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Three parishes allowed to reopen

Fri., April 1, 2005

WEYMOUTH, Mass. – The Roman Catholic parish that sparked a wave of protests against church closings in the Boston Archdiocese will reopen, the archbishop announced Thursday.

The decision by Archbishop Sean O’Malley is a victory for parishioners who staged an around-the-clock vigil inside the St. Albert the Great church in Weymouth. The church is one of three O’Malley has allowed to stay open after ordering them closed.

Parishioners carrying gold and yellow balloons gathered outside the suburban Boston church entrance and hugged. Jane Wright, 60, heard the news at work at the Braintree tax collectors office.

“I went to the ladies room to cry,” she said. “We’ve grown stronger as a parish.”

The closings were part of a reorganization announced last spring that called for 82 churches to be shut down or folded into neighboring parishes because of declining attendance, a shortage of priests and financial pressure caused in part by the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Following passionate pleas by parishioners at St. Albert and elsewhere, O’Malley formed a committee to review some of those decisions. Thursday’s move were based on the panel’s recommendations.

The vigil at St. Albert began on Aug. 29, three days before the church was scheduled to close. Parishioners volunteered for shifts, eating at the church, sleeping in pews and leading prayer services in order to maintain a constant presence.

“We’ve always been hopeful,” said parishioner Mary Akoury, who has attended the parish for 37 years. “We’ve been hopeful from day one. We thought even though we were one parish, the lone voice in the wilderness, that we would be heard.”

The sit-in at St. Albert sparked similar protests at seven other parishes slated for closure.

O’Malley said he hoped the decisions would help bring the lengthy and emotional reconfiguration process to an end.

“It’s been a painful, but very necessary exercise to go through,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to move on.”

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