Holy Trinity Closing, But Welcoming Doors Not Opening – Yet
No German, Latin Masses for Displaced Parishioners; Reopening of Homeless Program Delayed
BOSTON – June 26 – On Sunday, June 29, Holy Trinity parishioners will hear for the first time the decree that formally closes the 164-year-old South End parish effective the following day, June 30. Despite the short interval between the formal announcement and the closure, parishioners will immediately appeal the decision to Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
The decree, signed early this week but yet to be formally read, will designate the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as the welcoming parish for Holy Trinity. At a parish council meeting Tuesday night, parishioners learned, however, that the Cathedral parish will be unable, at least in the near future, to offer Masses in German and English and in the traditional Latin (now known as the extraordinary form). In addition, parishioners learned that the Cardinal Medeiros Center , a day program for homeless older adults that had been run from the hall in the lower church, has been delayed in reopening in its new location.
Masses in English and German the extraordinary form have defined the life of Holy Trinity, and parishioners requested that they be part of the life of their welcoming parish. Holy Trinity, the Archdiocese’s oldest ethnic parish, was founded by German immigrants and has continued to offer readings and hymns in German at Mass. From 1990 to 2007, when special permission was still needed for its celebration, Holy Trinity was the only parish in the Archdiocese to offer the extraordinary form, the Mass used before revisions following Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960’s. In response to recently expanded papal permission, celebration of the extraordinary form resumed at Holy Trinity in February.
Cardinal O’Malley first announced his intention to close Holy Trinity in May 2004. The closure, which was originally to take place on June 30, 2005, was delayed for three years because the parish shared its facilities the Cardinal Medeiros Center and another group, the Bridge Over Troubled Waters residence for at-risk youth. The latter group moved this month to a residence in Brighton .
The Medeiros Center closed its doors at Holy Trinity on May 29 to move to the basement of Our Lady of Victories Church on Isabella Street . The program expected to reopen there on June 9, but it has yet to reopen because it does not have the necessary occupancy permit. According to Joe McPherson, the outgoing director, misunderstandings about the permitting process led to the delay. The group has received assistance from the Archdiocese and is working with them to resolve the remaining issues. As a best case, the program could reopen next week, three weeks behind schedule.
McPherson, who leaves the program after thirty years on Friday, is grateful for the twenty-five years it spent at Holy Trinity. “It [the program] was a continuation of the good works they had always done, such as the orphanage and the school, and I felt appreciated by the parishioners,” he explained during a telephone call. The parish founded an orphanage and home for the poor in Roxbury in 1888 and founded the first of three schools in 1848; all were closed in the early 1960’s.
The inability of the Cathedral to offer additional Masses in the near future will leave Holy Trinity parishioners scrambling to find Masses at other parishes. The closure of the 131-year-old church building, designed by renowned architect Patrick Keely and filled with stained glass windows and statuary from Germany , combined with the absence of the German/English Mass, effectively ends the German heritage in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The closure of Holy Trinity also again leaves the Archdiocese with only one Sunday Mass in the extraordinary form, celebrated at noon at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton . Attendance at that Mass, which draws about 300 people, is all but impossible for those without cars and difficult for people living northeast and southeast of Boston . Although expanded Vatican permission for the extraordinary form allows its celebration in every parish, establishing new locations, whether at the Cathedral or elsewhere, could take months. Attendance at the extraordinary form Mass at Holy Trinity has grown fifty percent in just four months, from 100 to 150 parishioners, as interest in the extraordinary form has grown throughout the Catholic Church.
These parishioners are keenly watching developments with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a group that broke with the Church in 1988 after it consecrated more bishops than allowed by the Vatican . Although it has used the extraordinary form exclusively since its founding in the 1960’s, that is not the reason for the break. According to reports in the Italian and French media, the SSPX has been given until June 28 to accept five preconditions for its return to full communion with Rome . If the SSPX does return, it may be offered a personal prelature, an arrangement where it, and not the local bishop, runs its parishes. Holy Trinity is considered an ideal church to be given to a potential personal prelature because it was never permanently altered to accommodate the post-Vatican II form of the Mass, is accessible both by automobile and public transportation, and has a reputation for fostering the extraordinary form.
For now, Holy Trinity parishioners will concentrate on the appeal process. They will have ten days, not counting Sundays, to appeal the closure to Cardinal O’Malley. If he rejects their appeal, they will then have recourse to the Vatican . Because the parish will be under appeal, Church law will forbid its dismantling or sale. The Holy Trinity property could be a prime candidate for redevelopment, just as the nearby Boston Herald and its parking lot have been recently reported to be. In fact, according to the South End News, developers have already approached the Archdiocese about Holy Trinity.
Throughout their four-year struggle, they never received an answer to the questions originally posited by the Parish Council: “Why was Holy Trinity designated for closure?” and “How does the loss of the Archdiocese’s German Catholic Heritage, relocation of the Traditional Latin Mass [extraordinary form], and the eviction of the Bridge Over Troubled Waters and the Cardinal Medeiros Center serve the best interest of the Archdiocese?”
Now, their questions have become, “What do they have planned for our beautiful buildings? Why are the buildings going to sit there when they could still serve our parishioners, our homeless, and our youth?”
Committee to Preserve Holy Trinity Parish
Christine M. Quagan, Media Coordinator
617-325-5905 (home); 617-852-0315 (cell)
NOTE: Please refer all questions about the Cardinal Medeiros Center to its main number, 617-619-6960.