Diocese closes Lanesborough chapel due to costs, declining use

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LANESBOROUGH — For the second time in about a decade, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has closed a quaint church in town.

The Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the diocese, recently announced that the North Americans Martyrs Chapel on Old State Road, just off Route 8, will close.

The chapel had been overseen by St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Cheshire since it reopened in 2012.

Shuttering the chapel coincides with Rozanski transferring St. Mary's pastor, the Rev. Matthew Guidi, to Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Southwick.

Diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont said various priests temporarily are filling in to officiate Masses at St. Mary.

St. Mary officials declined to comment, referring all questions about the closing to the diocese.

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The 1936 chapel, originally a standalone church, was among 12 churches the diocese closed or consolidated in Berkshire County in 2008. Four years later, a Vatican decree reversed the diocese's decision, based on the church's small size and average attendance of 70 to 80 parishioners at weekly Masses.

But attendance has declined to about two dozen people at the Saturday evening Mass, Dupont said.

"Upon the request of the [St. Mary] parish finance council, which cited low attendance, Masses were discontinued after June 29," Dupont told The Eagle.

Rozanski gave reasons to close the chapel in a letter to parishioners two weeks ago. Excerpts from the letter were posted to the diocese's online news service, iObserve.org.

"Over these past few years, attendance at North American Martyrs chapel has been waning, and the yearly expenses to keep the chapel open have outweighed the income. Given these factors as well as our declining number of priests to cover the entire diocese, it has become necessary to make a decision regarding the future of the chapel," Rozanski wrote.

The bishop encouraged people using the chapel to attend Masses and services at St. Mary.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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