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Honduras 2015 Mission Trip - St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary

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May 9, 2015

Dear St. Elizabeth and St. Isidore Parishioners,

Last June, Cardinal Sean formally launched the collaborative, or pastoral partnership, comprising St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Isidore Parishes. Since then, we have taken some important first steps as envisioned in Disciples in Mission. These include having the same pastor and parochial vicar for the two parishes, establishing a single collaborative pastoral council, having the two finance councils routinely meet together, creating a single pastoral leadership team (John Morris, Diahne Goodwin, Robin Ulichney and me), and appointing Andrea Goodrich as collaborative music director. All this is over and above the cooperation and sharing that already occur in Generations of Faith, mission trips, and other settings.

The shift to a collaborative-based approach to pastoral care and mission presents challenges at every turn, and there is no manual to guide us. We are making our way as carefully and sensitively as we can. There will be loose ends and missteps as well as positive experiences and outcomes. We will make mid-course corrections as necessary. Your help with the entire effort is essential, as is your understanding and, yes, your forbearance as well.

As we continue to move toward fuller collaboration, our next step is the establishment of one faith formation ministry that serves our two parishes. This more unified approach to pastoral service means that there will no longer be a need for separate parish-based Directors of Faith Formation. For that reason, Joyce Pinney will be leaving us on June 30.

I want to thank Joyce for her warm, dedicated, and faith-filled service to St. Isidore Parish for the last 3+ years. I also thank her for her many courtesies to me, and for the grace and understanding with which she heard that her position would not continue. I wish to emphasize that this decision was not prompted by concerns about her work. Under other circumstances we would try to find or create a position for her, but given the priority of streamlining the staff and current financial constraints, that is not possible.

Starting July 1, our faith formation ministry will be organized and staffed as follows.

  • The Director of Generations of Faith in the two parishes will be Barbara Dane.
  • The Coordinator of Young Family Ministries in both parishes will be Carmen Giombetti. This ministry will attend to preparation for and celebration of baptism, first reconciliation, first holy communion and be responsible for the K-4 breakout at Generations of Faith. It will also attend to the parents of young children.
  • Barbara Dane will coordinate the middle school breakout of Generations of Faith.
  • High school faith formation in the two parishes, including Generations of Faith and the preparation for and celebration of Confirmation, will be in the hands of Jim Flanagan.
  • Coordination of adult faith formation, including that aspect of Generations of Faith, will belong to Diahne Goodwin.
  • Youth ministry will remain parish-based for now. Jim Flanagan will continue to coordinate this ministry at St. Elizabeth. The critical next step in building a youth ministry at St. Isidore’s is the establishment of a strong, functioning youth ministry board comprising parish adults and teens. I am pleased to say that work to this end has already begun.

Since these steps are sure to raise questions and concerns, I wish to add some comments.

  • Pastoral presence at St. Isidore Parish will continue, as it must. For the time being, Robin Ulichney will continue to work at St. Isidore’s as she has in the past. Faith formation staff members will also be available in both parishes. Details will be worked out before the fall.
  • Although specific people will be responsible for particular areas of faith formation, that does not mean that they will do all things personally. That would be an unreasonable expectation. A great deal of help and cooperation from parishioners will be needed.
  • We will continue to depend on the many volunteers who serve their parish. Their contributions of time, talent, and commitment continue to be essential—for Generations of Faith and all other ministries. Parishioners’ service is doubly important at this time since it helps to maintain continuity and stability during a time of transition.
  • Some might assume that the faith formation coordinators will draw a second salary. They will not, as I do not. What will be different is that the two parishes will share responsibility for their compensation. The two finance councils will help to decide what is fair and right in given cases, and what our parishes can afford overall.
  • Our two parishes enter this new phase of Disciples in Mission in better shape financially than some other parishes. But both are experiencing financial stress. Therefore each parish will ask the Archdiocese of Boston to forgive some or all of the 10% tithe it would normally owe for this coming fiscal year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). If these abatements are granted, it will give us more time to address our financial challenges in light of our experience with shared ministry and with our mission explicitly in mind.
  • As our staff people assume responsibilities for two parishes, it is necessary to reconsider their current tasks, and make suitable adjustments so they can do their work in a reasonable number of hours. Staff persons are already putting in more time than they signed up for. We will address this challenge and make the appropriate decisions.

To provide an opportunity to discuss these important developments, there will be a general meeting of members of both parishes on Thursday, May 21 at 7 p.m. in St. Isidore Church Hall. If you have questions or concerns in the meantime, please let me know.

As we consider these matters and sort through the questions and feelings that they raise, we do well to “lift up our hearts” and take to heart last Sunday’s Gospel. At all times we are called to abide in the Lord and be intent on bearing good fruit. These decisions and the entire life and work of our two parishes are best judged by their adherence to this standard. I earnestly ask that you keep this in mind as you consider our life and work together. Sincerely yours in Christ,

Walter J. Woods, Pastor
St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parishes

April 27, 2016 - Formation of the Pastoral Plan Writing Team

Writing Team




Diahne Goodwin


Collaborative Staff

Glen Bunnell

St. Isidore

Finance Council

Mary Brolin

St. Elizabeth


Charlie Corley

St. Isidore

Finance and Buildings and Grounds

Deacon Charlie Cornell

St. Isidore


Sheila Hennessy

St. Isidore


Pete Hocknell

St. Elizabeth


Jan Ketonen

St. Elizabeth

Collaborative Pastoral Council

Paul McMahon

St. Elizabeth

Collaborative Pastoral Council

Tom Moroney

St. Isidore

Finance Council

Paul Nelson

St. Elizabeth

Teen Parishioner

Steve Ryan

St. Elizabeth


Kim Tocci

St. Isidore


July 16, 2014

Dear Parishioners,

The work to set up the St. Isidore-St. Elizabeth of Hungary Collaborative has begun. In this letter I would like to let you know what has happened so far and what you can expect in the coming year or so.

You are all aware that a parish collaborative is to have a single pastoral staff that will serve all of its parishes and promote their mission. Pastors have been advised to begin by establishing what amounts to a pastoral management team with several key positions. This team is designed to relieve the pastor of many day-to-day concerns so that he is more free to carry out his own responsibilities. It is also meant to enhance the effective functioning of the staff, the ministry among the people, and the ultimate mission of evangelization.

That first step has now been taken, and I am pleased to introduce the “Pastoral Leadership Team” that will serve our collaborative.

The Collaborative Business Manager will be John Morris, currently business manager at St. Elizabeth Parish. The Director of Pastoral Ministries will be Diahne Goodwin, currently a pastoral associate at St. Elizabeth Parish. The Executive Assistant to the Pastor will be Robin Ulichney, currently business manager at St. Isidore Parish. The effective date of these appointments is Sept. 1, 2014.

For the time being, however, Robin, Diahne, and John will continue in their present positions and assume their new duties gradually and as necessary preparations are made. These include the revision of job descriptions, the handing off or dropping of some tasks, arrangements concerning equipment and office space, and assuring that parishioners of both St. Isidore’s and St. Elizabeth’s continue to be properly served.

In the meantime, the Pastoral Leadership Team and I will begin to meet regularly. Some staff members will be asked to report directly to one of the leadership persons. Above all, the leadership team and I will attend to the formation of a collaborative pastoral staff. This task must be done carefully and with a great deal of respect for persons, the resources and ministries of each parish, and especially the priority of evangelization. Until that task is finished, the two parish staffs will meet jointly.

Other developments concern the councils. I hope to have the required collaborative pastoral council up and running by early September. The two parish finance councils are to remain, and each will continue to have its own membership. However, the finance councils will meet jointly so that the members can become familiar with one another and the financial situation of both parishes. Starting in the fall, a series of training sessions will be provided to members of the staffs and councils, all in order to help everyone understand the new priorities, expectations, and ways of thinking required by Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Whether or not you serve on a council or assist a ministry or activity, I hope you will enhance your own understanding of major trends and challenges in the Church today, the more or less effective ways of responding, what evangelization entails, and how it all affects the organization and work of parishes.

One easy and practical way to become better informed is to do some reading. I recommend the following titles.

White and Corcoran, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter.
Available in Kindle and hard copy formats. People around the country are reading this accessible, extraordinary book, including many SEOH and SIP parishioners.
Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.
Also available in Kindle and hard copy formats. This is a widely-read, and very helpful source for understanding the why, wherefore, and mission of parishes today.
Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston.
The text can be downloaded using links on This official document provides the background and norms for our work. You can learn a great deal more about the background and developments concerning pastoral planning in the Archdiocese of Boston at
Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel.
Also available in hard copy, one online source is here.
This remarkable exhortation offers a wide, often moving view of the Gospel-based sources of the church’s life and work. If we get what Pope Francis is saying, we’ll also get why parish life—and our own personal and spiritual lives—require radical and ongoing transformation.

The process now underway in our two parishes is a big deal, and will affect everyone. As we go forward, I intend to keep my eye on the ball, which is our call to carry out the mission of evangelization in a more fruitful way. I invite you to do the same. And let us stay in touch as we walk the path of community and service together.

Love and blessings to you and your families,
Walter J. Woods, Pastor
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, Acton & Boxborough
St. Isidore Parish, Stow

1/11/14 - Fr. Walter Woods appointed pastor of the St. Isidore/St. Elizabeth of Hungary Collaborative


Fr. John Swencki has being assigned as parochial vicar in the Medford Collaborative (St. Joseph and St. Francis Parishes). Fr. Paul Sughrue is assigned to our collaborative on a part-time basis. Fr. Paul comes to us from being pastor of St. Clare Parish in Braintree, which is to be part of a new collaborative. Fr. Paul is also assigned to hospital ministry, and will divide his time evenly between these two assignments. These assignments were effective as of June 3.

October 4, 2013

Dear Parishioners,

Major Jesuit journals recently published a remarkable interview with Pope Francis. It is another example of his transparency, humanity, humility, and sincerity. It also gives us a much better idea of his agenda for the Catholic church and its members.

At the beginning of the Interview, Pope Francis is asked “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He responds: “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” This personal comment is one that we can relate to. We too are sinners under the gaze of Jesus Christ, who never looks away and never gives up—on anyone. Perhaps this is a source of his oft-noted humility. He knows that it is not about him. It is always about the Lord and his mercy to everyone.

Pope Francis elaborates: “God is in every person’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

Accordingly, the church’s mission is to bring God’s care and mercy to all, especially people who are lost or hurting. “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.” He adds: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

As if that were not clear enough, he adds: “I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary – that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude.”

If the church is well formed by the Gospel, its posture toward its own and toward others will be warm and not cold, turned toward wounded people rather than in another direction, merciful rather than judgmental, disposed to listen before speaking, respectful rather than scolding, and anxious to include everyone rather than only some. It is necessary to grasp and embrace this Gospel-inspired ministry of care and healing in order properly to address the problems in persons and structures. Doing so keeps priorities in right order and assures that deficiencies are dealt with by people committed to service, solidarity, and mercy. The pastoral impact of a church transformed by the Gospel is impossible to overestimate.

The Gospel also demands initiative and outreach. “Let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.” This requires that the Gospel be proclaimed “on every street corner,” a refusal to judge others, and a sincere love and respect for them. “In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.” The church is to love everyone, no matter what.

The Gospel, then, is a key source of the changes that Pope Francis wishes to see in the church and its people. Although it is still early, certain things have already become clear.

  • He means to reform the Roman Curia (central papal administration) to make it a better servant of the local churches. He does not wish to have central offices “run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship.… The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.” The new Council of Cardinals is already helping him with this.
  • He intends to enhance the influence of women in the church. “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
  • He urges us understand the “church” as all the people of God and not solely or primarily the hierarchy. This broader view is faithful to the New Testament. It grounds his practice of discernment and validates his moving portrayal of the holiness of ordinary people.
  • He reminds the clergy of their primary focus: “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”
  • He will promote changes in decision-making at all levels in the church. Decisions are to be informed by real as opposed to token consultations, and ought to be made locally instead of in Rome whenever possible. He is personally adverse to hasty or authoritarian decisions.

This summary does scant justice to the wide range of topics in the interview and the significance of Pope Francis’s comments. So I heartily recommend that you read it for yourselves. It’s available at Other important sources also deserve sustained attention and reflection. His address to the Brazilian Bishops (7/28/13) gives a fuller vision of ministry in the church. His letter to and interview with Eugenio Scalfani, a prominent Italian journalist and atheist, shows a faithful and respectful approach to non-believers. These sources are available in English online.

Pope Francis’s example is even more important than his talks and writings. By word, deed, and manner, Pope Francis is modeling how to be a disciple and pastor. The remarkable response he has elicited shows what can happen when we give the Lord, the Gospel, and the church-as-community their rightful priority—and act accordingly.

Pope Francis continues to amaze, inform, and inspire. May his example and his ministry continue to be a blessing to you and your families. And may our own commitment to the Lord and his Gospel be a blessing to us and to others.

Sincerely in Christ,

Walter J. Woods
Pastor, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, Acton and Boxborough
Administrator, St. Isidore Parish, Stow

St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary included in Phase 2

Phase 2 FAQ

Parish Partnership Planning Group Report - June 2013

Fr. Walter's update 01/20/2013

September 25, 2013

Dear Parishioners,

Cardinal Sean has decided that St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parishes are to be included in Phase 2 of the new archdiocesan pastoral plan, effective June 3, 2014. Although that is many months away, preparations have already begun. Here are key details:

  • Once a parish has been slated to come under the new pastoral plan, its pastor or administrator is expected to resign. Accordingly, I have sent Cardinal Sean a letter of resignation from the offices of pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish and administrator of St. Isidore Parish.
  • Nonetheless, those pastors and administrators remain in office until June 3, 2014.
  • As any priest is entitled to do, I intend to apply for appointment as pastor of both our parishes when those positions become open next June. The same priest is to be pastor of all parishes in a “collaborative,” or grouping of parishes for pastoral care and planning purposes.
  • There is to be a consultation with parishioner‐representatives, particularly the members of the parish staffs, finance councils, and pastoral councils. At this meeting, parishioners will be asked “to advise the Clergy Personnel Board about the needs of their parishes, so that the Board can make a good recommendation to Cardinal Sean” about who the collaborative’s pastor should be.
  • The date, time, and place of the consultation in our collaborative has not yet been determined.
  • The target date for announcing the new pastors is this Christmas. Although they won’t assume office until June, they will have the intervening months to begin forming a pastoral team and be trained in pastoral leadership under the new plan.

There are likely to be many questions about Phase 2 and its practical meaning. For some answers, see the “FAQ on Phase 2 Collaboratives” document on the Disciples in Mission website.

With this announcement, our future is now up-­‐close-­‐and-­‐personal. I have expected this decision for quite a while, and am at peace now that it is here. At least you and I know where we stand, and can move ahead with more direction and support than before. What is better, we can begin to focus more intentionally on the work of evangelization, doing locally what we see Pope Francis doing as he reaches out to everyone. Wherever the road ahead takes us, we have the Lord in our midst and good people in our parishes. No wonder the words of Julian of Norwich came to mind: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Fr. Walter

June 5, 2013

Dear parishioners,

As the number of priests continues to decline, it is only a matter of time before the archdiocese will assign only one priest to serve both St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth parishes.  Although nothing has yet been decided, the Director of Priest Personnel has advised me that this could occur as soon as next June.

To help us get ready for this eventuality, I assembled a group of parishioners, five from each parish, and asked them to do two things:

(1) identify the problems and challenges that would arise when there is only one priest for our two parishes; and
(2) make specific recommendations on how we should address these challenges. 

The group has carried out the first task, and now shares its results with you.
As you read the report, please remember that it intends only to identify or name the challenges that confront us. The group presents it for your information and to invite your feedback.  Has any problem or challenge been omitted?  Are the priorities represented more or less OK? Is everything stated in a helpful way?  Again, please keep in mind that the present task is only to set forth what needs to be addressed, and not to offer solutions. 

Please address your comments to me or any of the members, preferably by the end of the month.
With the benefit of your feedback, the group will adjust the scope and dimensions of the problem as necessary, and then get to work on finding suitable solutions. The goal is to have concrete recommendations ready by January 2014.  That will allow time for everyone to understand and discuss the recommendations before decisions have to be made.

This report is another sign of significant changes that continue to affect us.  They entail a change in community as well as the loss of convenience and resources that have comforted and served us for a long time.  But these changes also open the door to a deeper experience of community.  They call us to greater co-responsibility for one another, our parishes, and the mission we have been given.  As we shoulder the challenges and seize the opportunities that are before us, we should take heart in the gifts we have been given, especially the One who is with us always.
With love, prayers, and blessings to you and your families,
Fr. Walter Wood
Walter J. Woods
Pastor, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish
Administrator, St. Isidore Parish


As of this writing on Tuesday, it’s still too soon to know who bombed the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday afternoon. We know that this act was designed to kill and maim innocent people. But it gets even worse. The Boston Marathon is the top-ranking marathon, and attracts the best long-distance runners in the world along with thousands of other competitors from near and far. Taking place on the Patriots’ Day holiday, it is a festive time for competitors and spectators, people old and young, local folks and visitors from virtually everywhere else. It’s a day when everyone feels safe and everyone has fun. Marathon Monday is one of those times when hospitality, trust, kindness, and celebration are there for all to share and enjoy.

Monday’s bombing sought to destroy these precious aspects of our humanity and our community along with the lives of innocent people. This act was intensely evil both because of the damage it inflicted and also on account of the cold and heartless calculation that went into it. And for what?

This awful event draws attention to evil in persons and in actions. Moreover, when public safety experts remind us that it is not possible to remove all risk and every threat from such “soft targets,” we know that this applies to life in general. Evil and risk go with human life. But so also do grace and goodness.

One of the blessings of our Catholic faith is that it pays close attention to both these aspects of human life. It never underestimates either the capacity for evil or the power to do good that resides within the human heart. It knows that sudden or calculated destruction and opportunities to act in a noble and generous way occur for us all. The work of first responders and bystanders on Monday shows just how good people can be, even in the most awful of circumstances. The light shines most clearly when the darkness is most intense.

If we reflect on such terrible events in the light of our faith, we might come away with a new appreciation of human helplessness, despite all good efforts, and our consequent need for a Savior. Having had his own encounter with cruelty and death, and being lifted up three days later, our Lord is well able to lift us up out of destruction, grief, and helplessness. This puts the bad stuff in its place, gives us reason to live in hope, and sets us free from fear and anything else that would quench the God-given flame of goodness within us. Is this not what we celebrate this Easter season?

I refuse to give in to fear or to bow to anyone who would terrorize us and harm our community—or anyone’s community. Yes, of course we ought to take all prudent precautions on behalf of safety. But above all, we ought to take to heart the Lord’s promise “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days”
(Luke 1: 74-75). That’s our salvation, our call, our grace and our hope. Together let us embrace it anew.

As we continue to sort out our reflections and feelings, I pray for those who died or were injured in the blasts and all their loved ones. I fervently hope that law enforcement personnel will correctly identify whoever is responsible for this crime and pursue them until they get the full measure of justice that they deserve. Heart-felt appreciation goes out to public safety personnel and first responders, nurses, EMTs, physicians, and everyone else who cared for the people hurt on Monday. I salute those who reached out to strangers with offers of lodging and other acts of kindness. I am thankful that so many returned safe and sound to their loved ones on Monday evening. Finally I pray that the human bonds of hospitality, trust, compassion, and community—injured but not destroyed on Monday—will be restored among us, for Boston Marathon days to come and all other days of the year.

Fr. Walter


Fr. Walter was interviewed by Wicked Local Maynard (12/31/2012)

Fr. Walter
Read the whole story here