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The Polish faithful guard their church in Adams, Mass.

June 22, 2009

ststansThere are words we use a lot in religion reporting. Synonyms for the religious groups we’re writing about — Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc. The terms I used most often were “believers” and “the faithful.” The first one is pretty straightforward. The second carries much more room for meaning and interpretation. What does it mean to be faithful? Obeying the rules? Showing up for services? Believing in God? I’m not sure, but I think being faithful requires consistency and hope, even in the face of hardship or disappointment.

The people keeping a round-the-clock vigil at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams, Mass., certainly deserve to be called faithful. They have guarded the old Gothic church — the pride of Polish Catholics here — for 178 days, refusing to allow the diocese to close the parish and making appeals to Rome to override the bishop’s decision. It’s not just a sentimental attachment that fuels their cause. These folks are practical. St. Stan’s is in better financial shape than the town’s other two parishes. It can accommodate roughly the same number of people. It has a school and an active convent and costs less to operate than the one church the diocese picked to consolidate the Catholic community.

I visited with two vigil keepers yesterday.

“We’re not going anywhere,” said Fran. “If it takes four years, it takes four years.”

That’s faithful.

I’m considering writing about this for the Statesman. I am starting to get a backlog of columns, though, and I hate to put off writing about Christa Brown’s excellent new book. We’ll see.

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