To read an updated version of this story, click here.
This article first appeared online at 11:11 a.m., and was last updated with new information at 3 p.m. To see more images from the press conference held at St. Stan's this afternoon, click here.
Tuesday February 15, 2011
ADAMS -- The Vatican rarely reverses a church closing, but today parishioners from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish learned their prayers were answered: A decree made public today declares that St. Stanislaus Kostka Church must re-open as a place of worship.
About 200 parishioners have participated in an around-the-clock vigil at the church on Hoosac Street in Adams since Dec. 26, 2008, the day the Catholic church closed.
"After over two years' worth of effort, we are very happy and deeply grateful to the Vatican for hearing our case and deciding it favorably -- we feel very blessed that our prayers have been answered," said Laurie Haas of Adams, whose name led the appeal by St. Stan's parishioners.
"This is an historic moment in the Catholic Church. It is our understanding that a decree decision like this has just been issued to only two other diocese in the entire U.S. So this is truly monumental, we are very grateful to almighty God for this wonderful blessing and the return of our beloved St. Stanislaus Kostka Church," Haas said.
The complexly written, four-page decree from the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy supports the appeal by St. Stan parishioners to keep the church open as a divine place of worship. The decree was signed by prefect Mauro Cardinal Piacenza.
The decree upheld the right of the Most Rev. Timothy A McDonnell, bishop of Springfield, to "suppress and merge" all the Roman Catholic parishes of Adams and to locate the newly formed Parish of Pope John Paul the Great at the former Notre Dame Church. However, the decree takes issue with the closing of St. Stan's church, stating that the reasons given by the diocese for the building's closure in December 2008 were not justified.
The decree states the church building must be re-opened as a place of worship but does not define how McDonnell should proceed.
The Vatican decree gives the group 60 days to appeal the suppression of the parish to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura -- which, apart from the pope, is the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church.
In 2008, parishioners appealed the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield's ruling to close St. Stan's in a consolidation of churches in Adams. At that time, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Stanislaus were ordered closed, and their parishes were combined with that of the former Notre Dame de Sacre Couer, which was renamed Pope John Paul the Great. The diocese made the moves in 2008 as a result of a dearth of priests, declining membership and financial difficulties.
"We very much look forward to working with the bishop to determine the best way to re-open the church," Haas said.
Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the diocese, declined comment, saying the diocese had not yet officially received the decree.
Meanwhile, St. Patrick Church in Chicopee also won its appeal to re-open.
To see images from the vigil leading up to this decree, click here.