“Battered Antigonish diocese unveils renewal plan” & related articles

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The Diocese of Antigonish hopes to fight a decline in the Catholic church

CBC News Posted: Oct 10, 2013 12:19 PM AT Last Updated: Oct 10, 2013 12:19 PM AT

People gather at a conference in Membertou to discuss a five year pastoral plan for the Diocese of Antigonish.

People gather at a conference in Membertou to discuss a five year pastoral plan for the Diocese of Antigonish. (Hal Higgins/CBC)

The Diocese of Antigonish says it’s moving ahead with a five year plan for church renewal.

About 300 people from every parish around the diocese gathered in Membertou this week to endorse the plan.

David Nearing from Reserve Cape Breton helped organize the event. 

He said the conference is a response to various issues: a decline in church attendance and the number of priests, the closure of churches and sexual abuse legal settlements against clergy.

The diocese also did a survey to find out what people see as their priorities for the church.

“The first one would be the revitalization of parishes and the revitalization of the dioceses itself,” said Nearing.

Bishop Brian Dunn said long standing issues such as the ordination of women, celibacy for priests, and exclusion from the Eucharist for divorced and remarried people were also discussed.

There’s a whole groundswell of support for that; there’s also another group of people who wouldn’t be supportive of even looking at it at all,” he said. “But I hear their concern, I hear their concern for fidelity to the teaching of the church so those are very important concerns for them and I hear those as well.”

Dunn said he will bring all of those concerns to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and to the appropriate office at the Vatican.

Irene LeForte of Antigonish said getting together with a large group of dedicated people has given her confidence in the future.

“The will and the ability to rebuild our church in the Diocese of Antigonish, very evident here.”

A committee will be appointed by Dunn to make sure the plan is carried out.


Bishop optimistic about new pastoral plan for diocese

The Cape Breton Post

Published on October 07, 2013

MEMBERTOU — Bishop Brian Dunn has high hopes for the five-year pastoral plan that is being developed by a renewal congress for the diocese of Antigonish over the next couple of days.

Dunn said in an interview on Monday at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre where the congress is taking place that he expects the five-year plan to be a guide for members of the diocese to live out there faith, as well as a kind of blueprint for pastoral priorities.”It means looking toward the future and saying how do we live out our faith, what are the pastoral priorities that are necessary — that’s our goal,” he said. “What are our needs? What do we see that our parishes need to focus on? What are some things we need to be highlighting now from a faith perspective?

“What things are we doing well? What things are we not doing so well, and where do we move? We put it all together and say, ‘How do we look to the future?'”

More than 300 people including clergy, religious and lay people from the about 100 parishes of the diocese are attending the congress, which began Sunday and will continue until Wednesday.

Dunn said the five-year plan is likely to have some quite practical bearing on some questions, for example on how to encourage youth ministry and develop policies for the lay ministry.

The diocese is facing some difficult issues, including a decline in the number of priests and in the number of people who are connected to the church, as well as the aging of church members and volunteers, he said. Closing churches in light of declining numbers and lingering fallout from sexual abuse cases are also issues for the diocese, he said.

“So those are difficult issues but in every era … there are always difficult issues.”

Dunn stressed that the congress is also a strong reminder of the strong support that can be found throughout the many parishes of the diocese.

“All these parishes also have wonderful people there, people who have been committed to their parish (and) their church for years and years so there are lots of wonderful things.”

David Nearing of St. Joseph’s parish in Reserve Mines, who is a co-chair of the planning committee, also expects the congress to cover a wide range of issues from enhancing hospitality within the church to developing catechism programs.

“Outreach is another very important part of the plan,” he said. “You listen to Pope Francis (and) we are talking about moving out. You know, we are not insular, we are not stuck within the bounds of the church.

“I feel a great sense of hope in the gathering that is here. I feel a great sense of co-operation. I feel that the spirit is moving here, there is a presence of moving forward here, and the co-operation is phenomenal.”

Anyone looking for more information during the congress can contact Dwayne MacEachern, a planning committee member, at 902-302-0431.


Diocese prepares for renewal congress

Posted on September 24, 2013 by Corey LeBlanc coreyleblanc@thecasket.ca

The Casket  (Antigonish, Nova Scotia)

Delegates for the upcoming Antigonish Diocesan Renewal Congress participated in a Day of Preparation Sept. 14 in Louisdale. PHOTO: Submitted

Delegates with the upcoming Antigonish Diocesan Renewal Congress participated in a Day of Preparation earlier this month.

Diocese of Antigonish spokesperson Gather Donald MacGillivray said the event, which took place Sept. 14 in Louisdale, Richmond County, went very well.

“It was a wonderful turnout. There were almost 300 people there,” he said.

In a press release from the Office of the Bishop, Brian Dunn said a common statement from participants was ‘I go home with more hope than I had when I came here today.’

Anne Walsh, executive secretary for Archbishop Martin Currie of the Archdiocese of St. John’s, facilitated the Day of Preparation.

Dunn said Walsh has “much experience in facilitating groups and she has a wonderful skill of listening and assisting people to formulate their ideas.”’

He noted “her presence and her skills contributed significantly to the success of the Day of Preparation.”

MacGillivray said participants were “quite pleased” with the facilitator.

“The facilitator we had helped us get in touch with some of the feelings and thoughts that we had regarding the church and regarding our faith – sort of very general stuff,” MacGillivray said.

“It was really good to help people get sort of connected with some of the things that are bothering them about the church, encourage them, ask why the church is important to them. Generally speaking, that is what the first part was about.”

He noted the second part of the preparation day was about “looking at what we actually are going to be doing at the congress.”

“There are several themes. So, we looked at one and said this is what people thought was important and how are we going to actualize that; how are we going to put wheels, as it were, on various proposals that came from the 3,000 questionnaires that the committee received back about what [people] thought was important in the diocese,” MacGillivray said.

MacGillivray listed the “priorities” for the upcoming Diocesan Renewal Congress: revitalizing the parishes in the diocese; strengthening church support structures; supporting church ministries; enhancing communication; promoting faith formation, church teaching and evangelization; and extending church outreach
MacGillivray was asked about what form the upcoming renewal congress will take.

“If we take the notion of extending church outreach; it talks about some of the ways in which that would be done: multimedia campaign and various ways to invite Catholics to church,” he said.

“The parish commitment regarding that would be [to] share multimedia campaign and host local events to invite Catholics to church, host socials in parishes and deaneries as an expression of outreach.

“So, what we will be doing s sort of saying ‘how will we do that? Is that something we agree ought to be a priority? Do we agree that we should be involved in that and how do we do it?’

“Quite simple really,” MacGillivray added.

Each delegate was given a draft pastoral plan that was formulated by a committee of approximately 20 people (lay, religious and clergy).

The plan was formulated after receiving approximately 3,000 responses from parishioners throughout the diocese.

The responses formed the basis of the six themes, which MacGillivray listed, that will be the foundation of the pastoral priorities.

“We all were given the booklet with all these priorities and all those notes and were asked to think about them, were asked to talk to parishioners about them and then just to be ready to put our heads together to see how we can actualize them,” MacGillivray said.

Dunn said he believes the upcoming congress will be “an event that will be pivotal for our lives and our diocese.”

“Over the past few years, we have experienced many changes, many of which stretched us in our faith. We realized that we were challenged to be renewed as we responded in these difficult times,” he added.

Dunn noted Pope Francis, as well as all the bishops of Canada, has expressed their support for this “significant event for the diocese.”

Dunn said the congress will provide an opportunity for representatives from every area of the diocese to discuss and formulate a pastoral plan for the next five years, setting pastoral priorities for the diocese and for all the parishes.

He added the plan will offer some direction so that we might use our resources more wisely, work together in a more effective way, and bring new life to our diocese.

Dunn said the congress was called “as a result of various changes occurring in the diocese, namely, the lack of priests, the decline in the number of parishioners attending and being committed to parishes, the financial situation of many parishes, the ongoing response to the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, the financial commitments connected with the Class Action Legal Settlement, the out migration of our population, the need for a youth ministry, parish reconfiguration and the closure of churches, etc.”

“I believe that this is an exciting time for the diocese because the building up of our community is a gift of the Spirit of God and we need to receive this gift with openness and gratitude.

“My hope is that our faith will be nurtured and our spirits made strong through this event and this will ‘bring forth a new springtime of hope born of faith in Jesus Christ’ (Pope Francis),” Dunn added.

The Diocese of Antigonish Renewal Congress will take place Oct. 6 to 9 at Membertou Trade and Convention Centre in Sydney.

“Any sort of big organization – from time to time – needs to look at what it is they are doing and to say, number one, how they can do it better and what else do they need to be doing to be fulfilling their mission,” MacGillivray said.
“It is a pretty sort of standard thing that this congress is about; it is about sort of having a look at where we are and where we need to go.”


Antigonish diocese action plan could see more churches close

The Catholic Register

Friday, 23 August 2013 11:36

Bishop Dunn – Register file photo

ANTIGONISH, N.S. – A further 62 Catholic churches in Antigonish, N.S., are under review as the diocese tries to get its buildings in line with the number of people attending Mass and the number of priests available to preside.

The diocese of Antigonish has to decide which of 62 churches in Richmond, Inverness, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties it can afford to keep open. Excluded from the review will be churches on First Nations territory, which are owned by the native communities.

An earlier review in Cape Breton and Victoria County closed 16 of 43 churches. The number of closures in Cape Breton was “more severe because the area is in pretty desperate decline,” Fr. Don MacGillvray told The News in Pictou County, N.S.

The review exercise isn’t just about closing parishes, according to a letter from Bishop Brian Dunn to local Catholics last May.

“This process has as its end goal the development of a specific action plan which is to be implemented throughout the diocese,” Dunn wrote.

Apart from the revi ew of churches, the diocese is planning a Diocesan Renewal Conference for Oct. 6 at the Memb e r t o u Convention Centre near Sydney, N.S.
While a number of sexual abuse cases haven’t helped, it’s the shifting demographics of rural Nova Scotia that is driving the church closures.

“Our population is decreasing in almost every part of the diocese mainly because of out migration and a lower birth rate,” Dunn wrote to parishioners in May. “We also recognize that parishioners generally attend less frequently and support the Church in a lesser way than in the past.”

While the diocese formally owns the churches, parishioners have to come up with the money to pay their priest and keep up the buildings. Parishes with Sunday congregations of a couple of dozen just don’t have the funds.

The process has been accelerated by a $15-million settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse over the past 50 years. The diocese took large sums from parish reserve funds, sold banked real estate (not churches), and took out $6.5 million in loans from private lenders to meet the fall 2012 deadline for the settlement funds.

While the Catholic population of rural Nova Scotia is getting older and fewer, the decline in priests has been even more dramatic. In 1996 the diocese had 82 priests who averaged under 56 years of age. In 2011 they were down to 50 priests with an average age of 61.2. Dunn projects Antigonish will have 44 priests available in 2016, falling to 30 in 2021.

“The challenge that we face today is to make the appropriate changes so that we will have stronger, more viable parishes with richer and stronger faith communities,” Dunn said.



Our Diocese is hosting a Renewal Congress entitled “Rebuilding My People the Church“.

This Congress of delegates from each parish along with priests, religious, deacons, diocesan personnel, renewal movements and organizations like CWL, KOC, St. Vincent de Paul, Development and Peace, etc. will gather to decide on a Five Year Plan for our diocese. To provide parishioners with as much information as possible at this time, the Planning Team has prepared a brochure.

These brochures are available for distribution in our church on Sunday. Please read the brochure and if you have any questions, concerns or even recommendations, please call the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 539-6188 ext. 235.

The Diocesan Renewal Congress 2013 is now less than a year away. To better understand this event, a question and answer series will be appearing in your parish bulletin in upcoming weeks. These brief pieces of information will cover a wide range of topics related to the renewal project. For more information, go to www.antigonishdiocese.com

Q. What is the Diocesan Renewal Congress 2013?
A. Our Congress is a gathering of delegates from all the parishes in our diocese. Using the compiled information from the surveys and meetings held throughout the diocese over the past year and a half, delegates will review the summary recommendations for our five-year diocesan plan.

Q. Have diocesan assemblies such as this Congress been held other places?
A. Yes, they have been held across the country and around the world. In Canada, they have been held in Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick, and other places.

Q. When and where will the Diocesan Congress 2013 take place?
A. Rebuilding My People The Church – Diocesan Renewal Congress 2013 – will be held Oct. 6 – Oct. 9, 2013 at the Membertou Trade and Convention Center in Sydney, N.S.

Q. Why was the date for our Diocesan Congress set for this particular time?
A. A lengthy preparation time was needed to gather information from all those in the diocese who wanted their voice to be heard. The Congress comes at the end of the Year of Faith, and at the beginning of the Year of Evangelization. It also responds to the need to revitalize the Diocese after dealing with the sexual abuse scandal.


No money is available from diocesan sources. Other sources had to be found. The Planning Team approached the Bishop Power Family Charitable Foundation for a grant. The Board of Directors approved a starter amount of $10,000.00. This was followed by donations from priests $6000.00; laity $2000.00; Sisters of the diocese $7000.00; CWL $100.00; KOC $50.00 and a donation in memory of a loved one $50.00. There is an additional grant from the Bishop Power Foundation of $12,500.00 Total to date is $37,700.00. We still need to raise approximately $25,000 to meet the projected budget.

Donations are gratefully accepted from clergy and laity for which a tax deductible receipt is given.

Send to: Diocesan Pastoral Center, PO Box 100, Sydney, NS, B1P 6G9 c/o Diocesan Renewal Congress


Delegates at the Diocesan Renewal Congress are mandated to formulate a plan for direction in our diocese, with goals and time lines that are related to the needs voiced by the people in the Questionnaires that many answered. After five years, the achievements will be evaluated and further plans can be made to meet our needs. Delegates are committing themselves , their parishes and diocese to a common vision and action. We’re in this together!

QUESTION: Who are the delegates of the Rebuilding my People the Church Diocesan Renewal Congress and what do they do?
The delegates are those parishioners, clergy, religious, diocesan staff, renewal movements and diocesan organizations who will work through the Proposed Draft Five Year Plan. They commit themselves, diocese and parish to the Plan on which they have agreed by the end of the three day Congress.
Information packets have already been sent to all pastors and chairs of Parish Pastoral Councils indicating the numbers from each parish and deanery , the criteria for selection, and the requirements to attend the Day of Preparation Sat., Sept. 14 at St. Louis Parish Hall, Louisdale and then at the Congress itself, Oct. 6-9.
Application forms have been sent to all parishes to be copied for distribution to parishioners. If a parishioner wants to be a delegate he/she should fill out the application form and bring it to their parish office by April 12 (at the latest!) so that Parish Pastoral Council and pastor may make the selections and submit names to the Diocesan Office by June. At that time, more information will be sent to those chosen delegates regarding any need for billeting, and other information needed to be a delegate.
For information please call 539-6188 ext. 235 or email liturgy@dioceseofantigonish.ca

Q. How can I find out more about being a delegate or about the Congress itself?
A. Listed below are the Team Members across the Diocese. Feel free to contact a member from your area, or anyone on the list for more information.
Paula Cassidy 923-2588 d.cassidy@ns.sympatico.ca
Jennifer Hatt 755-2543 sealpoint@ns.sympatico.ca
Kevin Gillis 755-1768 gillisks@gmail.com
Elizabeth DeCoste 318-1778 decostee@gov.ns.ca
. Marilyn Milner 735-2384 milnermarilyn@hotmail.com
Monica Williams 863-2196 mwilliams@ns.sympatico.ca
Richmond: Mary Samson 345-2612 marys@ns.sympatico.ca
Cecile Miller 248-2305 ccl.mllr@gmail.com
Sr. Catherine MacEachern (CND) 945-2392 st.josrctr@ns.sympatico.ca
Dwayne MacEachern 631-3408 dwaynemaceachern@yahoo.com
Northside/Victoria: Rev. Mr .Greg Murphy (Deacons) 736-6726 gfmurphy@ns.sympatico.ca
Sr. Catherine MacFarlane, (CSM) 379-2224 macfscm@yahoo.ca
David Nearing 849-1856 dbandpaula@seaside.ns.ca
Glace Bay/New Waterford:
Sr. Agnes Burrows (Sisters of Charity) 849-1781 sisters.charity@ns.sympatico.ca
Henry White 849-4778 henrycwhite@hotmail.com
Bryan MacDonald 862-3425 bryanandcheryl.mcdonald@gmail.com
Eric Boutilier 577-1762 ericboutilier@seaside.ns.ca
Council of Priests
Fr. Syd Mifflen 867-3937 smifflen@stfx.ca
Bishop Brian Dunn 863-3335 bdunn3@uwo.ca
Fr. Bedford Doucette 578-4375 bedford@dioceseofantigonish.ca

Q. What is the Day of Preparation that all delegates (clergy and laity) must attend?
A. The Day of Preparation is a day dedicated to prayer. It also provides an opportunity for delegates to get to know one another and to consider their role in the Congress. The Draft Pastoral Plan will be distributed for their study and preparation. Anne Walsh will facilitate this event, funded by the Sisters of Saint Martha.

Q. Who will facilitate the Diocesan Renewal Congress?
A. Anne Walsh will facilitate the Congress. Anne is a native Newfoundlander who was born, raised and received her early education in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She started her career as a teacher, after completing a Bachelor of Arts (Education) at Memorial University. She holds a Master of Religious Education degree from St. Michael’s College. She holds a graduate Diploma in Fine Arts from the University of Calgary and a Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies from St. Michael’s College. She is a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry degree at St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton. Anne has worked as a catechist and Director of Adult Faith Formation at the parish, school board and diocesan levels. She currently works as Director of Adult Faith Formation and Executive Assistant to the Archbishop for the people of the Archdiocese of St. John’s.

4 Responses to “Battered Antigonish diocese unveils renewal plan” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    Remember the 26 August 2013 article: Antigonish Diocese appeal to all Canadian priests for funds to pay off $7M loan? That was the appeal that went out to priest across Canada beging for money to help meet the “pastoral and financial challenges” which the diocese is facing as financial fallout from the sex abuse scandal.

    Well, look at the above articles. specifically the last which is the text of the Diocese of Antigonish promo for the “congress” which has just wrapped up in Sydney. Look at this Q & A:


    No money is available from diocesan sources. Other sources had to be found. The Planning Team approached the Bishop Power Family Charitable Foundation for a grant. The Board of Directors approved a starter amount of $10,000.00. This was followed by donations from priests $6000.00; laity $2000.00; Sisters of the diocese $7000.00; CWL $100.00; KOC $50.00 and a donation in memory of a loved one $50.00. There is an additional grant from the Bishop Power Foundation of $12,500.00 Total to date is $37,700.00. We still need to raise approximately $25,000 to meet the projected budget.

    Donations are gratefully accepted from clergy and laity for which a tax deductible receipt is given.

    Send to: Diocesan Pastoral Center, PO Box 100, Sydney, NS, B1P 6G9 c/o Diocesan Renewal Congress

    As an aside, and for what it’s worth, that’s the same address which is on the letterhead for the appeal fro fund from priests across Canada. But, more to the point, what the heck is going on here? The diocese is begging for money here. And the diocese is begging for money there. And still it ploughs ahead with a congress which is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars!

    Tell me this rational and makes an iota of common sense?

    I see nothing which tells me that the diocese plans to be truly honest and transparent by naming every predatory priest from the diocese or who has served in the diocese? I know the media coverage is far from complete and that such transparency may well be tucked away as a plan to address the havoc which predatory clergy and their enablers has created in the diocese, but I see not a word of it, do you? Nor do a see a word on the need to excise (defrock) these clergy from the priesthood so that the diocese can be truly healthy and we can all know that as far as is humanly possible the priest in the sanctuary (or school, or hospital, or licing down the street in the street in retirement and so on) is not a convicted or known predator.

    All the ra ra sessions are futile if everyone ignores the elephant in the room.

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      Sylvia, this is just more examples of how deceitful the RC Church has been in the Atlantic Provinces. Chances are the Congress will never happen- reason being *shortfall in fund-raising*. Then they have whatever amount they raised to do with as they please, and we will probably never know where it went.
      You remember the fund raising in the Archdiocese of Ottawa a few years back.. They announced there was a surplus of $8 Million at the end of the renos to the Cathedral, but, never, never have they said where that $8 Million went.

  2. Sylvia says:

    The congress was held 06-09 October, 1 abandoned sheep. In the first article (10 Oct. ’13) it’s referred to as a conference (“The Diocese of Antigonish says it’s moving ahead with a five year plan for church renewal. About 300 people from every parish around the diocese gathered in Membertou this week to endorse the plan.”). The conference is in fact the congress.

    Somehow they pulled together the funds. Perhaps by robbing Peter to pay Paul?

    And, yes, thanks for the reminder – I recall the surplus $8M surplus. Where oh where did it go?

  3. JG says:

    I think with this begging for $50. here and $50. there they are looking for “pity”!
    For so long everyone has been saying how rich the church is, they want to paint a “needy” picture of themselves. Two birds with one stone: possibly more money for the coffers from the unsuspecting benefactors and fewer demands from victims who see a bare cupboard….
    I remember standing in line at the bank years ago when I witnessed a man in the line next to me…poorly dressed, unshaven…pitiful looking! I started thinking on how I could wait for him outside to hand him a $20 to help him…By this time he was up to the cashier who called him by his name. He pulled out an envelope from his parka and handed it over to place in the “usual” account….I looked ahead but soon realized his envelope contained as much as my year’s salary!…as the counting continued. He was still waiting for the total when I left the bank…
    Pitiful or needy is another trick used by hypocrites…Just a reminder to be careful where you hand out your hard earned $20.’s….or $50’s…
    “A fool and his money are soon parted”.
    This Antigonish “appeal” is obviously looking for that fool or fools!…
    Pity!..will probably work again for them.
    ..and it is “tax deductible”!!

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