Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 23, 1998
A hopeful situation
Man who wrote the report says it will create a stronger local Church
By GLEN ARGAN
Many Catholics across the Edmonton Archdiocese will see the report on restructuring parishes as delivering the bad news that their parish is going to be merged with another.
But for John Acheson, the man who wrote the report, the situation is a hopeful one.
"I believe we're going to have a stronger Church," Acheson said in an interview with the WCR prior to the release of his long-awaited report Faithful Into the Future. "I believe we're into a new Pentecost."
The report is full of optimism. It quotes sociologist Reginald Bibby's contention that the Edmonton Archdiocese does not have a shortage of priests - it has too many parishes.
It says its recommendations for closing churches and creating larger parishes are needed "to ensure that the parishes of the archdiocese are exciting, inviting and effective centres of Church."
And later it proclaims, "The archdiocese must restructure its parishes not only because it is forced to do so but because the Spirit-led restructuring will eventually result in stronger parishes, a stronger archdiocese and a stronger Church."
Acheson says even the cover of the document tries to portray a sense of hope.
Some, he says, will be pleased with his report, others upset and still others disappointed while realizing that the consolidation of about 80 parishes is a necessity.
"Some will never accept the report," he says.
And he implies that there may be more of that lack of acceptance in the city of Edmonton than outside it.
"The country parishes are much more used to this process than are the city parishes," he told the WCR. "I think the city parishes will be more shocked because they haven't gone through this before."
Moreover, while the plan calls for 48 priests to serve the parishes of the archdiocese and there are now about 80 in full-time ministry, Acheson doesn't believe his plan is good for more than about five years.
By then, more priests will have retired. "After that," he says, "there will be fundamental changes in the way we function as Church."
Rather than repeating the process of consolidating parishes, Acheson says a new model will be needed. Discussion of what that model will be should begin immediately, he says.