One pastor for three churches

March 4, 2011
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Courtesy Photo
Rev. Alonso Macias, the new pastor of all three of Jamaica Plain’s Catholic parishes.

Catholic parishes reduce staff

One pastor took over all three of Jamaica Plain’s Roman Catholic churches this week, the latest step in the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic presence.

Rev. Alonso Macias is headquartered at Brookside’s Our Lady of Lourdes (OLOL) and is also overseeing Egleston Square’s St. Mary of the Angels and South Street’s St. Thomas Aquinas, whose pastors left last week.

While services will continue at the churches, Boston Archiocese spokesperson Terrence Donilon could not immediately comment on whether other parish buildings such as rectories might be closed.

Former OLOL pastor Rev. Michael Sevigny is remaining as a “parochial vicar” to assist Macias, Donilon said.

“He is an exceptional priest who has served the faithful well in a variety of roles,” Donilon said of Macias. “The Archdiocese will work closely with Fr. Macias and the parishes in order that we casn provide for the pastoral care of the Catholic community.”

Macias, 50, was born in Mexico and has served in the Boston area for a decade, including as the Archdiocese’s coordinator of Hispanic ministries. Most recently, he was parochial vicar at Cambridge’s St. Mary of the Annunciation.

Macias, who took over the JP parishes on March 1, could not be reached for comment.

“The effort here is to provide a more robust pastoral service to the diverse communities that worship at these three churches,” Donilon said. He noted that Macias and Sevigny speak both English and Spanish.

Macias will coordinate pastoral services for the parishes, while the Archdiocese will provide support on such issues as budgeting, said Donilon.

Rev. Michael Harkins, who was pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas for six years, will become the parochial vicar of a church in Newton, according to the St. Thomas church bulletin.

The Catholic presence in JP and the city has been shrinking as the Archdiocese deals with changing demographics, declining attendance and hard-to-maintain properties. Consolidation of parish administrations has been one tactic.

Since the year 2000, JP has seen two Catholic parishes disappear: Forest Hills’ St. Andrew the Apostle in 2000, and Hyde Square’s Blessed Sacrament in 2004. Both of those parish complexes have been sold and reused. St. Mary of the Angels dodged closure in 2005 after protests by parishioners.

The last Catholic school in JP, part of the OLOL complex at 54 Brookside Ave., closed in 2009 amid bitter protests from parents and parishioners. The school building remains vacant.

“The future use of the school building at OLOL has not been determined,” Donilon said. “The parish cannot afford to maintain this building and will need to determine a future use.”

St. Thomas Aquinas at 97 South St. was established in 1869. St. Mary of the Angels at 377 Walnut Ave. was founded in 1906 and has had a “parish administrator” rather than a pastor at various points in its history, according to the parish web site at www.rc.net/boston/stmaryoftheangels.

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