Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 7, 1998
Parish plan drawing little negative input
By GLEN ARGAN
The man who wrote the report proposing restructuring of parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese says he has heard little negative reaction to his report.
John Acheson told the WCR Dec. 1, two weeks after the release of his Faithful Into the Future report, that he has received fewer than 15 phone calls about the document.
"Only one has really roasted me," Acheson said.
The report calls for the closure of 13 to 16 parishes in the city of Edmonton and 66 churches outside of Edmonton, some of which are rarely used.
Sunday Mass will continue to be celebrated in 52 churches outside of Edmonton and 28 to 30 in the city.
The closures are due to an impending sharp decline in the number of priests serving in parishes in the archdiocese.
The report's release was greeted with widespread interest, intense local media coverage and some national media interest.
But Acheson said when he appeared on a CHED Radio phone-in show, "There was more debate among the callers than there were questions for me."
"Generally there has been strong support to respond in some way to realities facing the archdiocese," he said.
There has been some disappointment and "quite a bit of sorrow" at the impending closure of parishes, he said. "To date, there has not been a great deal of anger."
Acheson attributed the lack of negative response to the preparation done over the last two years by the Transformation of Parishes task force and to regional workshops held across the archdiocese last spring.
Some groups have made suggestions for "fine-tuning" the recommendations, Acheson said. "All but one are perfectly logical and I'll be suggesting that we go with them."
One of those adjustments is with the parish in Villeneuve which the report linked to St. Albert, but parishioners wanted to remain tied to nearby rural parishes, Acheson said.
He said he received about 90 letters from parishioners, even though it had already been decided to implement their suggestion.
Other parishes which were planning to build new churches and now find their days numbered are feeling "a particular level of frustration," he said.
Some people "have spoken passionately about increasing vocations," he said.
Some areas are already starting to act on the report, he noted.
Three parishes in southwest Edmonton - St. Anthony's, St. Agnes and St. Thomas More - have changed their weekend Mass times and have the three pastors working as a team in preparation for the time when only two priests will serve the area.
The report is based on the assumption that the number of priests working in parishes of the archdiocese will fall from 80 to 48 over the next few years.
Acheson said in the 15 months he's been working on the project, seven to nine priests have left parish ministry. "Is it going to be another nine in the next year? It's not out of the question that it would be."