From the USCCB's Catholic Online News:
Former Massachusetts Catholic church sold, slated to become a mosque
By Terence Hegarty
Catholic News Service
INDIAN ORCHARD, Mass. (CNS) -- It will still be a house of worship. That's something that was important to Lokman Yanbul and Catholic parishioners regarding the former St. Matthew Church in Indian Orchard.
The 142-year-old colonial church and the rectory next door were sold for $150,000 in October to the Turkish-American Islamic Society Inc., which plans to convert the church into a mosque. Needed renovations are expected to be completed within a year.
"We did this for the children," said Yanbul, referring to why the local Turkish-American community felt the need to have its own mosque. "We want them to (be able to) continue their cultural and religious heritage."
Aside from worshipping in the Turkish language, Yanbul said their community's liturgy is culturally different from those offered in other area mosques. He said the Turkish-American society is currently made up of about 80 families.
"Basically, what the community is doing is (forming) what I like to compare to an ethnic parish in Catholicism, a Turkish-speaking mosque, and we're very pleased to welcome them here," said St. Jude's pastor, Father William Pomerleau.
St. Jude Parish was formed in 1998, when St. Matthew and St. Aloysius parishes were merged. Father Pomerleau is also a staff reporter for the Catholic Communications Corp., which publishes The Catholic Observer, newspaper of the Springfield Diocese.
"The parish leadership is very thrilled that it will continue to be a house of worship," said Father Pomerleau. Parishioners -- many of whom are former St. Matthew parishioners -- are also happy with the arrangement.
When asked if he was concerned about a negative community reaction to a mosque in the neighborhood, especially in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, Yanbul said both St. Jude parishioners and the community at large have welcomed them. He said he has not personally seen any animosity toward Muslims and there has been a great response from both the Muslim and the Catholic communities.
Father Pomerleau said Catholic parishes and dioceses, when selling former worship spaces, need to be very careful about the future use of the facilities. "I think we would have had ... opposition had it been (sold to) a certain kind of business."
St. Matthew Church, built in 1864, has been dormant for more than five years and the rectory for more than eight. Irish immigrants, most of whom worked in the mills in Indian Orchard and Ludlow, established St. Matthew Parish in 1878.
The fact that Turkish immigrants will worship in a building where Irish immigrants did before them is not lost on Yanbul or Father Pomerleau. "What's happening here is not a new story; it's a story that's been going on for 100-150 years," said the priest.
At a time when the eyes of the world are upon Catholic-Muslim relations, with Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey, developments in Indian Orchard could be seen as a microcosm of the global situation.
Yanbul said he feels "we definitely need better Christian-Muslim relations." He said the Turkish community is made up of moderate Muslims. "The Turkish don't know what hard-line is," Yanbul said.
Well then, Allah Akbar. I'm glad to hear that "The Turkish don't know what hard-line is."
That's very reassuring.