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Familiar faces in parish changes

Six of nine already serving churches in new collaboratives

The exterior of the St. Michael Church in North Andover. The parish is one of a few in the Boston archdiocese that will be one large parish, with about 5,000 registered members.

David Kamerman for The Boston Globe

The exterior of the St. Michael Church in North Andover. The parish is one of a few in the Boston archdiocese that will be one large parish, with about 5,000 registered members.

Familiar faces will lead most of the nine new Catholic parish collaboratives formed north of Boston as part of the second phase of a major reorganization of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Six will be led by a pastor already serving one or more parishes chosen for collaboratives in Littleton-Westford, Lowell, Medford, Middle-tonTopsfield, North Andover, and Wilmington.

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Pastors from outside the areas were chosen for collaboratives in Amesbury-Salisbury, Gloucester-Rockport, and Saugus.

The nine pastors appointed by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley were among those selected to lead 21 collaboratives picked for the second round of Disciples in Mission, a pastoral plan to rebuild the archdiocese.

The plan aims to address challenges facing parishes across the archdiocese, including a priest shortage, declining Mass attendance, weak finances, and aging facilities.

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Over the next six years, the archdiocese plans to group its 288 parishes into 135 collaboratives led by a single pastor. Each collaborative will also share a pastoral team that includes other clergy, staff, facilities, and resources.

Pastors were chosen to lead collaboratives on the basis of who could help Catholics renew their faith through evangelization.

‘I hope . . . the training we go through as a collaborative will help us focus on inviting and encouraging people to take part in our parish.’

REV. KEVIN DEELEY, St. Michael Parish, North Andover 
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“We tried, in each case, to make a judgment about what would be best for evangelization,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Planning. “We asked, ‘What is the best way forward for evangelization in that area?’ ”

The new pastors will attend four days of training in early March. They will start their new posts on June 3.

Some said they are eager to embrace their new assignments.

“I want people to understand that I want to be here,” said the Rev. Edward F. Doughty, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Medford for two years, who now will also lead St. Joseph Parish in the city.

‘‘I’m hoping people will appreciate that, and as we learn about each other, be patient.”

The Rev. Peter F. Quinn, the pastor since 2005 at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Westford, will also lead St. Anne in Littleton.

“The people at St. Anne are just wonderful,” said Quinn, who said he has celebrated Mass at the parish several times in recent years. “We’ve done great work at St. Catherine, and I really wanted to stay and advocate for that work to continue, but now with St. Anne.”

The Rev. Kevin Deeley, pastor of St. Michael Parish in North Andover, is among a handful of priests who will lead a collaborative made up of one large parish.

With about 5,000 registered parishioners, the church has an average weekly attendance of 2,500. The kindergarten through eighth grade St. Michael School has 535 students, Deeley said.

“We’re a very large and vibrant parish,” said Deeley, a former Navy chaplain who has been at St. Michael for two years. “I hope over the next 18 months, the training we go through as a collaborative will help us focus on inviting and encouraging people to take part in our parish.”

Along with a new pastor, each collaborative will have new priests. Those assignments should be made by Easter, and training will be held in May, Soper said.

In the first phase of Disciples of Mission, which started last June, 28 parishes were formed into 12 collaboratives, including in Beverly, Billerica, Lynn, Lynnfield, Methuen, and Salem.

Those collaboratives now are in a key phase: writing a local pastoral plan that will outline how each will implement parish-based evangelization. “The writing of a local pastoral plan is at the heart of what we’re doing,” Soper said.

The goal is to identify new parishioners and reach out to lapsed Catholics. Currently, only 20 percent of the estimated 1.8 million Catholics in the archdiocese attend Mass, Soper said.

“Our focus is on finding the other 80 percent,” said Soper, a former pastor in Beverly and Revere. “Every parish should rethink what it’s doing. A parish has to step back, look at itself, and retool for evangelization. That’s a big challenge.”

Pastors preparing for their new assignments say they plan to roll out a welcome mat.

“I want us, as a collaborative, to become more focused on inviting, and encouraging people to come back to the life of the church,” said Deeley, of St. Michael in North Andover. “We want those who aren’t coming to church now to join us.”

In Medford, Doughty hopes to make the K-8 St. Joseph School a focus of his ministry.

“One of the things that appealed to me about this collaborative was the school,” said Doughty, a former campus minister at Salem State University. “I think Catholic education is vitally important for the church and the community.”

Quinn hopes to build a collaborative of equal partners in Littleton and Westford.

“I want to assure the people at St. Anne’s that they’re not going to get swallowed up by a larger parish,” Quinn said. “I hope to split my time evenly between the two. It’s going to be a big adjustment for everyone.”

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@
globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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