Archbishop Gerard Pettipas
McLENNAN — The Archdiocese of Grouard McLennan plans to move its offices from the town of McLennan into Grande Prairie.
The move is motivated primarily by transportation and staffing needs, says Archbishop Gerard Pettipas.
"In spite of the cordial welcome and genuine support I have enjoyed in McLennan since becoming archbishop, I have become increasingly aware that this is not the most suitable location for me and the chancery offices at this point in our history," the archbishop says in a recent letter to Catholics in the northwestern Alberta diocese.
"I have thus began to look seriously at a move to Grande Prairie, which provides the only air transportation by national carriers within the archdiocese, as well as a suitable large population base from which to hire office staff."
McLennan is a small agricultural community of about 825 people.
"The cathedral is, in that sense, oversized for that community, but I know when they built the cathedral they fully expected that McLennan was going to be a much larger centre than it turned out to be at this point in history," Pettipas said.
The Archdiocese of Grouard McLennan covers more than a third of Alberta. Grande Prairie is a rapidly growing city of more than 50,000.
It is by far the largest community in the archdiocese, with the only significant airport, Pettipas said in an interview. While the archbishop travels around the archdiocese by car, travel outside the diocese is by airplane.
However, Pettipas has no intention to change the archdiocese's name or the designation of the cathedral. "We will remain to be known as the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan and the cathedral will remain St. John the Baptist Cathedral in McLennan."
Pettipas said the archdiocese has limited funds and is looking to acquire a residence and offices in the most economic way possible.
Grouard McLennan includes several First Nations and Metis settlements. It gets significant funding from Catholic Missions in Canada because of its status as a missionary diocese. It also gets funding from traditional Church sources as well as from a small investment portfolio. These three funding sources are enough to help sustain the operation of the archdiocese but not to cover the move to Grand Prairie.
"So we are going to have a capital campaign to raise some money to allow us to do this," Pettipas said.
The archdiocese's communication efforts now consists in Pettipas' sending out a monthly letter. "It's me sharing with the population of the diocese. It's not them sharing with one another."
But he wants to develop a system so people from across the diocese can meet without having to travel long distances.
Most priests in the archdiocese come from India, Africa and the Philippines for periods of roughly five years. The archdiocese pays their travel costs, as well as the cost of inculturation to the Canadian culture and climate, he said.