ADAMS – Even before the arrival of a new permanent leader in two local Catholic parishes, change is in the air.
Days after Rev. Barrent Pease was impeached by his bishop for “reckless” actions, the parishes of Adams and Cheshire appear to be abandoning the unpopular policies instituted by Pease, including what parishioners say are restrictions on praise and the use of music during funeral services.
At the same time, parishioners say they feel a sense of relief as they reflect on Pease’s 10 months leading two harnessed parishes. They find a new base as the search for an administrator continues for St. John Paul II Parish in Adams and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Cheshire.
Meanwhile, those who attend St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams struggle with a persistent mold problem that continues to restrict full use of the historic structure.
In interviews and emails in December and January, several parishioners reported to The Eagle that even before Pease mentioned the conversion of the Jews as a “mass intention,” they disagreed with him. on aspects of his leadership, which they described as impulsive and dogmatic traditionalist. Others say he lacked warmth, read prepared homilies and refused to visit parishioners and shake hands with parishioners after services, claiming, according to one. , “I am not a politician”.
Some have also cited what they say is his opposition to the late Capitol Hill police officer William “Billy” Evans being woken up in St. Stan’s, ahead of his April 15 funeral in St. Stan’s, claiming that such honor is reserved for priests.
They also said he advises against the use of masks and vaccines to guard against COVID-19. Pease did not respond to questions about Evans’ funeral or his stance on masking and vaccines.
Parishioner Laurie Haas says she is upset by Pease’s attitude regarding COVID-19 measures, which he articulated on October 4, during a special mass for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. She said Pease had proclaimed that he himself would not be vaccinated and questioned the credibility of Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser.
“Our pastor spent his entire homily of over 10 minutes lecturing his flock about the harms of COVID-19 vaccination,” Haas said. “He said the Pope recommended that all Catholics get vaccinated. He said: “However, the vaccine is not proven and it’s not safe (and) people shouldn’t be getting it.” “
“I have known people who have been very sick with COVID and who have died from this virus,” Haas said. “And this pastor is promoting death in the pulpit.”
” Transition period “
In a recent email widely circulated to parishioners, a financial officer from both parishes thanked Reverend William Cyr for “guiding us through this period of transition.”
“Her experience, kindness and familiarity with the people of our communities will surely be a comfort to many,” wrote Michelle Francesconi, Cheshire Church Business Director and Financial Assistant at St. John Paul II Parish.
James Loughman, president of St. John Paul II Parish Council, said he got on well with Pease.
“I could work with him and wish him good luck in his new endeavors,” Loughman said. “I am grateful to Father Cyr for intervening. Let’s stay there.
Francesconi announced that in addition to adjustments in the programming of services in three churches in two cities, Cyr was reviewing sacramental policies with plans to “adjust as necessary.”
Already, the changes are spreading to eulogies and music.
“Praise will be allowed at funerals and specific directions will be added to forms provided to funeral homes,” Francesconi wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Eagle.
She said Timothy Rougeau, the music director of St. John Paul II parish, is working with Ann Cain, her counterpart in St. Mary’s, to update musical options for the funeral.
Eugene Michalenko, a parishioner, said he asked Rougeau about the policies Pease put in place and confirmed that they included restrictions on praise and music.
“Father Pease did not allow praise during the funeral mass,” Michalenko said. “Praises were to be (delivered) 10 minutes before Mass. They are now allowed during Funeral Mass.”
In terms of music, he said Pease had “a short list of hymns that he considered appropriate.” Now this list is being expanded by the two Music Directors to provide more choices.
“There was an uproar about him not allowing eulogies during mass,” Michalenko said. “He was more restrictive at the funeral and people were complaining – and even wrote the bishop about it.”
When asked by email if he wouldn’t allow praise or music during the funeral, Pease replied that the question was ‘leading’ and untrue.
“Respectfully, that’s why people are buying into the fake news story because that’s what it has become,” he wrote on Thursday, responding to The Eagle’s outreach seeking to verify what had exchange.
“It was I who brought the music back to all Masses and gave people 3 options within the funeral liturgy to deliver a eulogy, and one outside of the liturgy,” he wrote . “So they don’t bring back the eulogy either, they just take out the four options I offered and go back to one particular option.”
Pease declined to be interviewed in person or by phone on Thursday, but agreed to consider written questions. The Eagle provided a list of questions about Pease’s time spent in the parishes of Adams and Cheshire, including his decision to have a midnight mass on Christmas in an effort to convert the Jewish people to Catholicism.
Later Thursday, Pease said he was “uncomfortable” answering questions, which focused not only on issues relating to his impeachment as a director, but also his broader Catholic beliefs. and his personal pastoral goals.
“I am currently in a period of prayerful reflection,” he wrote. “My superiors believe that this spiritual exercise must be completed before I respond to anything. … Thank you for letting me know what is being said. Please keep me in your prayers as I go through this transition.
Most. Reverend William Byrne announced on December 23 that he was removing Pease from his trustee position, saying he had advised him to reflect and learn from “this experience”.
In a recent email response to a parishioner, Byrne said he had “worked to find a priest who can help heal and build community. It’s not easy given that we have such a shortage of resources. priests, then I humbly ask you to pray for me in this regard. ”
A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said Friday that Byrne and a clergy commission were “actively exploring options” regarding a new leader for the parishes of Adams and Cheshire.
“It’s a priority,” said Mark Dupont. “Given the shortage of priests, it can be difficult to fill pastoral positions, as the reassignment of priests can in turn impact clergy assignments in other parishes. “
In the bishop’s message to parishioner, a copy of which was shared with The Eagle, the bishop explains why he advised Pease to reflect on “a trying week” and seek to keep him in the priesthood and in service. of the Diocese of Springfield.
In addition to the mass intention regarding the Jews, which Byrne rescinded, Pease had recently told parishioners at two Masses in Adams that he viewed the eventual closure of St. Stan’s as inevitable due to the high cost of late repairs. and the current mold problem.
“Father Pease’s words and recent actions to Adams have understandably been disturbing to many,” Byrne wrote to the parishioner. “Although his actions were reckless, they did not constitute a violation of canon law or civil law. You might not like him, but he’s not a criminal. I can’t “undo” it. There was no reason to take away his priesthood. He has been instructed in his actions and I hope he will learn and be a better priest. It is important to remember that through God’s forgiveness we all have the capacity to be reconciled.
Loughman, the chairman of the parish council, said a recently received report provides additional information and photographic evidence on the mold problem in St. Stan’s.
He said the ward recently appealed to members who work in the building trades to join with others in meeting the physical needs of the church, the mold in Kolbe Hall, the basement of the church, being the most pressing problem. Loughman said a person or two stepped forward to help. While the basement room cannot be used, the worship space can – and will host her next mass at 8 a.m. on Sunday.