, Salem, MA

Local News

May 28, 2013

Time of transition for North Shore Catholics

Longtime parish priests moving on, as part of reorganization

The Catholic community in two North Shore cities is bracing for change.

On June 4, a new pastor, the Rev. Dan Riley will arrive from Weymouth to head the Salem collaborative, a grouping of four parishes that is part of a sweeping reorganization within the Archdiocese of Boston.

In Beverly, the Rev. Mark Mahoney from Topsfield arrives the same day to head a collaborative that includes three churches — St. Mary’s, St. John’s and St. Margaret’s.

Salem and Beverly are two of a dozen collaboratives chosen for the first phase of a pastoral plan that, over several years, will reorganize the entire archdiocese into an estimated 135 collaboratives. It is a way, church leaders say, to make better use of fewer priests and limited resources while preparing to grow the church.

But these next few days could be difficult for parishioners. Several priests are leaving after serving here for years. Under church rules, unless a current pastor is selected to head a local collaborative, he must move on to a new assignment or, in some cases, retirement.

In Beverly, the Rev. David Barnes, pastor of St. Mary’s since 2004 and administrator of St. Margaret’s for the past two years, will become chaplain of the Newman Catholic Center at Boston University.

In Salem, the transitions may be even harder because the four pastors have been there so long: the Rev. George Dufour, 21 years at St. Anne’s; the Rev. Timothy Murphy, 18 years at Immaculate Conception; Monsignor Stanley Parfienczyk, 16 years at St. John the Baptist; and the Rev. John Sheridan, 15 years in Salem, including the past nine at St. James following an earlier assignment at the former St. Joseph Church.

“It’s been very emotional,” said Sheridan, who presided over a farewell Mass Sunday. “There’s a lot of emotion, and I’m feeling it as well as everyone else. More than once I have had to stop talking and take a deep breath.”

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