Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 21, 2000
New video examines parish transformation
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Adult Learning Commission is coming out with a new video - this one on the transformation of parishes.
The Road Ahead: Parishes Facing the Future is a 30-minute video featuring key people behind the transformation of parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese and other neighbouring dioceses.
"The purpose of the video is to help all parishes adjust to the transformation because every parish in Canada is facing much the same problem," said Father Jack Spicer, director of the Adult Learning Commission.
Speakers on the video include Archbishops Thomas Collins and Joseph MacNeil, John Acheson, Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, Prince George Bishop Gerald Wiesner, and priests and laity.
Intended for group discussion, the video is divided into four sections: Transformation of Parishes, Changing Roles, Centrality of the Eucharist and Stepping into the Future. Speakers deal with each of those issues in simple language.
"I think the clustering of parishes is inherently a good idea," says Collins. "Letting neighbouring parishes work together in cooperation - I think that's a very good idea."
Acheson, the architect of the transformation, gave three reasons for the changes in parish structure.
"The first is the reality that society is changing and as a result our Church must change," he said.
"The second reality was the fact that the laity are assuming a greater role in the Church. In fact it's been written that the most profound thing happening in our Church today is the emerging role of the laity.
"The third reality or agent of change has to do with the reduced number of priests that are available to work in our parishes and that decline has been going on for quite some years and all indications are, at least for the foreseeable future, there is going to be a continuing decline."
Father Mike McCaffery, chancellor of the Edmonton Archdiocese, says another big reason for the transformation is people . . . or, rather, the lack of them.
"Some parishes are just not viable any longer or they don't have the people, they don't have the ministries, the physical structures are not able to meet the needs," the chancellor says on the video.
"But a lot of it is just people; they are small congregations. They are not what we call parish-viable for today's Church."
MacNeil notes the archdiocese has been closing and merging rural parishes for years due to the priest shortage. "I think I could fill a page with names of parishes and missions that no longer exist."
MacNeil says that in many cases people live just five or 10 minutes down the road from the next parish.
"They go down the road when they make their weekly purchases; they go down the road when they want to go curling or to a hockey game. So it makes sense that people go down the road for Mass too," he says.
McCaffery says the transformation of parishes has been painful for the priests, for the archbishop and "especially for the people because they are losing something that was very precious to them."
"I think any time that we have change we go through a grieving process. And everybody goes through that process differently; people grieve for long time and those are the ones we have to be sensitive to."
"People were very hurt and they were angry, very angry at first," according to Coronation parishioner Janet Klasson, one of three parishioners featured on the video. "Well, that's all part of the denial and the bargaining and all those stages of grieving that people go through."
Urban parishioners have also felt the pain. "We tend to think of our small community as family so the closure hurt," said St. James parishioner Carolee Perry. "On the other hand we are optimistic about the future and see the changes as something that's sort of inevitable."
According to Bishop Henry, the transformation of parishes will increase the involvement of laity in the Church.
"What we are doing is looking at a realignment of some of the roles and trying to pay attention to some of the charism of the laity, their responsibilities in terms of their Baptism," he says. "There is going to be some realignment and shifting of roles and duties and responsibilities."
The Road Ahead comes with a discussion guide for those who want to study the issue in small groups. About 300 copies of the video will be available.