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Alfano bids farewell to Sacred Heart-St. James

GROTON — There are expected to be many saddened hearts after the well-respected Roman-Catholic pastor of Sacred Heart-St. James Parish moves on next month to a new assignment in Framingham.

“I have had a very full and rewarding term here as (the) pastor of SHSJ,” said the Rev. Michael Alfano. “This parish is filled with deeply faithful people who truly love the Lord and cherish their Catholic-Christian heritage. I leave Groton with many fond memories and lots of friends to treasure.

“This was my first pastorate (and my first time serving as Public Safety Chaplain), and I will always remember what this community has generously taught me and shared with me,” he said. “It was truly a pleasure and privilege to serve the people of SHSJ and the wider Groton community as well.”

Alfano’s move to St. Stephen Parish was made known only recently after he learned from Sean Cardinal O’Malley of the Boston diocese that he was to be reassigned at the beginning of June.

Alfano, 46, was ordained on June 20, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and served in a number of other communities before finally arriving in Groton on Oct. 24, 2000.

Prior to Groton, Alfano was posted at St. John Parish in Hopkinton from 1987 to 1992, Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree from 1992 to 1996 and Saint Bridget Parish in Maynard from 1996 to 2000.

His first assignment as a pastor was not an easy one for the New Britain, Conn., native as he arrived in a pair of church communities scheduled to be merged in a general reshuffling of parishes across the Boston diocese.

Just over two years following Alfano’s arrival in Groton, the parishes of St. James and Sacred Heart were merged on April 1, 2003.

“Our ‘hyphen’ is now three years old,” said Alfano. “Catholic Groton now is, and acts, as one united-faith family.”

Ironically, the change has made for a tight fit, and with a growing Catholic community in town, discussions began about building a new church that could hold a larger congregation.

“The community of SHSJ still does not fit in either church,” Alfano said. “We did a multi-year strategic plan, and over 100 volunteers have been working very hard to move us in the direction of building a new church. Our feasibility study showed that SHSJ people wanted a new church and would support it. The parish hopes that the new pastor will be able to lead them forward.”

“For five-and-a-half years I did my best to meet the needs of a growing Catholic community,” said Alfano, who also served as chaplain for the town’s emergency services departments. “Several ministries developed with lots of enthusiastic volunteer support. We have a growing community, and Catholicism runs deep here. The people love the Lord and want to pass along that faith to the next generation.”

Alfano has been notified that he will be leaving Groton on May 31.

The Rev. Paul Ring will be taking over for him as the shared pastor of SHSJ Parish in Groton and of St. Joseph Parish in Pepperell.

To Ring, Alfano has some advice to offer.

“Do your best, work hard, learn as much as you can, appreciate the people and their faithfulness, and enjoy a wonderful SHSJ parish,” he said. “For myself, Groton has made a very positive impression on me and has been a good learning experience. I arrived here in 2000 (as) a priest, and I’m leaving in 2006 (as) a pastor.”