Study offers solution to save a church but the Bishop is apparently not interested

Six WPI students have released a study finding that “the best course of action would be to adapt the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with mixed use.”

“Adaptive Reuse: Restoring Purpose” [PDF] finds that “this solution would potentially draw in outside individuals to the area which in turn would support local businesses. By using this method we would support the needs and desires of the local community while also creating a new destination for the entire community to use and enjoy.”

Bishop Robert Joseph McManus has recently refused to meet with a community delegation to explore possible paths toward saving historic Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street.

Motivated by the collective belief that a resolution toward saving Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is possible, Mount Carmel Preservation Society (M.P.S) issued a letter, on behalf of its membership, and signed by a delegation of federal and city leadership. The letter requested a meeting with the Bishop to ”discuss the importance of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street and all it represents to its celebrants; social and emotional connections from birth to death, cultural history, its sense of place in the community through its architecture, and the social and recreational opportunities it provides to the residents of the City of Worcester, whom we represent.” The letter continued to state, “A representative group of us can and will make ourselves available to meet with you and/or any of your representative(s) and we would respectfully ask that you respond accordingly.”

The Bishop’s response referred to MPS’ pursuit of hierarchical recourse against his decision to close the church and to merge the Parish with Our Lady of Loreto Church. The Bishop indicated that he has no intention whatsoever of changing his 2016 decision to close the church. Most importantly, the Bishop stated he plans to demolish the church and to sell the property. Pending MPS’s “final appeal to the Congresso of the Supreme Apostolic Signatura” in Rome, Bishop McManus stated that, for him, the matter is closed. Pending these appeals, the Bishop stated he plans to demolish historic Mount Carmel Church and to sell the Mulberry Street property.

The Bishop’s position to demolish the church is counter to guidelines developed last month by representatives of clergy at an international conference in Rome, Italy. This Vatican sponsored conference focused on the appropriate reuse of closed churches (see attached link of an article published in the Worcester Telegram ). Two MPS members attended the conference and learned of many examples of how closed church buildings have been successfully and creatively repurposed, in self-sustaining ways. These new guidelines require that closed churches be used for charity and not sold for profit. At the beginning of the conference, a message from Pope Francis, supporting these new guidelines, was read to the participants. Following the conference, MPS informed the Bishop its members are prepared to assist the Diocese in any way to adhere to these new guidelines and specific recommendations from Pope Francis, however, the Bishop did not respond to this offer.

In 2016, shortly after the church was closed, Preservation Worcester informed the Diocese that Mount Carmel Church was nominated for the National Historic Register (N.H.R.).

Diocesan leadership refused to allow this registration, which qualifies NHR listed buildings to receive historic grants, which pay for forty percent of the cost to repair these historic buildings.

From the standpoint of the Mount Carmel Preservation Society, if the church is taken down by the Bishop, he will be demolishing not only a beautiful, irreplaceable historic jewel of Worcester, but the focal point of our strong, vibrant immigrant heritage, which has been an important part of the history and identity of Italian Americans in Worcester, MA.

Mount Carmel Preservation Society (M.P.S.), a non-profit organization, intends to continue efforts to preserve the church and to save its historic community. The Society held a recent successful fundraiser at Union Station, and intends to pursue all means possible to save the church, leaving no stone unturned. Church or no Church, the members of the Society will persevere, and this matter is definitely not going away.

Mauro DePasquale for the Mount Carmel Preservation Society