Cardinal John Dew has directed every parish in Wellington archdiocese to carry out a review of its churches and presbyteries, which will, ultimately, lead to a reduction
in the number of buildings in some places.
In a pastoral letter dated February 17 and read out in all archdiocese parishes, Cardinal Dew stated that the review will identify how many churches each parish needs to cater for its Mass count (taking into account the availability of priests and lay pastoral leaders)
and the ideal location of the church or churches.
“For most, if not all, parishes with more than one church, this will mean reducing the number of churches in the parish,” the letter stated. “Provision for accommodation of priests is part of the review.”
The review “should result in proposals that are both realistic and practical”.
The cardinal wrote that the archdiocese has “too many churches and presbyteries for our Mass count, and for the number and age of our priests”.
“Some of the churches require large sums of money to address their earthquake resilience and general maintenance,” he added.
“Earthquake resilience issues mean we have unsustainable insurance costs and buildings with unacceptable NBS ratings”, it was also noted.
The review will involve “collecting and analysing information, and consultation among parishioners” and is to be delivered to the cardinal, together with developed proposals,
no later than October 30, 2019.
“Some of you may see this as a threat to the status quo, but I would like you to see our situation as an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit work in our midst to create a sustainable
and mission-oriented future,” the cardinal wrote.
“You need to be prepared to be radical in your thinking and discernment,” he noted.
The letter stated that the archdiocese had carried out an amalgamation process between 2013 and 2017, which saw the number of parishes reduced from 47 to 22.
This meant that there are now parishes with more than one church, which is more than what is needed for worship and for pastoral care.
The cardinal also noted the reduced number of priests in the archdiocese, which is “accelerating each year”.
This “means that in most parishes there is a single priest (often elderly) expected to minister in more than one church. Availability and ability of priests are highly significant
factors governing decisions for our future that cannot be delayed”.
Pope Francis’ call to be missionary disciples was cited, which means “an attitude of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ [is] not only damaging to the Church, but invalid”. New priorities identified by the 2017 archdiocesan synod were also noted.
“If we are to respond well to present and future challenges, we need to act together in favour of the common good of all parishes, and support one another in a process of
change. This is not an easy task for any of us,” the cardinal wrote.