St. Matthew Church has closed its doors, apparently forever, as a worship space for Catholics.
The church on Stanton Street in Dorchester, which opened in 1923, held its final Mass last Sunday, according to the Archdiocese of Boston.
The move comes three months after St. Matthew and St. Angela parishes— both with predominantly Haitian congregations in recent years— merged to form a single new entity, Our Lady of Carmel parish. The combined parish will now gather exclusively at the St. Angela church building on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan Square for liturgies, funerals, marriages and other services.
Fr. Paul Soper, a priest who runs the Archdiocese of Boston’s pastoral planning office, said that a group of parishioners along with pastor Rev. Garcia Breneville made the decision recently. It went into effect on Oct. 1, he said.
“The decision to move to a single church was made in strong consultation with a group of about 30 people, representative of a whole variety of people in the parishes, who met weekly for months. I myself met with them almost every Friday night,” said Soper. “They came to the conclusion that that was best way forward for pastoral focus and financial viability.”
The merger of the two parishes, which became official on July 1, is the latest in a much broader contraction in Boston’s Catholic community. Elsewhere in Dorchester, two longtime parishes in Neponset— St. Ann and St. Brendan— were also merged into a new entity, St. Martin de Porres in recent months. In that instance, parishioners were advised that the merger would help ease crippling financial deficits facing both churches— and, hopefully— keep both worship spaces open.
In the instance of St. Matthew, it is not yet clear what will become of the nearly-century-old edifice at 33 Stanton St.
“We don’t know yet,” Fr. Soper told the Reporter. “There are canonical processes that have to go forward before we investigate too much about how to use the property. It remains an asset of the parish and it will be used in some form or another to support the life of the parish.
He added: “The biggest need is financial, but it’s early to try to envision. They have just stopped functioning and right now their principal concern is getting themselves settled in the new space.”
A heavily-used food pantry at the church will continue to operate, but not at the church building, Soper said.
The news of the closure was a surprise to most people in Dorchester’s extended Catholic community.
Tim Delaney, who was raised in the parish and attended the parish school, said that the lack of notice was hurtful to many families with deep attachments to the church.
“The mixed message of a parish consolidation into Our Lady of Mt. Carmel with St. Angela was frustrating to say the least,” said Delaney. “Had the Archdiocese made last Sunday’s closing more widely known, I would have attended.
“I think the Archdiocese could have provided wider and greater notice so more current and former parishioners could have attended a final Mass at the church that held such enormous formative influence on so many,” he added. “My own mother received every sacrament at St. Matthew’s from baptism to matrimony to funeral rites at the church which many consider the most beautiful in the entire Archdiocese.”