Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 30, 1998
Eastern area seeks change in plan
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholics in East Central Alberta are reacting positively to the restructuring of their parishes but are concerned about the distances some will have to travel to Mass.
Parishes in the Stettler, Castor and Bashaw area should be clustered by August 2000 and receive one priest to minister to their needs.
By that point, Mass will no longer be regularly celebrated in Delburne, Veteran, Big Valley, Consort, Coronation, Mirror and Alix.
Consolidation of those parishes will take place at a time to be determined by the local communities.
Catholics in Consort will face an 80-km drive to Mass in Castor, which is itself 65 km east of Stettler, the largest centre in the clustered parish.
"The people in my three eastern parishes - Coronation, Veteran and Consort - thought that maybe two of them would find themselves consolidated but never thought the three of them would be," noted Father Ken West, the area pastor.
"We are hoping one of the three communities will stay open so that people in Consort, especially, don't have to travel so far to Mass."
The parish council met to discuss the issue Nov. 24. They concluded that the three affected parishes should continue the discussion.
"We are hoping that something will be able to be done so that they, one of those three places, may be able to stay open," West said Nov. 24.
"Castor will be the most Eastern parish in the whole area and that wouldn't be too fair for the people away out."
West said John Acheson, the author of the restructuring plan, is open to some sort of accommodation. "And so we are going to maybe suggest a little bit of fine tuning."
As for the people's reaction to Acheson's report, West said parishioners were "kind of expecting change" to happen in their area so "they are not shocked or surprised."
"The people knew something was going to happen so they have been well prepared," he said. "There certainly hasn't been any anger or anything like that. They are far beyond that.
"It's more just saying, 'Well, we realize that we were up for some changes' but they are hopeful that they can keep one of them open."
Added West, "You may find people shocked in other areas, but not here. People knew this was coming."
Judy Bishell, a representative for Veteran on the parish pastoral council, held a similar opinion.
"We know that there is a shortage of people out here in East Central Alberta. So we knew that something was going to happen. However we don't feel that the distance, the geography has been addressed properly."
"According to the Western Catholic Reporter people will be expected to drive 30 minutes to Mass but even from Veteran it is virtually impossible to be in Castor in 30 minutes," she said Nov. 25.
The alternative would be Provost and it is more than an hour drive.
For people in Consort, it will take at least 55 minutes to be in Castor for Mass, Bishell said.
"Distances are a problem and Mr. Acheson is aware of that. He admits that the distances are a problem out here."
Bishell said the parishes of Coronation, Veteran and Consort are going to have a general meeting Dec. 13 to see if they can come up with a workable solution for the area. They expect to make a submission to Acheson following the meeting. There are 25 active families in the Veteran parish.