May 3, 2016
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church closed due to safety concerns
May 3, 2016, WORCESTER, MA -- At all the weekend Masses on April 30 and May 1, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann Parish announced that, due to safety concerns for people in the building and for those using Mulberry Street, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church would be closed immediately and alternative plans for possible use over the coming year would cease. Further, he announced that, due to the safety concerns raised by the structural engineers over the last few days, demolition of the building would be necessary soon in order to assure safety on the public roadway in front of the building. Finally, he announced that the parish merger with Our Lady of Loreto Parish, another Italian heritage parish located on Massasoit Road in Worcester, would need to take place soon in order to provide a parish home for the people of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann.
“Speaking to our engineers and the City of Worcester on Friday, we felt we had to make these recommendations as recently as this Saturday to Bishop McManus,” Msgr. Pedone said. “He agreed that given the safety concerns, we needed to cease using the building following this weekend’s Masses.” Msgr. Pedone outlined the recent events to the parishioners which led to the decision needing to be made now. (see separate announcement).
“This is a sad day for the parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann and our hearts go out to them for the pain of this loss they are facing today,” said Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester. “However, the safety of those attending Mass and in the vicinity of the church building are of primary concern. I thank Msgr. Pedone, his committee members and all the parishioners who have been trying over recent years to find a solution to the building’s structural issues while seeking to build a more vibrant parish community. My prayers are with them as they must focus now on a transition plan to make this parish merger welcoming for both parish communities.”
Msgr. Pedone has been the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Ann since 2012, succeeding Msgr. Rocco Piccolomini who had retired. Last July, he also became the pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Worcester, when Fr. Charles Armey retired. Both parishes were established to serve families from Italy or of Italian descent. Over the last four months, parish merger meetings have been conducted by the parish along with representatives of Our Lady of Loreto Parish to explore how to bring the two parishes together to be more vibrant and financially stable. The last public meeting was held on April 10.
In recent years work has been done to address a leaking and deteriorating roof. While completing that work, workers discovered that the façade of the building was pulling away from the main building. Following consultation with the Diocesan Building Commission, the parish contracted Gorman Richardson Lewis Architects for structural engineering studies to determine the risk to the building and the danger posed by the leaning facade. In 2015 it was determined that stabilization work needed to be done, including removing parts of the façade and stabilizing the bell tower, along with addressing the choir loft which was sagging. The initial plan to remedy this was estimated at $1.3 million and deemed too costly. A second plan at a cost of $75,000, called a “make safe” proposal, was approved. This would have given time to determine what options were available and their related costs, and, it was thought, allow the parish to keep using the church for at least another year, even if on a limited basis. That work had been underway for the past few months.
At the parish meetings, Msgr. Pedone, the parish finance committee, and the ad-hoc parish merger committee also noted that, even after having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the roof and engineering studies, they were no closer to a feasible plan to restore the church. Given the dwindling number of parishioners, and the fact that the parish center, which houses the Italian Cultural Center, was also facing significant repairs, they needed to focus on a merger of the parishes, perhaps as soon as September 2016.
While working to implement the “make safe” plan, it was discovered that the inner wall which braces the roof had also shifted and the façade had leaned further since blocking was installed in 2013. Last week, the structural engineers came to the conclusion that, unless more drastic and more costly measures were taken to secure the facade facing Mulberry Street and to install tie-backs on the bell tower, they could not confirm that the building was safe to be open to for use. On Friday, April 29, a meeting was held involving the engineers, the parish leadership and Commissioner John Kelley, Director of Inspectional Services for the City of Worcester, along with his Deputy, David Horne. Concerns about safety on Mulberry Street for traffic and pedestrians were raised. Even if the proposed $120,000 in additional stabilization work was undertaken, there was no way to guarantee that more problems wouldn’t be uncovered. Given the fact that the parish no longer has savings to put into the additional work, and that it still would be left with a building in need of significant restoration, the parish could not proceed with any further work. By the end of Friday, Gorman Richardson Lewis notified the parish and the City of Worcester that, under the circumstances, the façade and bell tower pose a significant threat to public safety and it was their opinion that the church building could no longer be safely occupied. Given that recommendation, Bishop McManus agreed with Msgr. Pedone and his parish leadership that use of the building must cease following the scheduled Masses on May 1.
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