I heard a story this morning which I had somehow missed or accidentally ignored. But it seems a story worth telling, so I wanted to share it here.
In 2004, the Catholic Archdiocese closed the St. Frances X. Cabrini Scituate parish. The parish was one of many to be closed in the upheaval following the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church.
In announcing the closures, Archbishop Sean O’Malley – then just 6 months into his tenure in Boston – tried to paint an optimistic picture of the reorganization.
Right now, the main task on the minds of most of us, clergy and laity, is the process of reconfiguration of parish resources. This is a process that will affect all 357 parishes in the Archdiocese. This process is not just about closing parishes; it is about building a framework to strengthen and revitalize as we go forward together as a faith community. Yes, some parishes will close. Others will welcome parishioners from nearby areas. Still others will work to renew themselves as places of spiritual renewal and evangelization.
I was living near Boston at the time, and I remember it as difficult and emotional period for Catholics in my community. Not only were they coming to grips with the grim reality of abuse in their church, the reorganization forced many parishioners to leave the congregations they called home.
Many were not happy. Some communities fought back. I have a vague recollection of protests and court cases, but I hadn’t given it any thought for some time.
But the parishioners of Scituate haven’t forgotten. They are still protesting, now almost exactly 11 years later.
When I first heard that, I imagined some half-hearted protests. A fence full of protest signs, perhaps, or an occasional gathering of organizers strategizing protest tactics.
I would be wrong.
The partitioners in Scituate have been maintaining a 24-hour a day vigil continuously since their parish was closed. They have not backed down.
And, importantly, they have been doing this while maintaining a steadfast commitment to the practice of their spiritual beliefs. They continue to help those in need, supporting the local food pantry, collecting funds for communities facing crisis, making gift baskets for the sick, and more.
This action, impressively sustained for over a decade, is everything that a protest should be: clear in its purpose and enhanced by its tactics. These partitioners aren’t just arguing for the kind of community they want – they are showing the kind of community they can be.