by ROWENA OREJANA
HAMILTON — Hamilton Bishop Denis Browne has announced a drastic reduction in the number of parishes in the diocese from 36 to 17, after a round of amalgamations.
This is one of the measures in the Hamilton Diocesan Strategic Plan 2014-2015 entitled Who is My Neighbour?, which the bishop and the Hamilton priests’ council approved in principle at their meeting on February 11.
In a pastoral letter dated February 25, Bishop Browne explained that the diocese had made a deliberate decision not to invite seminarians from other countries and from vastly different cultural backgrounds to complete their training for the priesthood here.
“The Hamilton diocese has also decided to maintain a balance in its
presbyterate between the number of New Zealand priests and the number of those from overseas.
“These decisions mean that our diocese has to look at a radical rethinking of the ways in which we offer spiritual and pastoral care to our people, and to look at smarter and more efficient ways in which we deploy our priests and deacons,” he said.
The strategic plan also called for the disestablishment of the three deaneries and the establishment of nine new collegial areas, as well as the deployment of personnel “so that all but one of the new
collegial areas can provide, from within its own number, for priests’ holidays, as well as supply in the case of absences,
sicknesses or other unforeseen circumstances,” he said.
In December 2013, Bishop Browne appointed Msgr Trevor Murray and Fr
Darren McFarlane as the coordinators of the Hamilton Diocesan Strategic Planning Committee. He later invited Carole Fleming, the chairperson of the diocesan pastoral council, to join them.
Bishop Browne wrote that the committee reviewed past proposals and initiatives of successive priests’ councils, different committees, groups and individuals that form part of the diocese.
The aim is to have the pastoral plan in place in all collegial areas by the end of the year.
A tight timeline envisaged presentations to priests, the diocesan pastoral council, parish and school leadership, as well as further consultation and discussions “at the level of the collegial
area and parish”.
“My hope is that Who is My Neighbour? — The Hamilton Diocesan Strategic Plan 2014-2015 becomes not another network of words, but of people,” Bishop Browne said.
The strategic plan has a focus on the teaching of Pope Francis, especially his call for a return to the Spirit of Vatican II, the bishop wrote.
■ St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Rotorua, parish priest Fr Mark Field assured his parishioners that they are prepared for the changes that the bishop announced.
“The process that Bishop Denis outlines is the logical ‘next step’ for us, and will see little change in the way parish life operates from day-to-day,” he said on his parish’s website.
He said representatives of the parish staff, parish council, fi nance committee and the schools will go to Taupo on May 14 for a meeting with representatives from Taupo and Turangi to work
towards being a collegial area.

1 COMMENT

  1. This pastoral plan does not generally have the support of many lay people or priests of the Hamilton Diocese. Questions being raised are: why is this necessary when there are sufficient priests to more than adequately look after the needs of lay people in the Hamilton Diocese for some years to come? Why has Bishop Browne and his pastoral planners said no to bringing in priests from overseas, particularly when there are big numbers of Phillippinos and Asians in the diocese who are requesting Mass in their own language? Why have some foreign priests been sent back home if there is a so-called shortage of priests? Will the number of Sunday Masses be reduced? Will people have to travel distances to attend Sunday Mass? The concern is that Sunday Masses in Hamilton City are for the most part full to overflowing into the foyers and if Masses are reduced there will be a health and safety factor with more over-crowding at Masses. People are not happy with the loss of their parish status and having a priestless parish because where that has happened already the parish has declined.

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