The Caper Breton Post
16 January 2012
Rev. Donald MacGillivary, chair of pastoral planning for the Diocese of Antigonish, said the declining population of the region played a significant role in the decision to close a number of churches in the Sydney area. The closure list may include St….
SYDNEY — Roman Catholic churches are facing the chopping block across the Sydney deanery in light of smaller congregations and the rising costs of operating the buildings.
In Sydney, there will be three church closures by July.
Two of the smallest churches to close are St. Mary’s Polish Church on Wesley Street and St. Nicholas Church on Gatacre Street, both in Whitney Pier, as well as St. Augustine’s Parish on Grand Lake Road.
The Diocese of Antigonish’s pastoral planning committee for the Sydney deanery emphasized that it remains a proposal at this point, and is welcoming comment and suggestions on the plans.
In a document released Sunday, the pastoral planning committee said the declining number of priests, church attendance and financial support, as well as increases in the cost of operating and upgrading aging structures, have forced the diocese to do something.
“The status quo is not sustainable,” it stated.
Four parishes in Sydney would be assigned pastors by June 2013.
St. Theresa’s in Ashby, Holy Redeemer in Whitney Pier, and Our Lady of Fatima in Sydney River, plus another yet-to-be-determined church were chosen based on geography, space requirements and the ability to meet pastoral needs of the congregation, according to the proposal.
“Over the next 15 years we’re going to lose 24,000 people … and our population is not only getting smaller but it’s getting older,” said Rev. Donald MacGillivray, chair of pastoral planning for the Diocese of Antigonish.
“This is really all about making sure we can sustain ourselves so that we can be able to do what we need to do.”
MacGillivray is parish priest at St. Anthony Daniel Church on Alexandra Street. It is one of three churches vying to remain open in Sydney. Sacred Heart Parish on George Street and St. Joseph’s on Cabot Street are the other two.
Following discussions with these three parishes, the committee will recommend which church will remain open.
MacGillivray said he won’t be involved in those consultations due to his position at St. Anthony Daniel.
“I’ve been pastor here for six years and I have some emotional attachment to the community, but we have to look at the bigger issues,” he said.
The closure of Immaculate Heart on Mira Road would occur once the fate of St. Joseph’s is known. Saint Anne’s Church in Membertou would stop Sunday services when an announcement regarding St. Anthony Daniel’s status is made.
Holy Rosary in Westmount would also shut down within the next five years.
Several rural parishes will be served under one pastor as a result of the proposal.
After June 2013, the five churches south of the Mira River — Stella Maris in Louisbourg, Immaculate Conception in Main-a-Dieu, St. Joseph’s in Mira Ferry, Sacred Heart in Marion Bridge, and St. Margaret’s in Grand Mira — will have one priest who will schedule services on a rotating basis.
What that will look like remains unclear, MacGillivray said.
“A church might have mass one weekend but not the next.”
Over the next four years, the rural parishes of St. Mary’s in East Bay, St. Rose of Lima in Northside East Bay, St. Mary’s in Big Pond, and Sacred Heart in Johnstown, Richmond Co., will be served by one pastor.
Rural churches face two options under the proposal: remain open on a part-time basis, or close altogether.
It does indicate, however, services will be limited at St. Rose of Lima and mass in Big Pond will only take place during the summer.
A decision was made to leave Holy Family Church in Eskasoni open based on the sizable population it serves on the First Nation.
Pat Bates, a layman of the Sydney Deanery Pastoral Council, said a “fair level of effort” has gone into the assessment, including an examination of financial statements and church attendance figures.
He said the $18-million settlement to survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests in the diocese dating back to 1950 has undoubtedly had an impact on the church.
The diocese was also rocked by child pornography charges against former Antigonish bishop Raymond Lahey that forced his resignation in September 2009. Lahey was sentenced to 15 months in jail earlier this month.
“I think we have to admit there’s been a lot of distress in this diocese over that sexual abuse business,” Bates said.
“I think as practical people we have to understand that that very likely has a bearing on attendance and on financial contributions to the church.”
Parish councils and parishioners will be able to offer written comment on the proposal to MacGillivray until Feb. 29.
– January 17, 2012 at 09:46:36
the reason people are not in the catholic church is the fault of the church it self. there was far to maney scandles, and cover ups. not only innova scotia, but all over the world. . this is why i left the church. if you can not trust the clery then who can you trust. i know not all of them are involved in this, but to many of them are. .
– January 17, 2012 at 09:44:36
i guess the catholics should have put more money in the colection box to help pay for the law suits against the church.
JUST DO IT
– January 17, 2012 at 09:44:23
Of course churches have to be closed. Have you noticed that over 50 schools have closed in our area of the last 15 years? Just like the school system it is mainly due to lower birth rate and the west migration of our young men and women. For the churches add in the general decline in attendance due to many other factors and of course churches have to close. Sounds like they are going to drag it out. Too bad-make a dedision and move on. My two cents are that because all the churches in theSydneyarea including those outside ofSydneywere once part of Sacred Heart , then it should be maintained. Sacred Heart is actually the same church as the original Catholic Church in Sydney (St. Patrick’s)-the name was simply changed (never understood why). Add in the fact that it is still the most traditional and beautiful church and there should be no question it stays open.
– January 17, 2012 at 06:57:47
Maybe you people should stop blaming the victims for the mess of the churches and blame the people who did the crime.If people are not in the pews that is the fault of the catholic church
– January 17, 2012 at 06:57:25
A few good church’s are closing…. This has more to do with money then anything…. These church’s are not bringing enough money in to pay god…. Breaking even, just paying the bills is not enough…. They are looking to sell property to make a quick buck
– January 17, 2012 at 06:57:07
mac gillivary states, its all about substaining our selfs,, not so ,,,, its all about paying for dirty priests,,all the vatican has to do is sell off a few painting, statues, and its payed for,instead they sell off our churches etc.count me out if you close my church to pay for dirty priests,,and i,m sure all my family will follow
– January 17, 2012 at 06:55:43
If the church folks just calm down and read the column fro m the Cape Breton Partnership on this site, they will see that it is not necessary to shut down churches because everything is going just fine, Economy is looking bright. Just think positive. Picture positive things happening. Positive thoughts no matter what is actually happening folks, that’s the secret.
– January 17, 2012 at 00:12:39
Thanks to Ron Martin and his legal team.
– January 17, 2012 at 00:12:13
RICKF ROMSCOTCHTOWN– January 17, 2012 at 00:12:08
this is not surpising since attendance is at an all time low in the catholic churches around the world since the priest scandals around the globe broke and the cost of paying off the settlements are in the millions in cape breton alone the church left itself short of having operating capital if the vatican does not come up with a plan to get people back in the pews soon they take the risk of losing more churches due to low attendance and no one paying tides any more
– January 16, 2012 at 22:55:11
Does this mean that Holy Redeemer is going to be closed?
– January 16, 2012 at 22:54:55
Jeff, you should consider becoming a priest in CB so you don’t have to move.
– January 16, 2012 at 22:30:13
I find all this talk about declining populations and such really depressing. It seems that im reading this more often on this site. If I ever move out of here, I am not moving to the prairies…I don’t know how people can live there. I would want to move to a place I would want to go to…not a place where I have to go too.
A “CHRISTIAN” NOT A “CATHOLIC”
– January 17, 2012 at 09:41:43
I use to go to church on a regular bases. Not any more and I would never ever force my children to go. I am sure there are alot of other people out there that feel the same way. All the Catholic Church is looking for is money and little boys. Well sorry they will never get my Money or My Little Boy. This is why all the churches in Sydney are closing. Eventually they will all be closed. Just give them a few more years. So anyone who is thinking about going into the Priest Hood forget about it you won’t get a paycheck f rom this kind of job. Just a bad name for yourself.