By John Lynds
At an emergency meeting called by the Sacred Heart Parish Council last Tuesday night, Chief of Probation Thomas Tassinari made an emotional plea to keep Father Wayne Belschner in East Boston to continue the important work that he is doing.
It was announced last week that the Boston Archdiocese has decided to move Father Wayne to St, Mary’s in Deedham–saying that it is a parish in need.
“With all due respect to the Archdiocese, St, Mary’s may be a parish in need but we are a community in need,” said Tassinari to a round of applause. “This community is still healing from the closure of our other parishes. We are not angry. We are hurt.”
After the closure of St, Mary’s Star of the Sea on Moore Street, Tassinari, who was part of St. Mary’s Parish Council said it took him a long time to come back to church and it was Father Wayne that ultimately convinced him to do so.
“Parishioners at St. Mary’s, the Assumption, Mount Carmel were all welcomed by Father Wayne and he did a lot to begin to heal those wounds,” said Tassinari. “Those wounds are not completely healed and he still has a lot of work ahead of him to continue to build this parish and address the issues in Eastie.”
Tassinari said Father Wayne has been instrumental in partnering with Eastie’s Probation Office and Drug Court to help addicts heal both mentally and spiritually.
“I don’t know what kind of issues St. Mary’s in Deedham is facing but I’m sure it not facing the same issues we need Father Wayne for here in Eastie,” said Tassinari.
Rep. Adrian Madaro’s Chief of Staff Liana LaMattina presented a letter co-written by both Madaro and City Councilor Sal LaMattina urging the Archdiocese to reconsider moving Father Wayne on August 15.
“We write to you to voice our displeasure over the proposal to transfer Father Wayne Belschner from Sacred Heart Parish,” the two elected officials wrote. “This would be detrimental for both the parish and the community of East Boston. It is arguable that Fr. Wayne has dealt with more pressure and instability than any priest who has ever served in our community. He has overcome the closing of two churches, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, by welcoming the parishioners into the Sacred Heart community, while keeping their old traditions and celebrations alive. He has shouldered a significant financial burden in meeting the expenses of our parish school, East Boston Central Catholic, while integrating displaced students from other parochial schools that were closed. In the past year, not only has he brought more people back to church, but he has consistently met his weekly goal, enabling the church to operate in the black.”
Madaro and LaMattina argued that Father Wayne’s significance to the neighborhood extends far beyond the operation of the parish.
“Where he will truly be missed is in his involvement in the broader East Boston community, fighting against the opioid epidemic plaguing the neighborhood, working toward curbing the uptick in gang violence, and unifying the community through his message of faith and values,” Madaro and LaMattina wrote. “Another shining example of his commitment to the people of East Boston is his willingness to open his doors to all in need for our community’s annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner, where hundreds of families and individuals enjoy a traditional holiday meal among neighbors and friends. Moreover, Father Wayne has served as a unifying force for our diverse, multicultural community, helping to build bridges between people of all different background. The fact that his congregation is so diverse, comprised of Italians, Irish, Latinos, Portuguese, Vietnamese, etc. is a testament to his efforts in promoting inclusivity and unity. Fr. Wayne’s dedication and influence has contributed to increased church attendance and has helped make East Boston the greatest neighborhood in the city.”
Madaro and LaMattina said that while Father Wayne’s valuable services may be needed at another parish they asked the Archdiocese to be mindful would happen to the Sacred Heart and Eastie communities in his absence.
“What he has built over the last thirteen years would be in serious risk of falling apart if he were to leave,” wrote Madaro and LaMattina. “Our fear is that many of those who Father Wayne was instrumental in saving might go down the wrong path once again. We implore you to reconsider this transfer.”
In the end the two wrote that while Father Wayne’s service to a new parish might help revive that congregation, it would seriously destabilize Sacred Heart and the community.
“One church would revive while the other, which serves immigrants and the working class, would suffer,” they wrote.