We write to thank our good friend, Mr. Ed Forry, for last week’s editorial discussing our upcoming change in assignments as well as the ongoing implementation of the archdiocesan-wide “Disciples in Mission” initiative. We are grateful not only to Ed but also to all the staff members of the Dorchester Reporter for their attention to and reporting of the ministry and mission of the parishes of Saint Ann and Saint Brendan, as well as other parochial and archdiocesan efforts in our community.
We share a concern, however, that some of the speculation contained in the recent editorial may contribute to fostering an unduly pessimistic and negative atmosphere both in the parishes and across the wider community. In particular, the closing comment attributed to an unidentified priest is unhelpful and, most likely, inaccurate.
Changes in pastoral leadership at Saint Ann and Saint Brendan Parishes were initiated independently of the “Disciples in Mission” process. When the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth was transferred, Cardinal Sean, acting on the recommendation of the Clergy Personnel Board, asked Father Sean Connor to accept a transfer from Saint Ann to Sacred Heart. A few weeks after that announcement was made, Father Connolly applied for the pastorate of Saint John Chrysostom Parish in West Roxbury, which was vacant due to the sudden death of the previous pastor. As these unrelated events were unfolding, we learned that Bishop Robert Hennessey, auxiliary bishop of the Central Region, will be recommending that the Parishes of Saint Ann and Saint Brendan be considered for the next phase of enhanced collaboration through “Disciples in Mission.”
The cardinal is expected to receive and review similar recommendations from throughout the five regions of the Archdiocese in September. Whether or not this particular recommendation is accepted by the cardinal remains to be seen.
We also want to address and clear up a couple of factual inaccuracies that appear in the editorial. First, neither Father Connor nor Father Connolly was asked to submit his resignation. As far as we are aware, no pastor in Dorchester or Mattapan has yet been asked to do so. This step happens only when two or more parishes begin the actual process of enhanced collaboration. Second, there will most likely be two distinct temporary administrators appointed for Saint Ann and Saint Brendan Parishes. The Director of the Clergy Personnel Office expects that these administrators will serve for two to three months while the process to select the priest that is best suited to become pastor or administrator of both Saint Ann and Saint Brendan Parishes takes place. Only if the cardinal accepts Bishop Hennessey’s recommendation will one priest be named to serve as the pastoral leader of both parishes.
Father Connor has been the pastor of Saint Ann for more than five years and Father Connolly has been the pastor of Saint Brendan for more than four. Over these years, the faithful of both parishes have worked with their priests to increase their collaboration in carrying out the ministry and mission of the Church in our part of Dorchester. Our assessment is that this increased collaboration has benefitted both parishes. We hope, pray, and trust that further engagement in the “Disciples in Mission” process will strengthen both parishes so that together they will grow in their ability to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in our part of Dorchester.
Our two parishes have rich histories of pastoral care and community involvement and as the clergy and faithful of these two parishes are able to work more closely together, we believe that such pastoral care and community involvement will only be enhanced in the present moment and well beyond into a bright and positive future.
In closing, we want simply to say that we are very grateful to God and to all our parishioners and friends in the Dorchester community for the gift of our years serving as pastors of these two parishes. Indeed, the people of Saint Ann, Saint Brendan, and all of Dorchester will always hold a special place in our hearts and in our prayers. It has been and remains a privilege and a grace for us to have served and serve as your pastors.
We believe that, with the grace of God and the faithful stewardship of the Catholic faithful of Dorchester, the good work that God has begun in our parishes and our community will not only continue, but also thrive for generations to come.
Asking God to bless all of you, we remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Sean M. Connor
Father John J. Connolly, Jr.