LANESBOROUGH -- A second Berkshire County church that was closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is scheduled
North American Martyrs Church, one of six county churches that the diocese closed at the end of 2008, will reopen as a "shrine" church of St. Mary's of the Assumption Church in Cheshire and host a weekend Mass.
Diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont said that a plan for reopening the church is expected to be formalized after the Easter holiday.
The diocese announced the decision to reopen North American Martyrs Church on Monday, stating in a news release that a recent decision by the Congregation for the Clergy, a lower Vatican appeals court, had recently upheld the parish's merger with St. Mary's, but ruled against the discontinuation of worship at the church.
"The diocese has opted not to appeal this decision," Dupont said.
In 2008, the Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell, bishop of Springfield, announced the closing of North American Martyrs, despite an uptick in parishioners. At the time, he said the weekly average attendance of 77 could easily be absorbed by the Cheshire church.
The announcement comes a day after the reopening of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams as a mission church of Blessed John Paul the Great Parish. The church was reopened following a ruling from the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest appeals court, which upheld the suppression of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, but ruled the church should remain open for worship.
In addition to asking the Rev. David R. Raymond, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish to work with the Catholic community to re-establish the use of North American Martyrs Church, the bishop has also asked him to include a shrine to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who is expected to be elevated to sainthood later this year.
"Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is a Native American who was affiliated with the North American Martyrs, a term used in the early days of the church in North America," Dupont said. "There are shrines to her throughout the country and we've found that she has relatives in western Massachusetts."
Tekakwitha was a member of the Mohawk tribe from Auriesville, N.Y., where a shrine was built in her honor. She converted to Catholicism as a teenager and was baptized at the age of 20. She eventually moved to a Christian Colony of Indians in Canada, where she devoted her life to prayer and to care for the sick and aged.
North American Martyrs Church began as a mission of St. Mary of the Assumption, before becoming an independent parish in 1969. At one time, the parish boasted more than 600 members.
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