“Mount Carmel Preservation Society still fighting unjust demolition”

Op-ed by Mauro DePasquale:

This is in response to Rick Annuziata’s letter to the editor, published in the Telegram & Gazette on Aug. 8:

I find Mr. Annuziata’s comments deeply offensive and hurtful to an entire community of the faithful. I challenge anyone to honestly and objectively conduct a comprehensive investigation to explore all the possible ways to save and maintain Mount Carmel well into the future as a functioning church, living shrine or service to the Catholic mission.

I can tell you after three years in this effort to save and protect it, we learned there are many examples that prove saving, preserving and sustaining the architecturally beautiful and irreplaceable church was not insurmountable. Remember it was made safe nearly three years ago before they disconnected the water and heating system, exposing the church to the elements, and according to the city building commissioner, it was safe. In spite of all of that, including over thousands of petitioners, the fresh ideas and all resources for support MPS brought to the table were rejected by the diocese.

Many of our members represent generations of loyal and active parishioners. We have a God-given and legal right to voice our opinion and to protest the ripping apart of our community of faith and the demolition of a sacred and historically and architecturally significant gathering space that was paid for and initially built by these parishioners or their family members.

If Mr. Annunziata doesn’t agree with that, fine. However, to resort to inflammatory language in attempt to belittle our rights or our free speech is anti-Catholic and anti-American. Mount Carmel Preservation Society is not the liar in this story. Our experience and communications with the pastor and the bishop has been recorded, archived, cc’d, witnessed and can be verified. Check City Hall hearing records, check our minutes and recording devices.

We believe saving and sustaining the church is possible. Why not give it a try, at the very least? It is one of the top seven most endangered historic resources in the commonwealth. The entire community benefits by saving it from an unjust closing and, even more heinous, demolition. Preservation far outweighs the cost it would take to sustain it.

Don’t take our word, read the “Adaptive Reuse: Restoring Purpose” report issued by WPI. Read the historical research that qualifies the church for the National Register. Look at the many models of churches across the nation that were in worse condition and were saved and made sustainable as living shrines or some other use related to the Catholic mission. Read the opinions and guidelines, reflected in the International Bishops Conference “Doesn’t God Dwell Here Anymore?” guidelines the pope called to adopt.

If the pastor opened the doors to us after the church was made safe nearly three years ago, MPS would have handed him resources to keep it open while we continued to raise much more to make repairs over time. He chose instead to string us along, and as many have testified with apparent vindictive actions and statements. Should a developer come along in this 11th hour with an openness to save the church in any capacity, MPS would gladly contribute toward such an intent, in any way possible.

Who knows? A nice Italian piazza full of boutique shops and a cafe, surrounding an authentic shrine, like many squares in Italy, would be a great destination in a gateway location. The state’s reversion clause still carries for the majority of the parcels that makes up the parish campus. We hope the state legislature will do the right thing and what best for the entire community and allow the community at large to be heard before it takes agency action.

At the end of the day, members of MPS are simply Catholics who love Christ, our faith, our heritage, and our community. A group of people who tried their best to save their church from unjust demolition. I personally wish to thank each and every one of them. It is with utmost love and respect of God’s will we pray for mercy and healing for our parish, our community, for the pastor, bishop, and Catholicism to overcome all the problems facing the church today, even as the diocese hierarchy knocks down our churches and pushes us away. No matter what happens to the historic and irreplaceable building, that was once a home to our sacred experience as an Italian Catholic community, the church dwells, preserved, with the light of Christ in our hearts.