Letters: Sacred Heart Parish padlocked gate due to drug activity and unsafe conditions for our parishioners

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Letter below was submitted in response to the April 23 Letter to the Editor, Letters Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

When I became pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Manchester about a year and a half ago, I accepted my appointment with great anticipation. Sacred Heart had not had its own pastor for some time and it was clear to me that the parish wanted and needed a leader who lived amongst its people full time. I have now lived at Sacred Heart for a year and witnessed from my own windows situations that needed to be addressed for the safety and security of our parishioners and our neighbors.

Our parking lot has been posted as “no parking” for many years. Though we recognize that visitors to the Varney School Apartments need parking, at any given time our lot was roughly half-full and our parishioners often had difficulty finding parking when attending parish events.

And unfortunately, we saw an increase in unsafe operation by those who using our parking lot for non-parish events. I have witnessed elderly people using the parking lot for their daily walks involved in near-accidents with cars coming up into the driveway.  Oftentimes those cars were en route to the Varney Apartments to visit or pick up residents.

A gate in the fence between Varney and Sacred Heart allowed free access 24/7 to the parking lot. In the past, this allowed tenants access to the parish, but more recently, the access enabled drug and other illicit activity in the nighttime hours. Though the police have been very cooperative in helping keep us safe, I knew this could not be allowed to continue.

The parish parking lot somehow also became a public dog park and a place where cars gather with loud music, smoking and loitering. When I have confronted those involved, during daylight hours, I have been received with hostility.

I realized that these activities could no longer be tolerated. We have young people and families and the Scouts on our site often and maintaining a safe environment has to be our priority. After consultation with others, including cooperation with Varney and prior notice to tenants, we have decided to limit access to the parking lot to those attending parish events only.

The Varney building’s management have been wonderful in helping create a safe environment for all involved, and I appreciate their support in keeping a safe neighborhood through awareness and vigilance. Any Varney residents who need pastoral care will always be taken care of and I will always be available to visit residents in their apartments, as well as our Eucharistic ministers.

Change can be hard to accept, but safety is our first priority. I hope that over time those that are unhappy with this decision will join me in working together to support a safer neighborhood here on the West Side.

Father Steve Marcoux
Sacred Heart Parish
Manchester, NH


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