"Vigilers are people who take care"

Via the New York Times, the story of a group of people in Boston, in the US, who faced the closure of their Catholic parish church and began a pretty much spontaneous vigil to ensure the local archdiocese isn’t able to shut it for good and sell off the land.

What’s so interesting about this is the effect that this adversity has had on the group which has discovered a new sense of community and spirituality as a result, and the way in which a very ‘top-down’ form of worship has been transformed into something far more egalitarian – and accepting of women:

In a Quiet Rebellion, Parishioners Keep the Faith

Many of the St. Frances holdouts describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the troubled Catholic Church.

“You would think because there are fewer and fewer priests that the various archdioceses would welcome a new configuration,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “Let the lay people do everything but the sacramental.”

Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including two who distributed communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described by Mr. Rogers’s wife, Maryellen, as “sympathetic.”

Parishioners also hold suppers in the vestibule and meet Tuesdays to say the rosary. They raise money as a nonprofit group, donate to charities and open the church to outsiders seeking comfort or repose.

“Lots of troubled people have come through, and all they need, really simply, is someone to connect to,” said Karen Virginia Shockley, 43, who participates in the vigil with her two teenage sons. “Usually there’s an older person here who will sit down and just listen to you.” Read full story here… (registration may be required)

You can hear and see the parishioners speaking for themselves in this related slide and audio show (needs Flash).