Catholic parishes meeting slated


RUMFORD – A committee that has been meeting for several months to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic parishes in the River Valley and Bethel areas wants comments from parishioners.

A special “listening session” has been set for 1 p.m. Sunday, May 7, in Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School.

Don Fournier, principal of St. Athanasius and St. John Catholic School in Rumford and facilitator of the meeting, said four possible models for the reconfiguration of the local churches, as devised by the Portland diocese and the Rev. Bishop Richard Malone, will also be presented.

But first, he said the 20-member committee wants comments, questions, thoughts, insights and concerns from the parishioners of St. Athanasius and St. John Church in Rumford, St. Theresa’s Church in Mexico, St. Mary’s Church in Roxbury, Our Lady of the Snows in Bethel, and St. Joseph’s Mission in Dixfield.

That input will be used to help formulate the final model that will be recommended for the area.

The 27 clusters statewide are discussing the future of the church because of priest shortages and the need to use church properties to the best potential, Fournier said.

“Money is an issue because of how much we are getting from our buildings,” he said.

Although rumors have been circulating about the closure of one of more churches in the River Valley area, Fournier declined comment on the matter.

He said the four models will be discussed, then the Cluster Committee will choose one that will then be sent to the bishop for consideration.

Four years will be needed to implement whichever model is chosen, Fournier said.

The four models, as described by the diocese are: one pastor, merged parish and centralized team and councils; one pastor, separate parishes, centralized team and councils; one pastor, build a larger church and close others, centralized team and councils; and one pastor, combination of models, centralized team and councils. Additional details on the models are available online at

“Nothing has been decided yet,” he said.

A second meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at Mountain Valley High School when the selected model for the future of the River Valley/Bethel churches will be unveiled.

“Towns and schools (are consolidating). The more we come together, the better off we’ll be,” Fournier said.