Re-claiming their parish

Re-claiming their parish

I’ve received the following email from a parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Newton, Mass., where Fr. Walter Cuenin was the pastor.

My wife and I (and two sons) live in the OLHC parish, about a mile from the church.  We had attended mass elsewhere before moving to this community, but when we moved here we chose to attend the services here in the parish.  It was our understanding that the Church encourages people to attend services locally, and to avoid “parish-shopping”.  We also thought it best if our sons participated in religious education together with their friends and neighbors.

We were at best lukewarm about Father Cuenin My wife is no theologist, but her response to Father Cuenin was instinctive and negative—“he’s a politician, not a priest”.  Our feelings had little to do with his substantive positions on anything, but his substitution of “welcoming” and “inclusion” for any sort of substantive message.  He seemed more focused on building a customer base than in preaching the Gospel.

As we got to know people better in this parish, we noticed that Father Cuenin’s most ardent supporters seemed to come from outside the parish.  Longtime residents of our neighborhood, lifelong Catholics all, attended Mass elsewhere.  Other friends and neighbors attended OLHC, but in spite of Father Cuenin and not because of Father Cuenin; they attended Mass because they believed as we did that it was important to support the local parish.

We now read that some members of OLHC threaten to stop coming to Mass, and may drop out of the Catholic faith altogether.  I say good riddance.  Let the parish-shoppers and inclusion-seekers join the Unitarian Church, or stay home, or whatever.  Here in the parish, we can’t wait for the church to get back to business.

His experience tracks closely with similar accounts of other people who’ve had heterodox priests assigned to their local parishes, that the parish quickly fills up with people from other places who come specifically to have the false Gospel of low expectations preached to them. I’ve heard the same from people at St. Albert’s in Weymouth, where Fr. Ron Coyne was previously assigned; and St. Catherine in Charlestown, Fr. Bob Bowers’s old parish; and St. Susannah’s in Dedham, where Fr. Steve Josoma is; and, yes, at Our Lady’s in Newton.

Incidentally, the newspaper report that 1,000 people marched on the chancery on Sunday to protest Cuenin’s removal and demand his reinstatement. Too bad, because their support would have been welcomed by the 2,000 people gathering on Boston Common at the same time for Respect Life Sunday.


Written by
Domenico Bettinelli