Saint Brendan Church is facing imminent closure by the archdiocese, a move openly advocated for by our new pastor, Rev. Palladino. The Presbyteral Council has met to discuss the matter, but Cardinal O’Malley has not made a final decision, leaving a tiny glimmer of hope for our church. Fr. Palladino is ignoring the cardinal’s pause and declaring himself that our church will close for services by May 31.
There is a long, deeply rooted problem not simply with our church, but with the Archdiocese, that has festered for decades. Our parish has had reasons to turn away from the church, the worst of them being the horrific child abuse by clergy in the 1970s and early 1980s and the archdiocese's painful coverup. Closing our church will not sweep the anger and hopelessness away.
People who have not lived in this area may find it hard to grasp the enormity of what closing St. Brendan Church will do to our community. In Dorchester, you identify neighborhoods by parish, by church, no matter how religious or nonreligious you are. Saint Brendan Church has always been a part of the very fabric of our neighborhood.
Pastors like Fr. Lane and Fr. Fratus became part of the community so that they could guide their parishioners toward God and through tough times. They reached out and brought those who had strayed back to God. For a long time now, St. Brendan’s pastors have been forced to leave after only a few years – just as they were starting to join the neighborhood. This strategy of Fr. Paul Soper [the archdiocese’s director of Pastoral Planning] has deeply damaged St. Brendan’s. What makes a parish strong is the people trusting and caring about those guiding us and leaders knowing and caring about their people. This policy has undoubtedly decreased Mass attendance.
One of the many reasons to attend Mass was the feeling of neighborhood community, belonging, and familiarity and that was taken away repeatedly by the coming and going of so many of our priests. It takes a lot of work to start anew, but our community has been hanging on. The religious connection is slipping, however; we need someone reaching out and offering that acceptance and feeling of community. Since our current pastor’s arrival, the feelings at Mass have been less peaceful. His early bulletin notes left people hurt and angry, feeling pushed away rather than welcomed.
Fr. Palladino’s comments make it seem as though our church building is crumbling. Yet the archdiocese’s own facilities assessment team has deemed each area “acceptable.” Yes, there are many needed repairs, with masonry/repointing and drainage issues being the main problems. But there has been no order to evacuate, no call to stop Masses on May 31. The archdiocese let St. Brendan Church deteriorate through benign neglect; much of the needed repair was hidden from us by short-term pastors. We are requesting an independent review of what needs to be done by local contractors. Qualified tradespeople in our neighborhood, who have been willing to lend their services, have been turned away. Cost-cutting measures have not been considered; the facilities team actually recommended replacing entrance doors with new mahogany ones.
The way the archdiocese has stealthily carried out this closure process is also angering. Property sales of land next to the church were not allowed while we were still an independent parish. Instead, we were pushed to become part of a collaborative in 2018, and in the midst of the pandemic, the archdiocese slipped in the merger and a new parish name. The merger meant that $875,000 gained from the sale of St. Brendan property – the former convent and lot next to the church – could be directed to St. Ann’s, as half our donations are. This behavior seemingly contradicts the archdiocese’s pastoral mission statement “We treat ... those whom we serve fairly... holding ourselves accountable for our commitment to service.”
Even when people are not at Mass, the church itself reminds us of our faith and calls people to prayer. The archdiocese’s removing Churches is actively hiding Catholicism from everyday life. When it closed 65 parishes in 2004, there was a considerable uproar and resistance across the archdiocese . Eight years later, in 2012, Director of Pastoral Planning Fr.Soper told a Boston Globe reporter that “closing parishes didn’t work... When a parish closed, people just went away. The numbers worshipping didn’t improve. We were not better off afterward.’”
At that time, the cardinal’s team, including Fr. Soper, was considering forming what are now called Collaboratives- groupings of parishes with one pastor who share priests, staff, and a council but maintain their own identity, buildings and finances. Under this proposal, the Globe reported, parishes would not close or merge. Now, 10 years later, Fr.Soper and the archdiocese are merging parishes before closing them. It cannot merge away a neighborhood community and expect people to drive to another church and suddenly see that as home. They are abandoning Catholics in St.Brendan’s- not seeming to care if we just “went away.”
We are trying desperately to hang onto the center of our unique neighborhood - our little small town hiding in the big city that has become our very identity. We are disheartened, but we are not yet broken. We are asking Cardinal O’Malley to give us a chance. We are a strong community with many contractors and tradespeople willing to help. Please give us a period of reprieve and let us raise funds to save Our Church. We would appreciate having a pastor willing to work with us to reinvigorate this church community rather than pushing to close us. Keep a beacon of our faith on Gallivan Boulevard. Let us keep Catholicism alive in our Dorchester neighborhood.
Benefactors willing to be a part of saving our church and tradespeople/contractors willing to offer their services, please contact SaveStBrendanChurch@gmail.com
Lauren O’Brien, DVM is a lifelong resident of St. Brendan's.