Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
Calgary starts to restructure its parishes
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Calgary Diocese is planning to restructure its parishes in a bid to improve parish life and cope with the priest shortage.
Planners, however, are reluctant to say exactly what is going to happen, other than saying that some parishes are going to be merged and twinned.
Father John Schuster, head of the seven-member diocesan planning committee, stressed the plan does not contemplate the closure of parishes, although he admitted "some churches" will close.
The planning committee has being working on a restructuring plan for the past two years and came up with a "series of proposals regarding every parish" in mid November.
The proposals are currently being studied at the parish level for "possible improvement," Schuster said.
A restructuring plan with specific recommendations will be presented to Bishop Fred Henry at the end of February.
"We may merge or twin parishes but we will not close any parishes," Schuster stressed. "We may close churches but not parishes."
The diocesan official said it is too early to say which and how many parishes are going to be merged or twinned, let alone how many churches may close.
"This is a painful process for everybody involved and we are all trying to keep our faith in mind and trying to come up with solutions that are to the advantage of everyone," he said.
Factors taken into account in the restructuring plan include parishes' quality of lay involvement, ministry availability, financial stability, leadership approaches, overall parish performance and member's needs and expectations, Henry said in a Nov. 15 pastoral letter posted on the diocese's website.
The bishop also noted that "the availability and profile of parish priests is changing and population shifts and demographic profile changes are influencing and will continue to influence the future development of parishes in the diocese."
The Calgary Diocese has 92 active priests and a total of 80 parishes.
The goal of restructuring is to have "parishes that reflect the character and needs of their members and their surrounding communities and which meet a minimum level of quality and scope of liturgies and programs to which any Catholic person should have access to across the diocese," Henry said in his letter.
He proposes to achieve this goal through the expansion of opportunities for spiritual leadership in parishes, through the institution of a permanent diaconate program and through the mandating of more laity for parish ministry service.
In the letter, Henry also speaks of the need "to provide the training necessary to support the changing roles and responsibilities of laity and clergy as well as new initiatives to enhance the program and administrative operations of parishes."
"This transformation of consciousness is a work of changing self-identity - a fundamental rethinking of who we are as a local Church," Henry said of the restructuring process.