Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 8, 2004
Collins reaffirms closure of St. Francis Parish
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
They were hoping for a ray of hope but it didn't come. Archbishop Thomas Collins confirmed what parishioners feared: St. Francis of Assisi Parish will close as scheduled next summer and the church will be sold.
Collins met with more than 300 parishioners at the parish hall following the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass Oct. 31.
Parishioners and community leaders pleaded with the archbishop to keep the parish open but Collins said he simply doesn't have a priest for the area.
He told the disappointed crowd their parish will close in late June next year when the pastor, Franciscan Father Denis Vavrek, leaves on a sabbatical.
"It's a sad occasion because we are talking about the closing of the parish. A parish is not just a house but a home, a family."
But Collins said a parish is where one meets the Lord and urged parishioners to join with other families of the Lord. And he urged the crowd to keep the parish's food bank open, saying the archdiocese is ready to help in that endeavour.
The Franciscans founded the parish in 1909 and have operated it ever since. But they have no one to replace Vavrek.
"This is an issue of fairness," Collins said, noting that thousands of Catholics in other areas of the archdiocese are being poorly served due to the priest shortage. And he said as archbishop he is not only responsible for St. Francis but for all 350,000 Catholics in the diocese.
Collins noted some rural pastors must travel great distances every weekend to celebrate Mass in three or four parishes.
He said the main priority now is in Millwoods, where there is one parish and three priests to serve more than 20,000 Catholics. St. Theresa Parish will soon be split to create a new parish.
He listed other areas that are suffering, including Sherwood Park, where two priests serve the area's 15,000 Catholics.
Currently there are 87 active parishes in the archdiocese - 38 in the city and 49 outside of Edmonton. There are 64 priests active in parish service - 44 diocesan and 20 religious priests. Three diocesan priests will retire soon. There are also 18 seminarians studying to become priests.
Collins said he is hoping to get a few priests from India and expects to ordain at least two local priests in the next few years. But he said by the time he gets them, others will have retired.
Jeff Dmytrowich, vice president of the Baldwin Community League, told Collins the community served by the parish is in dire need of Catholic presence.
"Our church is located in one of the poorest communities of Edmonton," he said. "You need not look any further than the sidewalk outside the friary, where someone has spray painted 'smoke weed' in white letters, to know that there are great social needs right here in this neighbourhood.
"Imagine how much these social needs will grow in the absence of the parish."
Dmytrowich urged the archbishop to consider the role of the food bank, which serves over 60 families a week.
Collins told Dmytrowich he would like to meet with the community league leaders to review its concerns.
Many parishioners began leaving the hall when they saw their hopes for the parish crushed. "I'm very disappointed," said Henry Kosinski, 67, as he left with his wife Mary. "Four generations of my family have attended this church and now they are closing it."
Rosemarie Paloski, 28, and her mother Josie left the hall weeping. "This is very sad," Rosemarie said. "I'm sure this was a very difficult decision for the archbishop but it's going to be very hard for us without a church. This neighbourhood needs this parish."
"This is an issue of fairness."
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