St. Charles Borromeo parishioners plan protest at final Mass

St. Charles Borromeo parishioners plan protest at final Mass

WOONSOCKET – A group of parishioners from St. Charles Borromeo Church haven’t had success convincing the Diocese of Providence to delay closure of their historic parish, but that’s not stopping them from taking their fight to the pews.

After receiving a letter from Bishop Thomas Tobin confirming the closure this week, the group says they plan to continue the protest and make their message known at the parish’s scheduled final Mass this Sunday, Jan.12, at 9 a.m.

“We’re going to be there with posters and banners and shirts saying to keep our church open,” said Albert Beauparlant, chairman of the Committee to Save St. Charles Borromeo Church.

Late last fall, the group hired a canonical lawyer, Robert Flummerfelt, to plead their case before the diocese. Specifically, they asked that the parish be allowed to remain open for another year as parishioners attempt to recover Mass attendance and increase participation.

On Monday, Tobin responded to that request, confirming the decision to close the parish in a letter to Flummerfelt.

“Based on the clear decline in sacramental practice and Mass attendance, I remain convinced that the suppression of the parish is justified,” he wrote. “The parish-provided data included in my decree of suppression is compelling: total registered families have declined from 190 in 2012 to approximately 90.”

The decision has struck a nerve for some long-time parishioners who say they don’t feel the diocese did enough in the years leading up to the closure to keep the parish healthy. Parishioners have also pointed to the parish’s financial solvency and argued that other parishes in the city might be more aptly considered for closure before St. Charles.

Since making their campaign public, members of the committee said they’ve received an outpouring of support from St. Charles parishioners and others in the city who don’t want to see the parish close. The committee launched a website, www.savesaintcharles.com, and said they’re well on their way to reaching a $10,000 fundraising goal.

“We’ve spent already a substantial amount of money legally and we have revenue sources that will support us to go further. We plan on pursuing it to its fullest,” said Richard Monteiro, vice-chairman of the committee.

Their next step, said Monteiro, will be to continue legal action through their canonical lawyer, though he’s not sure whether that will take place in the U.S. or whether the committee will have to appeal directly to the Vatican. The group, he said, is looking at other cases of church closures for guidance.

In the meantime, the parish is moving forward with its final Mass on Sunday, and committee members plan to distribute a petition outside the church.

“While it might be the last Mass for a while, as far as the committee is concerned, we are not done. We are not disbanding,” said Monteiro.