Parishioners seek to save church, keep Latin Mass

By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff | July 25, 2005

As parishioners struggle to save the Holy Trinity Church in the South End from closing, they say they are both fighting the loss of their spiritual home and resisting the possible demise of a tradition found nowhere else in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Breaking News Alerts Approximately 20 parishioners gathered yesterday outside the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Union Park Street in Boston, where Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley lives, demanding to know why Holy Trinity was among 76 parishes chosen for closure.

Many said they believed it is because of their traditionalist background that Holy Trinity is on the list, a charge a church spokesman said is untrue.

Terrence C. Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese, reiterated the basic reasons for church closures — a shortage of priests, parishioners, and money — and insisted the Latin Mass would continue elsewhere.

”The Latin Mass is going to continue . . . at another church,” he said, referring to St. James the Greater on Harrison Avenue, where the archdiocese plans to move Holy Trinity’s worshipers by mid-December.

Holy Trinity is the only church in the archdiocese that offers some masses in Latin, parishioners said. All Catholic Masses were said in Latin until the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965 and the church swept in a more contemporary form of worship in vernacular languages.

”The US bishops want the church to be modern,” said worshiper Wendy Maynard, 35, of Carver. ”If people are so attached to something that’s old, they feel it’s a criticism of what’s new.”

A Latin Mass was not offered in the archdiocese until 1990, when the church allowed the tradition to resume at Holy Trinity Church, said parishioner Kathleen Stone of Hull.

Holy Trinity parishioners say there is little parking around St. James the Greater. Holy Trinity has ample parking for worshipers, which better suits the people who drive from miles away to attend the Latin Mass.

”If they move us down to St. James, that’s the end of Latin Mass,” said Stone, 57.

With the restricted parking parishioners expect on Harrison Avenue, many said they fear they will be unable to socialize as they do now.

The archdiocese’s decision appears to be an attempt to get rid of the Latin Mass, said James W. McCloskey, 62, of West Roxbury, as he marched outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in a small circle with his fellow protesters, who also sang hymns, prayed the rosary, and held signs calling for more communication with the church hierarchy. ”I honestly believe they want to bust us, decimate us,” said McCloskey. ”We’re second-class citizens.”

Parishioners said yesterday they had yet to receive a satisfactory answer on why their church, which they say is debt-free and growing, was picked for closure. But Donilon said the archdiocese is trying to work with worshipers.

”We are trying to take a difficult process and turn it into a positive and spiritual process,” he said. ”We’d ask them to help us in that and join us in that.”

Worshiper Leo Higgins, 48, of Plymouth, who organized yesterday’s protest, said the group will keep returning every Sunday and repeat yesterday’s actions until O’Malley agrees to meet with them. ”We expect we’ll be back,” he said.

Maria Cramer can be reached at

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