To The Daily Sun,

I write in response to Adam Drapcho’s article of May 11 entitled “Preservationists rally to support St. Joseph Church” and especially to Jane Whitehead, chair of the city’s Heritage Commission. I could not disagree more with Ms. Whitehead’s assertion that the decision has “ethnic echoes to it” — many take this to mean racist.

“Ethnic echoes” or racism have no place in this discussion. However, this is a typical response of those not well-informed but not liking the outcome which does not fit with their desires. Gallup recently named New Hampshire as the least-churched state in the USA. This is a sad, but significant contributor to the closings of three churches in this small community. The active and giving parishioners of the Catholic community made this number of churches financially unsustainable. The difficult decisions were never made by selecting which heritage to choose as the final of the three. Rather, this decision was made, after much prayer and discussion, about which campus has the most useful buildings and available parking and property to allow for the long-term wellbeing of all three as one parish in one church, and for the long-term viability of Holy Trinity School.

We hope and continue to pray for an outpouring of coming together and unity for the long term, once this difficult period is over.

Please know this will be the third Catholic church closing in Laconia with which I have been involved. Few people have been more active or more affected personally than I. I was on the pastoral council at Our Lady of the Lakes (OLL) and on the closing committee for St. Helena’s. Today I am chair of the pastoral council of St. Andre Bessette parish. The sadness and pain to make each of these decisions has been immense but were never taken lightly and never with the thought of which church heritage should be preserved. But the goal has always been to get to one parish, one church for the long-term benefit of the Catholic community by striving toward spiritual unity, growth and financial sustainability in this small town.

During the time that led to closing OLL, the then-pastor, Fr. George Soberick, was transparent and honest to all, years in advance. The attendance and collection numbers said OLL would be the one to close, and sadly, it did. Under then-Bishop McCormick, we were allowed to sell the church to the Baptists, thus skirting the wrecking ball. St. Helena’s was not as lucky, torn down and sold for development.

Likewise, Fr. Marc Drouin has been completely transparent and honest about this process, bringing up the possibility of tearing down St. Joseph’s Church two or more years ago. Therefore, this should not be new news to any active members who have attended St. Joseph’s or to the press or the Heritage Commission. It is Bishop Libasci who made the sole decision to raze St. Joseph Church to preserve the Sacred Nature of the Church and avoid any profane usage in the future.

Please pray for healing and unity within the Catholic community as we go through yet another painful closing.

Tom Garrity


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