Local parishioners hoping for a miracle

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Laurie Haas, who has been a member of the parish for 15 years, presented an eight-chapter report to Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell and Msgr. John Bonzagni, the director of Pastoral Planning for the Diocese at a meeting in Lenox earlier this month. Haas and 11 other parishioners met with McDonnell, Bonzagni, the Rev. Daniel Boyle, pastor of St. Stanislaus, and church deacons Greg LaFrenier and Robert Moulton.

And while Diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont reported that McDonnell did not commit to any action on the part of the Diocese, he said McDonnell will share the figures with Diocesan officials.

"The Bishop recognizes all the hard work that went into the report," said Dupont. "He told me that the Diocese has not shut the door on this, and he has agreed to take this request under advisement."

Like many parishioners of St. Stanislaus, which is virtually everyone in Adams, whether they attend the church or not, shortens to "St. Stans," Haas conceded that she was stunned and upset upon hearing in August that her church was one of six in Northern and Southern Berkshire to be closed by the Diocese of Springfield.

The plan in Adams, according to McDonnell, is to close St. Stanislaus and St. Thomas Church. Services will be offered at Notre Dame.

Of the varied plans put forward by the Diocese for closing county churches, the St. Stanislaus option has been the most hotly debated. Letters to the Editor, largely in opposition to the move, have appeared regularly on The Eagle editorial page. Eagle columnist Dan Valenti has been one of the supporters of the move, noting that the closings have been carried out in response to low church attendance, among other factors.

Haas, with some help from members of the parish, spent about a week researching the statements in favor of closing St. Stanislaus as presented by the Diocese. The report she prepared, said Haas, attempts to answer many of the issues raised by the Diocese in favor of closing St. Stanislaus and keeping open Notre Dame.

Haas' report disputed the available seating, parishioner attendance, baptismal records, financial viability, maintenance records and other points brought forward by the Diocese in their decision to close the Hoosac Street church.

In particular, Haas commissioned a Certified Public Accountant to examine the books of the three parishes. The CPA's conclusion was that, due to primarily maintenance issues, Notre Dame/ St. Thomas faces bankruptcy by 2012.

Haas posited that should the Diocese opt to rethink it's position, St. Stanislaus would, because of much lower maintenance costs, actually thrive financially.

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Haas bases her argument, in part, on the size of the two campuses. The St. Stanislaus campus is about 1.7 acres; the Notre Dame/St. Thomas campus is much bigger, about 5.8 acres, and has twice the number of buildings.

"My point is, if part of this is about saving money, St. Stans is the better choice," said Haas. "The Diocese has been telling us that it can't afford to put money into buildings any more. They believe they need to put money into people. This (preserving St. Stans) would be the better option in that case."

In addition, the report said, the St. Thomas/Notre Dame complex has several buildings on it that have not been well-maintained over the past several years.

Haas also explained that the Diocesan philosophy of providing equal access to the Eucharist would not be affected by this change. St. Stanislaus is located in the center of Adams, literally up the street from the St. Thomas/Notre Dame complex on Park Street.

Haas added that her actions are not meant to slight the parishioners of either Notre Dame of St. Thomas.

"What this report is saying is, if this has to happen, our belief is that keeping St. Stans open is the best option," she said. "I don't want to see any churches close."

Dupont said the Diocese wants to look at the numbers presented in Haas' reports more closely.

"We have different numbers from what we've seen in (Haas') report, and we'll need to confirm them," he said.

"We understand this has already been a painful process for everyone involved," said Dupont. "Bishop appreciated the committee's efforts. They were passionate, but respectful.

"At the same time, he doesn't want to raise false hopes."


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