June 23, 2011, WORCESTER, MA – Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, S.T.D., Bishop of Worcester, has issued the decree naming the new territorial parish for the Town of Southbridge. It will be called Blessed John Paul II Parish. The name was one of three recommendations derived by a selection process which took place among the current Southbridge parishes. As of July 1, 2011, it will be formed from the merging of Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish with Saint Hedwig Parish and Saint Mary Parish, all located in Southbridge, to form one parish, in accord with canon 121. The boundaries of Blessed John Paul II Parish will be co-terminus with the boundaries of the town of Southbridge.
Blessed John Paul II Parish will assume the goods, assets, including property and patrimonial rights, as well as the burdens and liabilities of Saint Mary Parish, Saint Hedwig Parish and Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish, respecting the intentions of the founders and donors, concerning the allocation of goods and the fulfillment of obligations, in accord with canons 121 and 123.
Saint Mary Church, Saint Hedwig Church, and Notre Dame Church will retain their respective titles, in accord with canon 1218.
The decree also states that Blessed John Paul II Parish is to accommodate to the extent possible the cultural and spiritual traditions of Saint Mary Parish, Saint Hedwig Parish, and Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish.
Lastly, the sacramental records of Saint Mary Parish, Saint Hedwig Parish and Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart Parish are hereby placed under the guardianship of Blessed John Paul II Parish.
In the letter read to parishioners in early May, Bishop McManus noted why the changes were needed. “The changes in the social fabric of our communities demand changes in our parishes to meet new needs, new challenges, and most especially, new opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The new parish will be led by Father Peter Joyce, currently the pastor of St. Mary Parish, the first parish to be established in Southbridge. In a related announcement today, Bishop McManus named Fr. Nelson Rivera as Associate pastor. The pastoral team will also be assisted by a deacon and lay leadership. Bishop McManus has also announced that Father Charles Borowski, pastor of St. Hedwig Parish would retire as of July 1 and Father Leo-Paul LeBlanc, pastor of Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart, would become the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, Winchendon.