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Massachusetts church gets a reprieve as archbishop calls off closing


DEDHAM, Mass. - For her 92nd birthday today, Mary Giorgio did not dare hope that Boston church officials would reverse their decision to close her beloved Roman Catholic parish.

But that is what happened, ending 13 months of anguish at St. Susanna Parish.

"I am elated, and I am surprised," said Giorgio, who has attended daily Mass at St. Susanna since the red brick house of worship opened in 1961. Her two daughters were confirmed and married in the church with the soaring, A-frame roof, and when her husband Salvatore died five years ago, it's where his funeral was held.

Giorgio said she had worried that Boston archdiocesean officials would stick to their plan to close St. Susanna as part of a large-scale reconfiguration designed to reduce costs in the face of more than $100 million in clerical abuse settlements. St. Susanna is one of two Roman Catholic parishes in this community of 23,000 that lies 10 miles southwest of Boston.

St. Susanna was one of 83 churches in Boston originally scheduled to close or merge with other parishes. Late Thursday, Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley announced from Chicago - where he was attending the U.S. bishops' conference - that St. Susanna and four other parishes that were scheduled to close would remain open.

However, O'Malley only agreed to keep St. Susanna open until March 2008, when the term of the Rev. Stephen S. Josoma - the parish pastor - is scheduled to expire.

Parishioners at St. Susanna were informed 13 months ago that the church would close last September. They mounted an appeal and met with archdiocesean leaders. The September date passed and the 1,300 parishioners steeled themselves, hoping to remain open into the new year.

Following the lead of eight other Boston-area churches that were occupied by parishioners after church leaders ordered them shut, members of St. Susanna were prepared to stage a round-the-clock vigil - eating, sleeping and praying in the church to keep it from being closed.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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