DANVERS — St. Richard of Chichester Parish turns 50 next year. To mark the milestone, a committee has been planning a yearlong celebration that includes a kickoff Mass next month and a 10-day eastern Mediterranean cruise departing from Rome in September.
“The theme of the year is to remember the past, celebrate the present and believe in the future,” said Betsy Geheb, chairwoman of the parish’s 50th anniversary planning committee.
The kickoff celebration Mass takes place on Jan. 13 at 11 a.m., with a pancake breakfast held prior to Mass. Those who were baptized in the parish in 1963 are invited to attend.
There’s a year of events planned, Geheb said, and well-known residents Marge and Tom Leonard are serving as honorary chairman and chairwoman. Marking the anniversary also means “believing that we have got another 50, 100 years of us around here, as one community within our parish but also in the larger scope of Danvers,” said Geheb, a former secretary at Holten Richmond Middle School.
The thriving parish of 2,400 families is marking its 50th at a time of change within the church. The Archdiocese of Boston is in the process of reconfiguring parishes, given a demographic shift that involves smaller Catholic families moving out to the suburbs, a decline in the number of clergy and parishes that are struggling to make ends meet, according to the archdiocese’s website. Plans are to bring groups of two or three parishes together in what are being called “parish collaboratives.” Each parish would keep its church buildings and identity.
“We will be collaborating with St. Mary’s downtown,” said the Rev. Bruce Flannagan, St. Richard’s fourth pastor, who expects the collaboration to take place sometime in 2014 or 2015. Flannagan is in his 14th year as pastor of St. Richard’s.
The two Danvers parishes are already working together. For the past seven years, St. Richard’s has been the fiscally responsible parish for St. Mary of the Annunciation School, the pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school on Otis Street, Flannagan said.