“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.

-Statement by MPS President Mauro DePasquale-

Sadly, WSC Judge Wrenn made his decision to deny our appeal for the State of Massachusetts DCAM to take agency action in pursuing a legal course to their property by virtue of exercising site controls and existing deed restrictions. A favorable decision by Judge Wrenn could have ignited MEPA regulations, requiring an ENF (Environmental Notice Form) to be filed that would in good faith, have made the process transparent and provided the opportunity for public to review and have input into the process.
Something our historic and architecturally unique Church and all of Worcester and communities well deserve.

Judge Wrenn’s decision lost the best chance to save, preserve and possibly, at the very least, repurpose the Church in accordance with the recommendations from the International Bishops’ Conference “Does God Dwell Here Anymore?” A chance for it to live on in service to humanity on many levels.

Our community is br​​oken hearted but remains, as it has during the entire three-year struggle, steadfast and thankful to their Faith, parish Church, and to their heritage and parish family.

Personally, I have found their work, drive, professionalism, diligence, fortitude, and love for their Faith and Church stunning.

They organized, researched successful models (that had far worse church conditions and chances, but still managed to become living Shrines), moved academic studies and primary historical points forward.

They also ran successful fundraising programs, started a non-profit Preservation Society, took their plea to save their Church to the Pastor, the Bishop, to Rome, to the Vatican, and ultimately, to the Pope.

They also took their appeal to the City leadership and to civil courts.

They amassed over 13,000 signatures petitioning to save Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street.

They prayed together and never gave up, despite the deaf ears of Diocesan leadership. They always knew, and still believe today, that saving and preserving the church would not be insurmountable. In some ways they may never give up. However, they may have exhausted every avenue possible.

Those who stood tall through the three-year battle to save the Church will always be thinking “WHY”.

“Why?”: City Council records show the City Inspector stated in public at a City Council and on record, that there was no reason the church needed to be demolished. The church’s façade needed to be fixed and through the advocacy of MPS members with the Historic Commission, a one year stay against demolition was ordered, forcing the Diocese to address the safety issue, and pay for the repairs to the façade. Despite continued misinformation from the Diocese, the exterior of the church was made safe. But the Diocese would never allow MPS’s engineers to inspect their work, claiming repeatedly that the “church was crumbling.” “Why?” “Why ?” did the Pastor lock the doors and keep us from looking deeper into how we might develop a strategy to preserve it; “Why?”, After we offered to, why not talk with a community delegation that included federal, state, city, neighborhood, and preservationist leadership to explore ways possible ways to save the church for the benefit of the entire City; “Why?” Why not respect the recommendations of the International Bishops’ Conference which suggested to repurpose churches toward service in keeping with our Catholic mission; “Why?” Why not follow a transparent process under MEPA regulations; “Why?” Why handle the closure in such a contentious manor and risk losing more parishioners; “Why?” Why do we find other churches, for example, one practically burnt completely down, that have been restored with, what seemed to us, so much less effort and struggle; “Why?” Why not give MPS and its supporters a chance to save their church? These are many questions that will linger for years to come.

MOUNT CARMEL PRESERVATION SOCIETY and its supporters did their very best, the best anyone could do, given the situation. What an incredible testament of perseverance determination and faith.

We pray that a developer will come along with the intent to save this beautiful historic treasure for the benefit of all stake holders. MPS is willing to work tirelessly to contribute toward such a intent. I have created a beautiful vision development plan for the property that preserves the church as a living shrine in the midst of of an Italian Piazza buzzing with boutique shops, caffe, and housing. A perfect Shrewsbury St./gateway destination. We still have hope.

Finally, no one should forget the history of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and its people, the people who built it. It was many of their children who began the Mount Carmel Preservation Society and the effort to save their church.

MPS started its mission out of love and respect for Christ and His Catholic Church, for Faith, for our sacred and historic gathering space (the Church), for our Italian heritage, for our neighborhood and parish community.

From the depths of my heart I wish to thank all who have supported and contributed to MPS’s efforts. Thank you for the tremendous sacrifice each of you have made, and for some, made with political risk. Thank you also to the families of members, who also endured more than three years of sacrifice, emotional pain, and hardship to fight this difficult battle.

We understand that many people may never understand the depth and meaning behind our advocacy to preserve our beloved Church. We hold no animosity and we appreciate the opinions of others.

In communion with the generations of the faithful who built the National Italian Catholic Church of Worcester, our beautiful and treasured Church on Mulberry Street, we will always cherish moments praying together, as we have the past three years, every week, for the survival of our Catholic Faith, and purpose to seek God’s Will. That has always been the heart of it all.

We will, in one way or another, always rally together to re-member Christ and to pray with Him, to see God’s will be done, for peace, understanding, closure, to pray for all our communal family, even for those who were against us, and most of all, for divine Love to flourish.

Christ has promised us His love eternal and although one day the world and heavens will end, His word and His love, will never die.

We always recognized that our true church of Christ resides in our hearts, especially as we heartily gather, two or more of us, together. Our community remains strong and awake. Our Church has been rebuilt in the depths our hearts. We will never forget “Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Mauro DePasquale
Mount Carmel Preservation Society

http://www.preserveourladyofmountcarmel.org

7/29/19

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– IMAGINE –

Vision plan for OLMTC – Mauro DePasquale

Vision: Transforming OLMC campus into a beautiful and full functioning recreation of an historic Italian Piaza with OLMC as the focal point.

The whole lot is called the Shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Church building is operated by a Society of the Faithful, in partnership with the Diocese and MPS, as a sacred space, where Catholic Masses are conducted weekly, along with use for baptisms, funerals, weddings, sacred events and celebrations.

The surrounding area used for residential and retail. Where we will find quaint Cafes, Italian fashion boutiques, a restaurant, Italian specialty shop, or a new home for operations such as “EATALY “experiencing great success in Boston, and to include a community space run by MPS (For educational classes, Italian cultural use, and community creative and gathering space, which can also draw revenues).

The Piaza can host outdoor weddings, concerts, Italian Festivals, and other Community Gala events. This rented space will help to sustain the Church which will also serve spin off benefits, as a gateway tourist destination, for all of Worcester and especially its adjacent Restaurant Row (Shrewsbury Street) and Theater and Downtown district.

Mount Carmel Preservation Society in 2017.

Mauro DePasquale
President MPS

IMG_1874

Important Mt. Carmel meeting May 21 at 6pm

Please attend the working membership meeting on May 21 at 6pm as we prepare for our Court hearing which will be at the end of the month. The meeting will be at WCCA, 415 Main St., Worcester, MA.

  1. MPS is in court because we seek the RIGHT to be heard, as ALL stake holders do. The right to contribute information, ideas, opinions and money we can raise, to aid and or to be considered in the decision process as to the reuse of this historic church building (Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street).
  2. Its demolition represents a major and devastating change in our environment and to our community.
  3. The Law requires this is given to us. The Public has a right to be at the table.
  4. We need time to allow for further study, assessment, and consideration to find a sustainable purpose for this, one of top seven, most endangered historic resources in the Commonwealth.

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

Contact your leaders to save Our Lady of Mount Carmel

It is critical that you act today to contact our government leaders, (Federal, State and Local), seek assurance they will do all that is possible to help us save our historic, and culturally significant church and community. While our Appeals in Vatican ARE STILL PENDING we need to be vigilant and to call attention to possible civil recourse. We are doing all we can to save the Church and we need your help.

– Here’s a simple way you can help. Please find herein, a basic template that members can edit and forward letters to all related politicians and leadership. Phone call or send a letter. The template includes a contact list for various legislators.

Do not limit your outreach to just Worcester, OLMC is one of the top 5 most endangered historic resources in the Commonwealth.

A great City is made so because it has the following qualities:

  • Is steeped in History and Culture;
  • has an abundance of Historic Structures such as Religious Buildings, Museums, ruins, galleries;
  • has a sense of community;
  • has a diverse environment;
  • has Open and inviting spaces and Parks;
  • and is Unique.

Our Lady of Mount is ALL OF THE ABOVE. God willing except for the “ruins”. MPS is working, raising money, reaching out, to save a sacred space and something that really is a part of ALL THAT IS WORCESTER, in every aspect of the above. We must all stand tall together to ensure we, as a people, as a city, are not diminished in anyway. SAVE OUT LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL!  MPS has appeals pending in Vatican of of this writing, and we are financial ready to pursue civil means if need be. We are on the move.

We had a great turnout of MPS members as well as state & city delegation representatives at our LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST this morning.

A special thank you to Senator Michael Moore, who stepped up to the plate concerning MA deed use restrictions placed on Mount Carmel many years ago. Thank you to the following community leaders that took time to attend the breakfast and further strategize:

  • Congressman Jim McGovern
  • State Senator Michael Moore
  • District Attorney Joe Early
  • State Representative Mary O’Keefe
  • State Representative Dan Donahue
  • Mayor Joe Petty

City Councilors:

  • Mo Bergman
  • Gary Rosen
  • Kate Toomey
  • and our own district Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson

We are asking our supporters to please contact our legislators to also thank them for their support and to continue to urge the Bishop to consider means possible to save the church.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is everything that makes a city great.

STILL STANDING WE PRESS ON ! SHARE THIS PAGE TODAY

Here are MCPS POINTS OF INFORMATION YOU SHOULD KNOW

Three important points to memorize:
*The Church facade has been already made safe and deemed safe by the City Inspectors,
* Better asset management and a solid fundraising plan can cover restoration and maintenance cost over the long term
* MCPS has the people/talent already working toward our mission, however it will take contributions from the entire community to succeed. Together we that can preserve the Church .
POINTS OF INFORMATION

OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH IS STILL STANDING

  1. The Church was closed suddenly on May 1, 2016.  From the pulpit parishioners were told that the City of Worcester mandated the building be closed due to safety reasons.   THE TRUTH:  City officials stated that they did not mandate the church be closed. A tie back costing between $90,000-$125,000 was required to reopen the front doors of the church.
  2. Since May 2016 Mount Carmel Preservation Society, Inc (MCPS) was formed by parishioners who reviewed the financial statements of Mt. Carmel and devised a plan to save the church through improved management of the assets of the parish.
  3. MCPS is a 501 © 3 corporation authorized to do due business in Massachusetts and is registered with the IRS.  Learn more about us here: https://preserveourladyofmountcarmel.org/organization-mount-carmel-preservation-society-a-501c3-organization/
  4. MCPS wants to save the church, the parish, the community along with the historic building and artifacts that came from our ancestors.
  5. MCPS has filed two separate appeals with the Bishop on the merger of the parish with Our Lady of Loretto and the relegation of the building to profane not sordid use. The Bishop denied these, MCPS filed appeals at the Vatican.  Currently we have hired a lawyer who can present our cause to the Vatican high court.  OUR CHURCH BUILDING CANNOT BE SOLD UNTIL OUR APPEALS HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED.  THIS IS PER CANON LAW.
  6. MCPS has kept the traditions alive that our ancestors brought with them from Italy. Such things as the Feast of Mount Carmel, Christmas parties and other events that the Mt. Carmel community can come together.
  7. MCPS exploring all options to keep the church building standing as a holy space, as a historic building, as a testament to our ancestors and their journey setting in Worcester and as a gem in the community.
  8. MCPS holds a weekly rosary, currently at the Mount Carmel Apartments on Sundays at 10 am.
  9. MCPS hopes to succeed in the Vatican appeals or through the purchase or gifting of the building. In order to make this a reality MCPS must be in a position to have funds available for whatever option becomes available.

MCPS IS SEEKING PLEDGES TO PRESERVE MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH. IT IS ONE OF SEVEN TOP MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC RESOURCES IN MASSACHUSETTS.

FOR THIS PURPOSE.  IF YOU PLEDGE $1000 THAT IS $20 PER WEEK FOR ONE YEAR, $2000 IS $40 PER WEEK FOR ONE YEAR OR $20 FOR TWO YEARS.

To make a Pledge download and complete this form and send it to

MOUNT CARMEL PRESERVATION SOCIETY, c/o 146 Morningside Road, Worcester, MA 01602  :   PLEDGE FORM SOLO

To make a donation TODAY :

Send a check payable to : Mount Carmel Preservation Society C/O Commerce Bank, P.O. 15020, Worcester MA 01615-9955. Eric Pereira.

PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT:  WWW.PRESERVEOURLADYOFMOUNTCARMEL.ORG