December 31, 2017

Welcoming refugees, winning sports teams, new Elms president are highlights in 2017

Staff report

(IObserve photo/courtesy of Catholic Charities Agency)


SPRINGFIELD – In a year filled with political controversies and revelations of harassment in entertainment and other industries, Catholics in the Springfield Diocese persevered in efforts to serve God’s people and share the compassion of Christ throughout western Massachusetts.

Here are some of the highlights:


On Jan. 5, as the issue of immigration continued to capture headlines nationally and globally, Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announced a plan for the resettlement of 51 refugees by the diocese’s Catholic Charities Agency. In the face of a Jan. 27 presidential executive order suspending admissions from targeted Muslim-majority countries, and as the ban worked its way through federal appeals and suspensions, local preparations continued for the welcoming of refugees to western Massachusetts.

In a letter released in late January, Bishop Rozanski wrote: “I feel when you see refugees and immigrants face to face, you will not see a threat, rather encounter good people earnestly seeking to find a new home in which they can find welcome, peace, and the promise of safety.”

(IObserve photo/John Thornton)


Local Catholic schools were in the news in February as the Pope Francis High School hockey team headed for the finals and four Catholic school teachers received the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation. Teachers receiving the award were Michelle Castonguay of St. Thomas the Apostle School, West Springfield; Gayle Pula of Mater Dolorosa School, Holyoke; Kathleen Hutchison of St. John the Baptist School, Ludlow; and Katelyn Kurpaska of St. Joan of Arc School, Chicopee.


The diocese’s Annual Catholic Appeal, launched on March 1, 2017, raised more than $700,000 toward its $2.6 million goal in its first week. The appeal, held during the season of Lent each year, helps to fund more than 40 local agencies, programs and ministries that provide aid to families and individuals of all ages throughout western Massachusetts.

Held on March 25 at the Bellamy School in Chicopee, the 15th Annual Catholic Men’s Conference welcomed speakers Sean Forrest of Movin’ With the Spirit Ministries; Sam Todzia of Red Barn Ministries; and Mario Enzler, founder of New England Classical Academy and a former member of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard. 


Returning from his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Bishop Rozanski shared some of his experiences in his “From the Bishop” column in The Catholic Mirror, noting, “After seeing the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Resurrection and Mt. Tabor, the place of Jesus’ Transfiguration, the most impressive sight to me was looking from the Church of St. Peter in Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Our guide reminded us that Jesus would have watched the soldiers, bearing their torches, leaving the house of Caiphas and proceeding across that valley to where Jesus and his disciples were that Holy Thursday night in the Garden.” The bishop reminded Catholics that, “We cannot arrive at Easter without the Garden of Gethsemane and Calvary.”

The 10th annual Catholic Women’s Conference was held on April 22 and featured Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart; Therese Wilson Favors, director of African American Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Baltimore; and speaker and writer Patricia Livingston.


Joel Brind, a professor of human biology and endocrinology from Baruch College of the City University of New York was the keynote speaker at the Pioneer Valley Massachusetts Citizens for Life 44th annual Mother’s Day Dinner, held May 11 at Chez Jozef in Agawam.

Pope Francis leads a vigil in the Little Chapel of the Apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 12. The pope was making a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize two of the young seers. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

The worldwide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, was marked locally beginning in May with a series of special events at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine at St. Mary Parish in Hampden; a special talk by Conventual Franciscan Father James McCurry at St. Elizabeth Parish in Ludlow; and a novena and special liturgies and processions at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow.

On May 20, nine men were ordained to the permanent diaconate for the Springfield Diocese, including Gilbert St. George-Sorel of St. Mary Parish in Ware; Gerald Solitario of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield; Adalberto Santiago-Martinez of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Holyoke; Lino Sanmiguel of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Chicopee; Jose Rivera of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield; David Picard of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Agawam; Rodney Patten Jr. of Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield; John Fox of Divine Mercy Parish in Three Rivers; and David Bergeron of St. Patrick Parish in South Hadley.


In a bittersweet ceremony on June 4, the final 19 graduates of St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield received diplomas. This was the 115th graduating class of the school, founded in 1897 at St. Joseph Academy and staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The school’s principal, Amy Gelinas, praised the graduates and said the school’s legacy would continue long after the closing of its doors.

Clearway Clinic, a nonprofit, state licensed clinic specializing in pregnancy diagnosis and medical confirmation, announced it would open a new location in Springfield in 2018.

Transitional Deacon Barrent Pease became the diocese’s newest priest during a June 10 ordination liturgy at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield. “I’m excited to be serving the people of God as another Christ, to make present in time the paschal mystery in the sacrament of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick,” Father Pease said after the Mass.

The baseball team of St. Mary High School in Westfield made history, winning the Division IV state championship on June 17 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The team was the first in the school’s history to win a state championship.


(IObserve photo/courtesy of Elms College)

Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee welcomed Harry E. Dumay as its 11th president on July 1. A native of Haiti, who holds a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Boston College, came to Elms with 19 years of experience in higher education at senior and executive levels. With a commitment to diversity, academics and social justice, the new president said he hopes to preserve the legacy and values of the Sisters of St. Joseph and to assure affordability for families.

Pope Francis High School, at its temporary location in Chicopee, welcomed its new head of school, W. Paul Harrington Jr., a native of Holliston, Mass., received his doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Southern California. He said his vision for the school includes a future filled with “innovation, opportunity, faith formation and academic excellence.”


At a daylong program, diocesan clergy, religious, lay ministers and volunteers were introduced to VIRTUS, a national online training program designed to provide ongoing guidance and support in protecting children and vulnerable adults against sexual abuse.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield announced on Aug. 14 that they had exceeded the goal of the “Support the Sisters” capital campaign launched to support the care of the congregation’s elderly sisters. The Support the Sisters campaign was announced in May of 2015 to close a $5 million gap for the care and living expenses of retired sisters. Bishop Rozanski served as honorary chair of that campaign.


Grammy award-winning Christian singer-songwriter John Michael Talbot performed on Sept. 15 at Westfield State University’s Dever Stage at Parenzo Hall. Sponsored by St. Mary Parish in Westfield and the Albert and Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center at Westfield State, the concert was part of local evangelization efforts.

Fathers Matthew Alcombright and Michael Wood were named co-directors of the diocese’s Vocations Office. Beginning on Oct. 1, they would take over the position filled by Father Gary M. Dailey for the last 13 years. Father Dailey continues as director of the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

In a letter sent to parishes on Sept. 26, Bishop Rozanski requested that a special collection be taken up to help with Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.


Concluding the local celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, an outdoor closing Mass and procession was held at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow. Concelebrants were Father Vitor Manuel Dinis Olivera, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish; Father Matthew Alcombright, pastor of Mary Mother of Hope Parish in Springfield; and Father Gary M. Dailey, director of the Newman Catholic Center in Amherst.

(IObserve photo/Stephen Kiltonic)

An Oct. 29 prayer service at St. Michael’s Cathedral brought Catholics, Lutherans and members of the interfaith community together to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Bishop Rozanski and Rev. Lauren Holm (pictured at left), pastor of Bethesda Lutheran Church in Springfield, led the group in song and prayer. After the service, all participants were invited to the Bishop Marshall Center for some light refreshments and to prepare meals for the homeless.


On Nov. 3, Bishop Rozanski issued a statement in opposition to proposed legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts. “While supporters deceptively portray this as a compassionate effort, it is far from that, which is why groups representing some of the most vulnerable in our society, the disabled and elderly, remain in strong opposition,” the bishop wrote. “And despite baseless assertions to the contrary, enabling suicide under such vague guidelines leaves the door wide open to abuse and a slippery slope of an ever-increasing acceptance. In a time when we are confronted by a crisis of teen suicide, such an effort would no doubt send our young people a mixed message.” 

Deacon Pedro Rivera, who serves at St. Mary Parish in Westfield, was named director of the diocese’s Catholic Latino Ministry office.


The diocese made the myParish app available to all parishes. The app, available for iOS and Android devices, will put church events, Mass and confession times, daily readings, prayers, Catholic news, discussion groups, online giving and more at the fingertips of families and individuals overwhelmed by the busyness of modern living. Customized for each parish, the app can be downloaded by texting “App” to phone number 88202, or by visiting

Following the Dec. 20 death of Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston, Bishop Rozanski issued a statement acknowledging the pain that continues for clergy abuse victims, writing: “And while our faith community has made much progress in implementing protections and procedures to safeguard against a repeat of past failures, for those who were victimized the pain remains very real, and perhaps heightened in light of news coverage surrounding Cardinal Law’s death.”

As the year drew to a close and Christians prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus, parishioners of two Westfield parishes, St. Mary’s and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, prepared a special evening of food, music and gifts for displaced Puerto Rican families.

And Bishop Rozanski, in his Christmas homily, reminded Catholics to share the gift of Jesus, especially his message of hope,  as they welcomed the new year.

On the weekend of Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, Bishop Rozanski announced the closing of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in the Liberty Heights section of Springfield, citing declining attendance and financial concerns, which were discussed in an open parish meeting in November.

Bishop Rozanski wrote, “I am sure for those who regularly attend Mass these findings of decreased attendance came as no great surprise. Of course such a decline also has a direct impact on the financial stability of your parish community. This is a scenario we have seen play out in a number of other parishes, where despite the dedicated efforts of parishioners, their beloved parishes were no longer able to be sustainable.”

Bishop Rozanski designated Immaculate Conception Parish in Indian Orchard as the receiving and welcoming parish, instructing Father Stanley Sokol, who served as pastor of both Our Lady of the Rosary and Immaculate Conception, to reconstitute both the finance and parish councils to include members of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The parish will close Jan. 28., after the final Mass.