated at 1 Grace Ave. Having one location allows us to work together as a team, and greatly diminish redundant operational costs. It also improves the security of our staff, since no one is alone in a building. 1 Grace Avce was chosen as the most accessible of the office spaces, for those with physical limitations.
Liturgical Schedule. Though it appears that our Liturgical Schedule was modified in response to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, a meeting with the collaborative Pastoral Council, spoke of restarting our public Masses in June was an opportunity to develop a Mass schedule for our immediate needs at this time. As we see the need to add masses, we will consider what time and location will best serve the community. Therefore, our goal as one parish is not to restore our previous Mass schedule designed for three parishes.
Organizations and Events. Over a long period of time each former parish has developed long-standing traditions of organizations and events. Recently in a meeting with these leaders, we discovered that some of these have come to a natural end, and I Invited them to think about how the particular groups and events will be adapted to St. Matthew Parish. For example, Saint Mary and Saint Theresa’s Women’s Clubs had already discussed coming together to form Saint Matthew’s Women’s Club, open to all women throughout our one parish. I asked that they also discuss and update how the activity and organization contributes to the mission of our parish.
Councils. With the beginning of our new parish, there were many new beginnings – all staff had to be rehired for the new parish, contracts renegotiated, new bank accounts and new sacramental registers had to be created and all that jazz.We are also required to establish a new Finance Council and a new Pastoral Council. In addition I am establishing a Property and Building Advisory Committee. All three councils are instrumental in advising me in my ministry as pastor.
Clergy and Lay Staffing Reorganization
Parochial Vicar. Fr Jean Sassou was appointed parochial vicar following Fr. Hal Obayashi who faithfully served our community for almost six years.
Director of Evangelization and Communications. Deacon Phil DiBello has transitioned from his previous position as Director of Evangelization, Ministry, and Faith Formation to focus more specifically on Evangelization, which includes all communication and outreach to our parish.
Director of Worship. Dr. Paul Ciotti joined us in early March. The director of worship is a new position that does not directly replace any specific position, but is the product of reorganizing a number positions. The timeliness of a director of worship has proven itself very necessary given all the new protocol we have in order to hold Mass during this pandemic. Dr. Ciotti assists me by directing all aspects of our Liturgical worship, including music ministry. Dr. Ciotti is assisted by our sacristans Antonio Gulia and Rich Foppiano, and our Music Ministers: Joanne Gagliardi, Laura Rosa, Asa Pedi, Annabelle Dionne and Rebecca Murphy.
Director of Religious Education. Tony Carbrello is no stranger to many, as he had served as Assistant Director of Religious Education early after combining the religious education programs. I am delighted that Tony accepted my invitation to assume the leadership of the Youth Faith Formation program. Tony is assisted by Carol Wemmitt (Office Administrator), Melissa Gozzo (Coordinator of grades 1-4), and Deb Fergus (Coordinator of grades 5-8). In addition to directing, Tony will also coordinate our teen ministries and confirmation program.
Pastoral Minister. Dustin Batista will expand beyond youth ministry and begin to lead some areas of pastoral ministry, particularly ministry to parents preparing to baptize their children and adults who are preparing to be confirmed.
Director of Finance and Operations. Christine Kilburn continues in position as Director of Finance and Operations for St. Matthew Parish.
Facilities Manager. Dino Bastianelli joined us in the fall of 2019 as facilities manager for all properties, and had no idea what challenges awaited him. Dino has been instrumental in preparing and keeping our facilities sanitized since we reopened.
Office Administration. We consolidated our office locations together into one location at 1 Grace Avenue in July, something we had been discussing before the pandemic and consolidation. Together Karen Dubbs and Heather Murphy manage our parish office as a team, allowing us to better serve the needs of our parishioners.