Nearly a dozen Catholic parishes on the North Shore are in the vanguard of a pastoral plan announced yesterday by the Archdiocese of Boston that represents one of the most sweeping reorganizations in its history.
Four parishes in Salem will be grouped into a single collaborative, as will three in Beverly, in the first phase of a five-year effort aimed at making parishes stronger by sharing resources and, in time, increasing church attendance through evangelization.
Rather than closing parishes, as it did in 2004, sparking protests and church occupations, the archdiocese is grouping them into collaboratives that will have one pastor, a pastoral staff team, a parish council and a finance committee.
A total of 12 first-phase collaboratives were announced yesterday by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, including one in Salem (St. James, St. John the Baptist, Immaculate Conception and St. Anne) and another in Beverly (St. Mary, St. Margaret and St. John the Evangelist).
There are also collaboratives in Lynn and Lynnfield.
Officials at the Archdiocese of Boston stressed that this is not a contraction, but a way to grow the church at a time of fewer priests, dwindling Mass attendance and limited financial resources. The ultimate aim is to bring Catholics back to the church and to recruit new members.
“Parish-based evangelization works, and we can train for it,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese, “but we need strong parishes to do it.”
This plan has been two years in the making and was formally announced in November by O’Malley. Over the next five years, the archdiocese’s 288 parishes will be grouped into 135 collaboratives.
The dozen collaboratives announced yesterday as the “first phase” were chosen because they reflect the diversity of the archdiocese, Soper said. They include a variety of demographics and language groups; some have schools or other special missions.