A proposal to unify three Catholic churches in North Attleborough has received approval from Bishop Edgar da Cunha.
Announced in the Dec. 13 edition of The Anchor, the decree states that the three churches will be “suppressed.” The three churches—St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, St. Mark’s Church, and Sacred Heart Church—will retain their names but be under the title of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish. In addition, the canonical registers, financial obligations, and properties will belong to the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish.
The decree becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020.
First proposed in late November, the intent of the unification is to utilize strategic planning to allow for parishioners and clergy to work together to identify current and future challenges, as well as develop goals for growth and revitalization.
Christopher Servant—a Saint Mark’s parishioner and member of the Unification Assembly—said at an informational meeting that a study of Catholic churches in the United States has shown that 3,363 parishes are without a resident priest. Baptisms are down 44 percent and mass attendance is down 37 percent.
“If we don’t do something, the Catholic faith may soon be a thing of the past,” he said at a meeting held on Nov. 24.
Servant added that Mass has been reduced in number to cope with staffing shortages, and a financial report shows that all three churches are living well beyond their means. The unification would look at building assessments, unused and used properties, and seek to form a group for youth ministry and community service.
At this time there are no plans to change Mass schedules. Building funds will be frozen until an assessment of the three churches can be completed. Money from the weekly collections will go into a central budget and used to cover expenses at all three church. The Catholic school will remain as it is.