Three Roman Catholic churches to close by July

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The Caper Breton Post

16 January 2012

Chris Shannon


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. Anthony Daniel, where MacGillivary currently serves as parish priest. Chris Shannon – Cape Breton Post

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.

cshannon@cbpost.com

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Comments

HARLO PETERS

– 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. .

JIMMY

– 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.

SUSAN HEAD

– 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

SHAME

– 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

ROBB

– 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

NOT NECESSARY

– 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.

ALEX

– January 17, 2012 at 00:12:39

Thanks to Ron Martin and his legal team.

JEFF

– January 17, 2012 at 00:12:13

Cataloner: Amen!

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

SUMERSOLSTYCE

– January 16, 2012 at 22:55:11

Does this mean that Holy Redeemer is going to be closed?

CATALONER

– January 16, 2012 at 22:54:55

Jeff, you should consider becoming a priest in CB so you don’t have to move.

JEFF

– 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.

11 Responses to Three Roman Catholic churches to close by July

  1. Sylvia says:

    One of the Cape Breton churches to escape the chopping block is Holy Redeemer in Whitney Pier Nova Scotia (Sydney). Convicted molester Father Errol MacDonald has been pastoring the parish for years ….with full knowledge of the parish council of his criminal past perverted behaviour, and without any diocesan restriction on his interaction with children. I think it goes without saying that those parishioners who were aware of the situation and remained silent need a good shake and are in fact enablers for bishops who tolerate the intolerable and, like the bishops, are ready willing and able to wilfully place children at risk. The mess we are in today is due in no small part to such Catholics.

    At the end of the day, Holy Redeemer escapes the chopping block. I truly don’t know if this is a reward for the unhealthy tolerance displayed by parishioners toward a convicted clerical molester, but I would be lying if I said it hasn’t crossed my mind.

    Father Errol MacDonald was pastoring the flock at Holy redeemer last May. I believe I heard since that he would soon be retiring. Did he or did he not? I have no idea. He should have been defrocked in 1995 when, thanks to the courage of two victims, his past crimes and sins finally caught up with him.

    MacDonald was not defrocked. A one year jail sentence, hence a few months behind bars. A stint in the States for `treatment. And then, back into the sanctuary! At Holy Redeemer. Without restrictions. Without public outcry.

    MacDonald escaped the chopping block.

    Holy Redeemer escaped the chopping block.

    What does it say ?

    • CB says:

      Sylvia, before you rehash the past about Fr MacDonald. Please be aware that he hasn’t been the Pastor at Holy Redeemer since June 11 , thus far Holy Redeemer remains open as it is a large parish that can handle the member of the churches that are closing, it also serves and will serve the withney Pier area , and right through to New Victoria, therefore a small church would not be able to handle the capacity as Holy Redeemer can . Please research before you post something that you aren’t familiar with.

  2. MikeMc says:

    Every time I say to myself, “Ok, enough of this site…just what more can I say?” I am compelled to give my “two cents” worth like in the collection plate. I’ve had to ask myself if it’s just bashing the Church. My answer? No, it isn’t. This site keeps close watch on not only abusive priests, but allows victims to talk it out to the world. Am I a victim? Not directly. But my own teenage child was confirmed by an abuser, although I had the highest regard for this Bishop. And to be truthful, I am more saddened than abused. As I have said before, what must my former students, who were also confirmed by Bishop Lahey, be saying today!!! It must be a feeling of betrayal.
    As for the Churches closing, I don’t think I can say it any more directly than the person above who writes….”

    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 from this kind of job. Just a bad name for yourself.”

    What can I add? But truthfully, it bothers me to read this and “copy and paste” it in here. It must hurt many a good priest to read this. But I know the anger in that voice. I know the hurt. I know the despair. I know the bewilderment. I know the concern.

    Rather than have the RC Church people of these areas “pay for legal costs of abusive priests”, I feel they should close down all the churches. The above article states: “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.”

    Yes, it’s time to close them all down and reopen with a new Church and call it, “The New Church of Peace and Renewal” and open it to all walks of faith. If any priest wants to be a member of this Church, let him regain the trust of the local people and be a member. If his leadership skills and empathy help him to lead, then so be it. But let people decide. And for sure, there are women who can and would be good leaders.

    Am I totally out in left field with this thinking? I hope not.

  3. Mike says:

    Sylvia/Mike Mc;
    Re; Holy Redeemer and Errol MacDonald.
    Because of my particular situation, and because I find reading more of these cases,very upsetting, I infrequently open the site. When I read about this case at “Holy” Redeemer, I was stunned! This goes way too far.
    A good analogy for this scene would be a male teacher being charged and convicted of the sexual abuse of one of his students, being sent to prison for a year, and then upon his release, returning to the same school, the same classroom, and the same students, with his employer’s blessing!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    No Mike, this is not church blasting. This is calling a spade a spade. They just don’t get it.
    Thank heavens we have a good civil judiscial system that is now policing the Roman Catholic Church. They are obviously incapable of policing themselves. Mike

  4. adam says:

    Fr. Errol Macdonald retired August past, replaced by Fr. Paul Murphy

  5. Mike Mc says:

    I was shocked to read this article..again. I had even commented on it but had forgotten that I made a comment. Then upon reading my comment, I am just floored to think the priest in question was returned back to the parish after what he did. Were the parishoners made aware of this? Yes! Have they no sense? If Fr Macdonald is retired, where is he now? Does anyone know? And what is he living on? How much of that retirement is allocated to helping abuse victims? These questions need answering. Final thought…I sand by my previous statement earlier in the thread.

  6. Sylvia says:

    CB, I did indicate that I heard that Father MacDonald might be retiring. And you are fortunate that your church is not the on the chopping block, and that it is apparently not the chopping block because of its size.

    The truth is that Mass attendance has plummeted and the Antigonish Diocese is in the dire financial straits because of the likes of Father Errol MacDonald. I still can not fathom (1) why the bishop allowed Father MacDonald, a convicted child molester to continue functioning as a priest (2) why parishioners did not protest loudly and clearly, and (3) why officials in the diocese and parishioners at Holy Redeemer allowed children to placed at risk.

  7. Mike Mc says:

    To CB……can you please answer these questions put forward by Sylvia. I woukd like them answered too. She says and then asks:
    “The truth is that Mass attendance has plummeted and the Antigonish Diocese is in the dire financial straits because of the likes of Father Errol MacDonald. I still can not fathom (1) why the bishop allowed Father MacDonald, a convicted child molester to continue functioning as a priest (2) why parishioners did not protest loudly and clearly, and (3) why officials in the diocese and parishioners at Holy Redeemer allowed children to placed at risk.”

    In light of the RCChurch’s previous actions throughout the world, if the priest in question only resigned/retreated/retired/relinquished duties (whatever) on June 11th, why did it take so long? I await your answer.

  8. CB says:

    Mike, I thought Sylvia was stating a point, not asking a question. My reply to her was to help you better understand why Holy Redeemer wasn’t closed… I am not sure what your question is, nor what you are refering to June 11 th ? I think I perhaps missed something ? not sure …

  9. capebretoner says:

    *You will never know how difficult this has been for the Parish of Holy Redeemer.  I did not know of Father MacDonald’s past and was completely stunned by the whole thing when it all came out.  That said, Holy Redeemer is a bright light now in the Diocese.  The new priest is just what the “Good Doctor” ordered for this area.

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