Completing the Mission
St. Mary Church
Pinehurst / Billerica
1928 – 2021
The Mission of Saint Mary Church in Billerica Lives On.. (from December 2021)
It has been a little over a month since we celebrated the final Mass at Saint Mary. Those who were at the Mass know how bittersweet and sad it was. I can personally say it was one of the most difficult moments of my 23 years of priesthood. That being said, I experienced the Mass itself to be a reverent and respectful celebration of fulfillment of the mission that church in Billerica took on years before, and I was honored to preside at the Mass. I am grateful for all who contributed to making the Mass such a reverent celebration. I am especially grateful for the presence of Msgr. Paul Garrity, Fr. Francis Sullivan and Fr. Charles whose ministry was integral to the Mission of Saint Mary. It was also good to welcome Br. Ignacius Membrino, OSB who grew up in the parish.
In the weeks following the final Mass, we see the different ways that Saint Mary’s mission has continued, especially in the furnishings of the church. As I had shared in previous announcements, when the three parishes merged in August 2020, the assets of the parishes were assumed into the new parish of Saint Matthew. We have begun the task of organizing the assets of Saint Mary that have been used in worship, and how they can continue to be used in liturgy and worship, the purpose for which they were generously given. I would like to share some decisions that have been made since October 30.
- Earlier in the summer, some the monks of Saint Anselm Abbey attended a funeral for Br. Ignacius’ grandmother. While in the sacristy, Br. Ignacius showed me the green vestment given to the parish in memory of his grandfather. The Abbot observed how fortunate our parish was to have the generosity of parishioner and the dignity of how we cared for our vestments, sharing that the parish the monks serve, Saint Rapheal Parish in Manchester, NH was in need of vestments. I saw Abbott Mark again after announcing the decision to close Saint Mary and asked him if we could help Saint Rapheal’s with vestments and give the green vestment given in memory of Br. Ignacius’ grandfather to the Abbey. Following the final Mass, Br. Ignacius received the vestments and a Thurible (used for incense) and brought them to Saint Rapheal Parish. Here is an excerpt from an email I received from Fr. Anselm Smedile, OSB – the new pastor of Saint Rapheal. “I am speechless at your generosity. The vestments are beautiful and one of the sacristans is thrilled with the thurible. We will be publishing a bulletin insert to inform the parish and will send a copy to you. Thank you very much”
- The remaining vestments will be distributed between the two remaining churches of Saint Matthew Parish. I make it a point to wear them at our Masses.
- The Saint Mary had been given a new Creche in recent years for the sanctuary during the Christmas Season. Parishioners have enquired about the future of that Creche. Having recently learned that the Creche at Saint Theresa had been given to Saint Theresa to use from a parishioner at Saint Andrew, we came to the decision to move the Creche from Saint Mary to Saint Theresa beginning this year. The size of the Creche is more suited for the size of Saint Theresa Church than their current Creche, and it continued to be a part of Saint Matthew Parish.
- At the end of the final Mass at Saint Mary, we processed with the Eucharist that was removed from the Tabernacle, which was a very poignant and moving ritual. The Eucharist was taken to the tabernacle at Saint Theresa. Since then, the ciborium that we use for the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle at Saint Theresa, is the ciborium that came from Saint Mary.
- The etched glass Holy Oil Stocks (holding the Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Infirmed and Oil of Catechumens) have been brought to Saint Andrew Church to be used there.
- Dustin Batista who serves our parish in Teen Ministry also serves on the Theology faculty of Austin Prep. In Reading. He asked me if Saint Mary had an Advent Wreath, as Austin Prep was without one. So, I am happy to say that the Advent Wreath from Saint Mary Church continues to enlighten the hearts of the faithful at Austin Prep. School in Reading.
- Fr. Jean had inquired what will happen to some of the furnishings at Saint Mary, especially those that have been used in Religious Education as well as liturgy, as there is continues to be a great need in Cameroon for all items, especially for Catholic Schools that Father is associated with.
- Seeing that all three of our churches have had an overabundance of vestments when I first arrived (too many than we could feasibly use in a year), I had given a selection to Fr. Jean for the church in Cameroon. Giving those vestments didn’t even make a dent in what we had. He was happy to inform me that he was able to give a set of four (each color) to a parish that he once served at, that didn’t have any. The present pastor of that parish was moved with gratitude.
- There have been inquiries regarding the leaves on the Tree of Life that hung in the stairwell at Saint Mary. We have preserved the leaves that memorialized donations to Saint Mary over the years and will make them available to the families who want to keep them as a keepsake of their loved one. More details about this will be available in the new year.
Here are some initial ways that work and generosity of the people of Saint Mary Church continues to server the spread of the gospel and here in Billerica and beyond. I will continue to keep you informed of the legacy of Saint Mary.
The following is a paraphrase of the Decree of Relegation given by His Eminence Cardinal Seán O’Malley:
Upon reception of a thorough study regarding Saint Mary Church in Billerica Massachusetts, that incorporated a consultation of the members of the parish, including those who formerly participated in sacred worship at the former parish of Saint Mary; and having considered the grave reasons proposed for the relegation of Saint Mary Church to profane but not sordid use (cf. cc. SO; 1222 §2).
Fr. Aveni presented all this information to the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council on September 14, 2021, and having heard the Council regarding the relegation of Saint Mary Church to profane but not sordid use, in accord with the norm of law (cf. cc. 127 § 1; 166; 1222 §2);
I hereby decree, in accord with canon 1222 §2 of the Code of Canon Law, that Saint Mary Church of Saint Matthew the Evangelist Parish in Billerica, Massachusetts be relegated to profane but not sordid use.
Given at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston, Braintree, Massachusetts this 23rd day of September 2021. The Decree shall be effective at 12:01 A.M. on November 1, 2021.