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Time of change for pastors

Last Sunday, the pastor of St. Brendan Parish, Rev. John Connolly, told parishioners that he will leave Dorchester next month to become the administrator of St. John Chrysostom in West Roxbury. Father Connolly will assume his new duties on Labor Day weekend.

Earlier this summer, the archdiocese announced that St. Ann’s pastor, Rev. Sean Connor, had been named administrator over two parishes in Weymouth. That change takes place next month.

The reassignments prefigure more significant changes in the staffing of Catholic parishes across Dorchester and Mattapan; by the end of next month, a temporary administrator will be overseeing St. Ann and St. Brendan parishes, and the remaining four Catholic pastors in Dorchester also face possible reassignments.

 The changes come as part of the church’s long-term planning process called “Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston, “a program implanted last year as the archdiocese continues to cope with a dwindling supply of priests to staff its 288 parishes.

Phase 1 of the plan was implemented in the spring, with 12 pastors trained to manage and serve over 28 collaborative parishes from Lynn to Weymouth.Now, as the church prepares to implement a second phase, local church leaders have been advised that the next changes will include some Dorchester and Mattapan parishes – and it seems certain that the parishes that  Connolly and Connor are leaving will become the first local collaboration. Soon, a temporary administrator will be assigned to oversee the two parishes for a two-to-three-month period, and local priests expect that the administrator will eventually become the pastor.

As part of the overall plan, all pastors were asked to submit their resignations, making every one of them eligible for new assignments. Some will take roles as temporary administrators while others are expected to remain in place .

Father Paul Soper, director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, is overseeing the process for the archdiocese. In an interview published May 9 in The Pilot, the church’s official newspaper, Soper said that the plan for training runs in stages to help collaborative parishes establish themselves. 
“Sessions include talks and training on theology in practice of the new evangelization, Catholic leadership, and topics related to ministry of collaborative parishes,” the report said. “The training program presented the new pastors with a look at how collaborative parishes work by using information gathered at actual collaborative parishes as part of the plan.”

Under the realignment, each parish will continue to operate independently, with each maintaining its own name, parish councils, Mass schedules, and other programs.

The new pastor’s task will be to synthesize the two parish communities while allowing each to maintain its own historical identity.

But one thing is clear: the changes in the two Dorchester parishes now under way clearly prefigure many more staffing changes in the coming months. Just two months ago, Dorchester and Mattapan Catholic parishes were living in what could be described as a “golden age,” each staffed by six energetic, young and popular pastors.  Now a third of them are heading to other neighborhoods, and more reassignments are looming.

“All of them could be gone within a year,” one priest said this week. The archdiocese maintains a website, disciplesinmission.com, with all official information on this effort.