Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 7, 1998
WCR Letters to the Editor
Shocked by decision to close our parish
To the Editor:
Re: Parish Restructuring (WCR, Nov. 23).
I have been a member of Immaculé‚e Conception Parish since 1955. Since we lost our resident priest in 1987, I have worked diligently in the administration of this parish - one year as lay administrator and nine years as pastoral assistant.
Having thus been so closely involved, I cannot describe the shock and pain I have felt on reading about its impending closure.
Yes, I know that there is an acute shortage of priests and that restructuring is necessary. I also accept that the Eucharist is at the very heart of our faith.
But one must not forget the importance also of the Liturgy of the Word, and the very great importance of having a vibrant community.
Father Ron Rolheiser in his article "Why fewer people are going to church" (WCR, Nov. 23), states: "What must be renewed, more than liturgy, is community." And how can you promote community in a mega-parish where people do not know each other and attend simply to fulfill an obligation or to satisfy their own individualistic needs?
I strongly disagree with John Acheson's comment that larger parishes are needed "to ensure that the parishes of the archdiocese are exciting, inviting and effective centres of Church."
In your article you state: "The report is the fruit of 10 years of discussion and widespread consultation." Yes, and for 10 years or more, three models of parish administration were proposed to alleviate the workload for our priests:
Because our parish was one of the first in Edmonton to be without a resident priest, our council opted for model number one.
- Twinned parishes or parishes administered by lay persons with a priest coming to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist.
- A cluster of parishes administered by one or more priests.
- Amalgamation of two or more parishes.
This model has worked well for us for over 11 years. We have developed a vibrant community where everyone feels welcome and has a true sense of belonging.
We have planned prayerful and meaningful liturgies and have encouraged all our members to take part in the ministries and in the various parish activities so that all play an active role in enhancing the life of the community.
Why then must such a workable model be cast aside and amalgamation become the priority? Why should we be denied this close feeling of community?
We are often reminded of the need for more and more involvement by lay people in the Church. This is truly what has been happening in our parish for the last 11 years. Are we now to revert to being passive participants once again?
We have no animosity toward the people of St. Thomas d'Aquin. As indicated in our report to the restructuring committee, we are very willing to work with them and to participate actively in the evangelization process of the entire francophone community.
But we are very much afraid that, by closing our doors, we will become only numbers, lost in the indifference and the a-la-carte approach of the larger communities.
This, to me, would be a major step backwards in our progress toward becoming "Church."
Parishes should create community
To the Editor:
My reflections on Church restructuring:
We need to grow into the attitude of gratitude while expressing service through beatitude. Let's not be contented with less for the Holy Spirit is with us.
- Parking space is already a major problem without adding other parishes. What about wheelchair accessibility for disabled?
- Bus time routes change on weekends, making it almost impossible to attend Sunday Mass.
- Over-crowded churches will need better ventilation systems after each Mass.
- Have you considered using the Coliseum for larger Mass attendance once a month?
- We need crystal clear explanations of John Acheson's views in the way he expects the Church to function after these changes.
- What is his model? Is it rooted in the magisterium? Or are we expected to accept his ideas like robots?
- "As more lay staff are hired the cost of operating a parish will increase," Acheson claims. Parishioners are already drained financially by government and Church obligations. Where do they get more cash to continue to show generosity only to see their money used and misused needlessly? We can't afford to build more churches.
- Changing churches doesn't solve the bigger problems of apathy and individualism if pressed by the weaker members who say, "Why is the Church and society trying to control our lives?" What is needed is community.
- To form mature community, we need to be informed and come together in unity.
- Our Church offers this awe, wonder and richness for God's gift of Jesus as we become energized through the Eucharist.
Sr. Elizabeth Elniski
Restructuring will create hardships
To the Editor:
The news about parish restructuring in the Nov. 23 WCR was very disheartening to a great number of Catholics in the Edmonton Archdiocese. We realize that changes have to be made, but it is the details that are causing great concern.
If the number of rural parishes are closed as recommended in John Acheson's report, the number of parishioners attending church will diminish. Many people will not be able to travel upwards of 80 km one way to attend Mass.
The report states that "parishes will have transportation committees to ensure those without cars can take part in the Eucharist." That sounds good in theory, but let us be realistic. It will not happen in many cases. We cannot always depend on other people for rides.
And then there is the matter of Alberta's extreme winter weather conditions. Sadly, many people will want to attend Mass, but due to circumstances beyond their control, they will be unable to do so.
It does not appear that any consideration was made for the community spirit that exists in rural parishes. Many parishioners are brought together not only spiritually, but also socially and culturally, via their parish.
Acheson seems to think larger parishes are needed. Even Pope John Paul advocates smaller faith communities. If even some of the rural parishes could be kept open with some Masses along with lay-led liturgies then at least their existing programs could continue to function.
Presently, some rural parishes are seeing increased participation in their youth groups. It is unrealistic to think that all parents will drive their children great distances to attend catechism classes, therefore attendance will decrease.
Those who might consider a religious vocation will be fewer than ever. If we lose our youth today, they may never return to the Church even as adults. Growth is what is needed in our churches. We must hold on to our youth.
Yes, priests are in short supply and steps must be taken to cope with that reality, but rather than closing so many parishes it seems a better solution would be to recruit priests from elsewhere in the world where they are in abundant supply.
It puzzles me that Archbishop Joseph MacNeil stated that he doesn't want to be dependent on priests from the outside. In the past, we have always imported priests. Isn't it even more vital that we continue to do so especially when we are facing such a critical shortage.