I’d heard that this was coming: Archbishop O’Malley has suspended the closing of another parish, St. Thomas in Salem. It’s not completely reversxed. It says he’s reconsidering his closing date so the January 9 date is off the table and no new closing date has been set. The statement says that the archbishop became aware of “new demographic information” about the surrounding neighborhoods. I’m not sure what that information is, apart from the fact that it sits right on the Salem-Danvers town line.
I had heard that something was coming; the pastor got up at Masses last weekend and told the parish to expect a “Christmas present.”
So why the suspension of a closing date and not simply a reversal of the order? I think we can attribute this strategy to the archdiocese’s PR firm. They recognize that a parish that’s vocally planning a sit-in is going to get lots of press, all of it bad for the archdiocese. And during the sit-in nothing can be done with the property and nothing gets resolved. So why not just preempt the protest and call it an extension? You have the same effect with better press and you then have time to convince the parishioners that closing the parish is the right thing to do. It’s not a bad strategy as far as public relations is concerned. Notice, by the way, that not a single parish already suppressed and staging a protest has been given this option. It’s a little incentive for those people to seek reconciliation with the archdiocese, I believe.
St. Thomas was never among my first picks for parishes to close, as evidenced by my votes during the cluster reconfiguration meetings. Actually St. James was everyone’s first choice, but when St. Joseph closed and the school was moved to St. James, then someone else had to go on the block. I was a bit surprised when St. Thomas was announced, because I thought St. John the Baptist was the next logical choice, being the smallest of the rest. Of course, considering everything any one of the parishes of Salem has reasons both for staying open and staying closed.