PEPPERELL — A recent headline in the Pepperell Free Press reportedly upset St. Joseph Catholic Church pastor Reverend Paul Ring enough for him to pointedly criticize it during a recent service.
The headline “St. Joseph offerings are not enough to stave off merger” highlighted a report on a highly successful church craft fair that raised $6,000. That amount was said to be “a drop in the long-range financial bucket that will determine the future of the parish as a stand-alone Catholic church.”
The report included data from the church bulletin that revealed the parish receives $7,000 per month from the Boston Archdiocese with which to pay its bills.
The report indicated that the parish will not close and “options include staying open or merger with Sacred Heart-St. James parish of Groton.”
Contacted last week to find out why he had been upset, Ring said the headline “did spark some concern, which can be a good thing (but) the alarmist nature of it was a bother.”
The gist of the article was “understandable,” he said, but the “tone of ‘a drop in the bucket’ was unsettling.
“I appreciate the work you guys do,” Ring said. “This is obviously a very challenging time. We may be a little more hypersensitive about headlines. I don’t expect or demand a correction.”
Ring said, “By and large, I understood the tone but I did have folks come up to me. Frankly, there were not as many phone calls as I expected. Folks asked me what am I going to do about it. It is what it is. The story, by and large, was on the mark.”
He said, “It’s an emotional time for people. The economy has a lot to do with it.”
Ring confirmed that merger talks are continuing.
“Scared Heart is in the same situation (to St. Joseph), which is why we’re talking together. We’ve brought it to the level of joint conversations to see what it is we can do together, which is why the subject of merger has come up as a possibility. That has to be put on the table,” he said.
Conversations are also taking place with the Archdiocese.
“Pepperell is more (about) financial and Groton is more about space. We’re both looking at the future. Do we stand alone or come together? And if so, how best to work within and between the parishes to make whatever decision, to see how it is we can best serve the people of the Nashoba Valley?” Ring said.
His role as pastor “is to act as a shepherd,” he said, “bringing people not so much to an understanding but an appreciation of the bigger picture.”