, Salem, MA

Local News

January 12, 2013

For Catholic priests, a time of uncertainty

With a busy schedule of weekend Masses on the horizon, the Rev. John Sheridan took time yesterday morning to write a letter of resignation to the Archdiocese of Boston.

“I’m writing it as we speak,” the pastor of St. James Church in Salem told a caller.

He is not alone.

Pastors at the 28 churches which the archdiocese named on Thursday to be in the first phase of a major parish reorganization are required to submit letters of resignation by Monday.

Locally, the edict impacts four parishes in Salem — Immaculate Conception, St. James, St. John the Baptist and St. Anne — and three in Beverly — St. Mary Star of the Sea, St. John the Evangelist and St. Margaret.

The resignations are required because the 12 collaboratives, or clusters of churches, formed from the 28 parishes are now considered “open parishes,” according to the Rev. Paul Soper, director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese.

Any pastor submitting a letter of resignation can apply to be pastor of the new collaborative, as can priests from outside. The new pastors will be named in March.

In the meantime, the local pastors will continue to serve at their respective churches at least until June, when transfers are expected to take place. Even if they’re not named to head the new collaboratives, it’s possible some priests could remain within the collaborative, which will have a pastoral team of priests and staff, a parish council and a finance committee.

But, for now, with so many unknowns, it is a time of uncertainty for priests in this first phase of a major reorganization. Over the next five years, priests in all 288 parishes in the archdiocese will go through the same experience.

“Some people are very anxious about it,” said the Rev. Timothy Murphy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Salem.

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