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Priest who urged Adams parish to seek Jewish conversions will not conduct Midnight Mass

St. Stan's from Gould Road in Adams (copy) (copy)

Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams are likely to have their Midnight Mass celebrated Friday by the Rev. William Cyr, rather than the Rev. Barrent Pease, after an attempt by Pease to have the service be dedicated to the religious conversion of Jewish people. 

ADAMS — The Catholic priest in Adams who sought to dedicate a Christmas Mass to the religious conversion of Jews will not attend those rites in his parish.

Late Thursday afternoon, the St. John Paul II Parish posted information confirming that the Rev. Barrent Pease, the parish administrator, will not be celebrating Masses this weekend.

Even before the posting, another priest had been telling parishioners in his community that change was coming.

The parish’s own retired priest, the Rev. William Cyr, will step in and handle some of the scheduled Masses this weekend, aided by the Rev. Gary Dailey, an Adams native who has been associated with the Newman Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The diocese has not yet said why Pease is being replaced by Cyr and Dailey, or for how long. Efforts on Wednesday and Thursday to clarify Pease’s status brought no response from Mark Dupont, the Springfield Diocese’s chief spokesman.

The Eagle spoke earlier Thursday with a parishioner with direct knowledge of plans for how the religious community will staff this weekend’s rites. The parishioner confirmed that Cyr expected to handle some of Pease’s normal duties.

This week, Dupont did address the fact that the placement of a “Mass Intention” in a church bulletin seeking the conversion of Jews was “incompatible” with Catholic teaching “and our relationship with the Jewish people.” He said Bishop William D. Byrne directed that the church bulletin be removed from online distribution.

Though printed copies of the bulletin were handed out last weekend, the diocese arranged for an online version to be deleted. And in the bulletin dated for this coming weekend, the stated intention for the Midnight Mass that starts Christmas morning was changed to be one of support for the conversion of all non-Christians.

In an email to The Eagle on Wednesday, Pease confirmed that he was responsible for placing the intention in the bulletin. He declined to be interviewed, saying that such a conversation had not yet been authorized by the diocese.

Pease said he had attempted to have the intention regarding Jews changed even before he was challenged about it, initially by a member of the parish and then by the diocese.

“I will say this, I had changed that intention before the Diocese or anyone else had contacted me about it,” Pease wrote in the email to The Eagle. “I tried to change it before the bulletin went to print, but I missed the deadline by a couple hours.”

Pease did not reply to a question about why he decided to remove the language regarding the conversion of Jewish people, or to say whether he would be celebrating Masses in Adams or Cheshire this weekend.

In a statement Tuesday, the diocese said the “Mass Intention” regarding Jewish conversion to Christianity did not represent church policy.

“We recognize and affirm the Jewish people are God’s chosen, the people to whom the Lord our God spoke first,” the statement said. “We stand with them as brothers and sisters in our common God.”

On Christmas Eve, Dailey will celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass at the Notre Dame Church in Adams, while Cyr will lead the 4 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s in Cheshire, which is part of the parish.

Dailey will celebrate the Midnight Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams. At 10 a.m. Christmas morning, Cyr will celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

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Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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