by JULIE SOUTH
HAMILTON — Hamilton diocese’s proposal to reduce the number of
parishes by more than half has raised concern among some Mass goers there.
Although some people have positive responses, others fear that smaller parishes might lose their identities.
Some weeks ago, the bishop of Hamilton, Bishop Denis Browne, published a letter, “Who is My Neighbour”, for his flock about the planned changes.
The most prevalent fear subsequently expressed to NZ Catholic was the risk of smaller parishes losing their identities.
One parishioner (who does not wish to be named) is still fuming over there being no service on Good Friday in Te Puke after it was merged with Mount Maunganui a few years’ ago.
Barry Pryor, a parishioner at St Peter Chanel Parish in Te Rapa, in
Hamilton, can relate to the Te Puke parishioner’s experience and said that “Christian respect, tolerance, understanding and love must prevail to avoid repeat experiences”.
However, Mr Pryor is optimistic and supports the bishop’s plan. He has experience of living in a transparish, as Te Rapa shares its priest with Hillcrest.
Mr Pryor and his fellow parishioners are familiar with change. Until a few years ago, their transparish consisted of three parishes, until Fairfield was split away.
“We’ve already been part of a rationalisation of Mass times,” Mr Pryor said, “and it works. Parishioners feel part of a larger community, but have the flexibility of when and where they attend
He said he thinks it makes sense that three priests covering six churches have more flexibility than one priest covering two.
However, although Mr Pryor said he Cathedral parishioner Allister
Kelley believes the end result will be for the good, he does not see its implementation as necessarily being problem free.
He agreed that buy-in needs to happen at all levels of the community. Mr Pryor said he thinks small parishes will be protected by coming under the wing of a bigger neighbour, and that will help facilitate getting to know your neighbour, as Bishop Browne intends.
Mr Pryor also sees this as being healthier for priests, as creating collegial groups offers the opportunity for them to share experiences, opinions and ideas, and for experienced priests to mentor the less experienced, “which must ultimately be good for us parishioners”.
Similarly, Allister Kelley, a parishioner of the Cathedral of the
Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, said he believes the move is positive, and a decision that Bishop Browne has not made lightly.
“Bishop Denis is a sensitive man committed to this diocese,”
Mr Kelley said. “Taking a necessary fiscal approach, weighed against
the hearts of the thousands of people who are important to him,
cannot be easy. It is us who need to have him in our prayers as this is rolled out over the coming months.”
Mr Kelley further believes the people in the pews need to ask themselves: “How can I make this work?” rather thansit back and wait for someone else to do it for them. He believes that strong
internal leadership — from everyone — will be crucial to ensure a smooth and successful transition.
Like Mr Pryor, Mr Kelley said he also believes the amalgamation of some smaller parishes will bring about a stronger sense of Catholic identity at street level; in smaller communities there is more a sense of “us”, and he sees the amalgamation as facilitating a
stronger and more connected community of faithful people.
by JULIE SOUTH