By Katie Lovett and Yadira Betances
---- — AMESBURY — As the Archdiocese of Boston continues to combine neighboring churches into collaboratives under its long-term reorganization plan, area Catholics can look to two local churches to see how it can work.
In 2011, Cardinal Sean O’Malley appointed the Rev. Louis Palmieri, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Amesbury, to also serve as permanent pastor of Star of the Sea in Salisbury, while continuing to serve as pastor of Holy Family.
In the years since, the two churches — which are now formally listed in the archdiocese’s next phase of collaboratives announced Friday — have created a new sense of community.
Under phase two announced last week, the archdiocese will create 21 collaboratives made up of 44 parishes. In a collaborative, one pastor leads a team of priests, one parish council and one finance council.
The two churches have remained as independent parishes, but share clergy, staff and resources, Palmieri said yesterday.
They combine some activities and programs — such as the Sacrament of Confirmation program for the churches’ teens, he said.
The most significant change that parishioners saw occur was the change in the daily Mass schedule. Instead of separate Masses at the two churches, there is now one Mass each day for parishioners and it alternates between Star of the Sea and Holy Family, Palmieri said. The weekend Mass schedule remained the same for each church.
“There’s no merger taking place whatsoever,” he said. “It’s bringing together resources and programs. It’s working well.”
The pastoral plan was suggested by O’Malley not only to address the shortage of priests, but to encourage Catholics to return to church focusing on the New Evangelization that Pope Francis and O’Malley have called Catholics to follow. The archdiocese serves the spiritual needs of 1.8 million Catholics in 288 parishes.
O’Malley created a 20-member planning commission and named priests, bishops, deacons and lay people to serve. The plan will group the 288 parishes in the archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives.
When phase two begins June 12, 2014, there will be 33 collaboratives, including 72 parishes, established over a two-year time period. The formation of the parish collaboratives will be phased in over the next five years.
While church leaders, staff members and lay ministers get training on how to implement the plan, said the Rev. Paul Soper, director of pastoral planning for the Archdiocese of Boston, he said parishioners also benefit from it.
“This is fundamental for parishioners as we try to help them revise their role in the life of the church,” Soper said. “They can get a sense of self as evangelizers, which is the great mission of the church — go make disciples.”