Look for yet another shift in the pastoral administration of Dorchester's Roman Catholic parishes in coming days. That is the message delivered on Tuesday night by auxiliary Bishop Robert Hennessey to what one observer who was there said was a "stunned crowd" of about 50 made up of the pastoral and financial council of Blessed Mother Teresa Parish and a smattering of clergy and representatives from Holy Family and St. Peter's Parish.
The bishop said that a yet-to-be-named pastor, an assistant pastor, and Father Christopher Gomes would be in charge of the three parishes and, soon after that, five, with the inclusion of St. Ambrose and St. Mark parishes.
Hennessey told the assembly that the archdiocese had a strong candidate in mind, but during the day the overall picture had changed. The naming of the new pastor, and, presumably, an announcement of the new setup has been pushed back to Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.
The bishop said that "this is the best we can do," according to the observer, given declining numbers of priests, attendance at Mass, and donations. He distributed statistics for all churches in Dorchester and South Boston which showed that Blessed Mother Teresa had a weekly attendance of 781 while Holy Family was at 194 and St. Peter's was at 495.
"My stated goal as auxiliary bishop is to keep all churches open, but that may not happen," Hennessey said. "It's up to the pastor and his councils to come to us with information that shows that keeping all these parishes open is no longer economically viable."
The bishop repeatedly said that the "future is here now" and that parishioners should soon expect only nine priests to serve all of Dorchester's parishes. He acknowledged that some schools and parishes will eventually have to close, but that now is the time for everyone to work together
"If the parishes try to go it alone, then they will all close."
Reporter correspondent Chris Harding contributed to this report.