Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 13, 1999
Restructuring architect addresses APC
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The archdiocesan's parish restructuring plan has brought out the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly side of people, said John Acheson.
The latter side comes out when parishes resist sharing finances, property and power, Acheson said during his update on the Transformation of Parishes (ToPs) plan at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meeting Dec. 4.
"There's hurt there, but there's also wonderful things happening," Acheson said.
Acheson has often been the focus of criticism over parish restructuring. Though he is the author of the report, he consulted with parishes and other groups in the archdiocese to write the report, which has also received a stamp of approval by then-Archbishop Joseph MacNeil and Archbishop Thomas Collins.
The report was a means of dealing with the declining number of active priests and population shifts in the archdiocese. By the year 2005, more than three quarters of today's priests in the archdiocese will have reached the age of 65.
Plans for consolidating parishes are being phased in over the next two to four years. There are recommendations to merge, twin and close some parishes.
The majority of churches facing the prospect of consolidation are doing so slowly, but cooperatively, said Acheson.
"There's a lot of good dialogue out there between the churches," he said.
He cites parishes such as St. Alphonsus and St. Paul, those in Trochu and Olds and Wainwright and Provost as parishes where parishioners are "working very well together."
But Acheson says the scenario is not so rosy in other parts of the archdiocese. He's aware of the sometimes "petty" things that go on in some of the merging parishes.
In one church a CWL member suggested inviting the CWL members of a merging church to join their meeting. Another member supported the idea enthusiastically, but said the CWL members from the other parish would not be able to hold executive positions.
"At another parish, and this is a quote," said Acheson, "they said, 'They're not our kind of people.'"
Acheson has also received "some nasty letters from one area." But he has also been reassured by the pastor there that the comments do not reflect the majority of the community.
"These are things we hear from a minority," Acheson said. "And it's a minority we hear a lot from."
Although the plan is set out over several years, Acheson said the rate of implementation is dependent on several factors, mainly the number of active priests in the archdiocese.
Acheson said the date for closure is initiated by the individual parishes. To date, only Edmonton's St. James Parish has confirmed it will close in June 2000.
The report has also brought some misunderstanding and concerns with regards to Sunday services, said Acheson. Some parishes which have lost their Sunday Masses have opted for lay-led liturgy services.
"It should only be accepted when people don't have the opportunity to go to Sunday Mass," Acheson said. "All of the archdiocese does have a reasonable opportunity to go to Sunday Mass."