CHICOPEE, Mass. (RNS) In what one expert is calling a landmark decision, three closed Catholic churches in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., have been given at least a partial reprieve.
St. Patrick’s and St. George churches in Chicopee and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams each received decisions from the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome which will allow the three churches to reopen.

More than 200 church members have taken turns to occupy St. Stanislaus around-the-clock since Dec. 26, 2008, to try to keep it open.

“We are just very happy and deeply grateful and we feel very blessed that our prayers have been answered,” Laurie D. Haas, of Adams, said.

While the decree allows the churches to be reopened, it upholds the right of the bishop to dissolve the parishes, leaving questions about staffing and membership.

About a dozen parishes had appealed decisions from diocesan officials to close or merge 69 churches in western Massachusetts.

While churches are celebrating, Peter Borre, chairman of the Boston-based Council of Parishes, who helped two parishes file appeals, said the decree is complex.

It upheld the decision from Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell to merge or close the parishes– the territory the church serves—but also calls for the churches to remain open.

“This is a split decision. You lose the parish but gain the church,” he said.

“There is a whole world of detail and that has to be the next fight,” he said. “Springfield will be plowing fresh ground with this.”

(Jeanette DeForge writes for The Republican in Springfield, Mass.)

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