Number of parishes halved in canadian diocese, in hope of reviving Church

.- Fewer buildings, more life, more people. That’s the idea behind the new parish reorganization and renewal plan for the Archdiocese of Halifax that will cut its 75 parishes and missions down to 24. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, is optimistic that the reorganization and subsequent creation of new, active faith centres in the archdiocese will attract more people to church, especially those “who may not come to church because of a lack of vibrancy,” reported the Atlantic Catholic.

The archbishop and the chancellor, Deacon Bob Britton, unveiled the new report on pastoral renewal and parish reorganization in the archdiocese, called “Forward in Faith”, in early February.

The report recommends the creation of 24 new “vibrant” parish communities, carved out of the current 53 parishes and 22 missions. These new parishes would be organized around a parish centre, which would consist of one central church, and a parish facility for offices, meeting rooms, classrooms and kitchen facilities.

While this process will include some church closures, it will also include new structures. For example, in rapidly growing suburban areas, there is the possibility of building a larger church to accommodate the large number of young families.

“The parish is the most significant part of the archdiocesan Church,” said Britton. “The parish is where the Church is made real and we have come to conclude that parishes have to be vibrant communities.”

Churches that are almost empty every weekend, have few ministries being carried out, or are lacking financial support are not “vibrant.” The recommendation to amalgamate parishes arises out of the principle of subsidiarity, whereby “parishes need to be built by parishioners, who must take responsibility for their parish communities,” said Britton, according to the Atlantic Catholic.

The renewal will be a gradual process, with plenty of room for feedback and dialogue, the archbishop assured. Over an 18-month process, clergy and laity from the various parishes that are recommended for amalgamation, will collectively decide how to create their new parish unit and which church will be at its centre. The archbishop will approve all final decisions.

“We need to ask how we can be the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century,” the archbishop was quoted as saying. “It will be a sad process for some people, but it is a positive process and our concern is the pastoral good of the people.”

“Forward in Faith’ was prepared in 15 months by a committee of 15 laity, clergy and religious.

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