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St. Frances Parishioners to file suit against Archdiocese

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioners are taking their case to keep the church open to court.

By Jillian Fennimore | jfennimo@cnc.com | Thursday, April 28, 2005

Vigil participants who attended a meeting at the church on Tuesday voted unanimously to go the legal recourse route and file a civil law suit against the Boston Archdiocese for closing their parish last October.

"We are here for the long run," said Maryellen Rogers, who began the 24-hour vigil with her husband Jon after the last Mass at the church on Oct. 24.

The vigil holders recently hit the six-month mark of occupying the church, and say they will do whatever it takes to see the church reopened.

"It's a positive way to get a reaction," said 35-year church member Tom Gorman, about showing the Archdiocese what lengths parishioners will go to save St. Frances.

According to Jon Rogers, St. Albert the Great church in Weymouth also filed a suit against Archbishop Sean O'Malley's actions, and since March 31, has been granted a reversal of his decision in order to keep the church open.

"We will use the U.S. court system to seek justice," he said. "It sounds like the only thing they (the Archdiocese) will listen to."

Last May, O'Malley decided St. Frances would close along with more than 80 other parishes in part of a reconfiguration and consolidation of the Archdiocese' parishes.A lack of priests, dwindling church populations and funds due to the sex abuse scandals were some of the factors behind the decision.

But the St. Frances faithful have argued their church was well attended until its closure and some have decided they will not go to St. Mary of the Nativity Parish in Scituate Harbor or St. Anthony's in Cohasset.

"A lot of people are not going to church since St. Frances closed," said parishioner Pat McCarthy.

Parshioners have since been trying to attract and target local disenfranchised Catholics to renew their faith.A nine-member appeals committee led by Scituate resident Leo McNiff also sent out a letter of appeal to the Vatican in Rome, in response to a denial O'Malley sent back, claiming that with 1,000 families and an average of 804 parishioners attending weekend Masses at St. Frances, St. Mary's the Nativity Church and St. Anthony's were not large enough to accommodate the extra parishioners.

The committee is expecting a response to the appeal sometime before May 10

Scituate Selectman Joseph Norton also helped form a St. Frances property committee last year for the 25-acre parcel of land on Hood Road. The committee is comprised of town residents and officials, and is looking looking into the feasibility of purchasing part or all of the land for town use, before it can be sold by the Archdiocese to a private developer.

Rogers said he will make an announcement about the new legal action to parishioners during a Eucharistic prayer service at St. Frances church this Sunday at 10 a.m. Last Sunday, about 40 people attended the church's first Eucharistic service, led by fellow parishioners, and Rogers said he expects a much larger turnout this weekend.

Donations to help fund the legal actionare welcome and truly appreciated, said Maryellen Rogers. Checks should be made payable to Friends of St. Frances, and can be mailed to Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini, P.O. Box 129, Scituate, MA 02066.

She said with any donation, a special intention can be included and will be place it on a white dove to be remembered during weekly prayer services. All proceeds for the Dove Donation will also go into what Rogers calls the legal fund.