St. Frances faithful heading to court
By Jillian Fennimore | email@example.com | September 15, 2005
Boarding a bus wearing matching blue shirts and white dove pins tomorrow, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioners will take their mission to reopen their church to court.
A group of about 20 church members will travel to Suffolk Superior Court tomorrow, to ask a judge to consider motions that could prevent of the Archdiocese of Boston from selling the church's property and its assets and an injunction that could help reverse the decision to close the Hood Road parish.
"In my own opinion it (the church) shouldn't go anywhere," said Maryellen Rogers, who began the nearly year-long 24-hour a day vigil that's been going on inside the church with her husband, Jon. "We built this church and we expect it to be around forever."
According to Rogers, parishioners are looking for a "sense of solidarity" through legal recourse since their parish is still in dealings with a possible permanent closure or real estate sale.
St. Frances is among a number of churches that have been slated to be closed through the Archdiocese' consolidation. Archbishop Sean O'Malley said dwindling church attendance and a shortage of priests were contributing factors in the decision to close the parishes. But the Friends of St. Frances have long argued attendance at their church was strong and leaving Scituate with only one Catholic parish - St. Mary of the Nativity on Kent Street - is insufficient to serve the needs of the community.
Whatever way the decision goes in court, Rogers said this is an important first step into a legal battle with the Archdiocese.
St. Albert the Great in Weymouth also went to court last year taking their argument to keep the church open before a judge. The church's closure was reversed in June by Archbishop O'Malley.
To show further support for opening the church, a petition/letter drive will be held at the church this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. This will give the community an opportunity to sign their name in support of parishioners and their rights to the church - including assets and real estate holdings.
Rogers said the church even received recent support from the Vatican, agreeing with the rightful ownership of assets for parishioners. Vigil holders are hoping this will help them catapult their campaign.
"We do not want our assets transferred or re-assigned," Rogers said.
In July, selectmen agreed to look the legality of taxing the Archdiocese, if St. Frances is considered a building no longer used for religious purposes, therefore becoming void of a tax exemption.
Selectman and former parishioner of St. Frances for 30 years, Joseph Norton, said there still continues to be a possibility of putting a property tax assessment on the church and its surrounding land, which he, along with city councilors in Boston for their nearby closed churches, has continued to look into.
Over a month ago, Scituate's town assessor sent the Archdiocese a tax bill with an amount close to $40,000 for the year. They have yet to here back from the Archdiocese.
"The ball is in their court now," said Norton.
But parishioners currently at the church want to stake claim of complete ownership of the building, stating that it remains a "blessed church" complete with "prayerful vigil holders."
Norton has also organized a St. Frances church property committee last October, geared toward finding a way to buy the land and building from the Archdiocese through an eminent domain taking before the land is sold to a private developer. Norton is also a member of the church's independent review council, which spoke with members of the Archdiocese in February regarding the status of St. Frances.
An appeal made to the Archdiocese to reverse the church closure decision was denied in last November leading the church appeals group to take their case to the Vatican. A response has not yet been received from Rome.
A night of celebration and support for the Friends of St. Frances church will be a starry event, as parishioners ready for their "Evening Under the Stars" on Sept. 23.
"We are trying to get as many people as we can for a nice time," said parishioner Mary Penny, who has been working with others to collect over 20 different gist baskets for a raffle, along with doors prizes, a silent auction, refreshments and entertainment.
Tickets are currently on sale at the church for $25 each and all proceeds will go towards the church's legal fund, in order to defray the growing cost of attorney's fees.
"It should be a fun evening," said Penny.
More than 20 gift baskets will be raffled off during next weekend's "Evening Under the Stars" with efforts to raise money for the Friends of St. Frances legal fund, working to fight to keep the church doors open.