Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 23, 1998
Sustaining our parishes
In examining the recommendations for restructuring parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese, one needs to ask: Will the mergers of up to 80 parishes better enable Catholics to give glory to God? Will it further the building of God's kingdom?
We cannot say for certain that it will. Some may decide to stop attending Sunday Mass because they see it as too far to travel. Some parishes may fail to set up ministries to help those without cars participate in the Eucharist. There may be turf wars over lay ministries in merged parishes. Larger parishes may lead to a decrease, rather than an increase, in the number of people involved in outreach ministries such as social justice and evangelization.
Such things are possible. And to the extent that they happen, they will be a counter-sign to God's kingdom.
There is, however, ample evidence that the people of this archdiocese are capable of great generosity. They give money, time and talent in sometimes staggering amounts, not for their self-aggrandizement, but for the greater good of all.
To create new parish communities, we will each have to do that again. Not for a few weeks, but for as long as our gifts are needed.
This is the great hope of the Faithful Into the Future document which restructures most parishes of the archdiocese. It calls for some level of sacrifice from most Catholics for the greater good of all. There will be sadness, even anger, over the closing of some churches. But this document, if implemented in a truly Christian spirit, will make ours a stronger Church.
Faithful Into the Future is a bold, decisive document. It shows leadership by making some hard decisions. But visionary leadership cannot end with the implementation of this document. Leadership is needed in all parishes as we struggle to equip people to witness their faith with every breath they take.
However, raising up more priests from our midst is essential to sustaining vibrant communities. The division of parishes proposed by Faithful Into the Future assumes there will be 48 priests to serve in those parishes. Unless things change rapidly, within 10 years, we will not have those priests. Within 30 years, if current trends continue, we will have only a handful of priests trying to do an impossible job.
We cannot be satisfied with current trends. God has not abandoned us. He is still calling young men to be priests. However, those young men need to be encouraged and supported by their parish communities. They need not only to hear the voice within, but also the voice without, calling them to serve God's people.
The re-establishment of the priesthood in our archdiocese should be our next major task. In recent years, we have had a youth ministry explosion - the growth of a ministry enabling large numbers of young people to see themselves as part of the Body of Christ. As well, renovations are underway to St. Joseph's Seminary and Newman Theological College which will better facilitate the formation of future priests and lay ministers.
These occurrences should be seen as part of a movement of the Holy Spirit to bring our Church to maturity in the new millennium.
Elsewhere in this issue, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil says our diocese has always been a missionary diocese - dependent on the outside Church for priests and religious men and women. A mature Church will meet its own need for priests, he says. And, we might add, it will also give priests to others.
As we form our new parishes, let that challenge always be in front of us - to raise up priests and religious so that we can meet not only our own needs but also the needs of others. The day of gloom and defeatism can come to an end. If we respond to the call of the Spirit, we can begin a new day in the life of our Church, a day filled with new vigour and enthusiasm.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.