Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin will hold meetings with the different parishes in Christchurch city and the greater Christchurch area this month (July) on the proposed changes to parish structures that will see the number of parishes reduced from 12 to five by 2023.
The proposal which Bishop Martin announced through a video message shown at Pentecost Sunday Masses on June 9 is facing a lot of opposition from affected parishioners. Others expressed their support for the bishop.
In a subsequent video blog, Bishop Martin stressed the proposed changes are aimed at making parishes more vibrant in their faith.
“This is not a plan because we are all dying. It’s a plan because we recognise we can do even better,” he said.
In his pastoral letter “Our Faith, Our Future” which is on the diocese’s website, Bishop Martin said being a new bishop allowed him to “ask questions about why we do the things the way we do”.
“What is clear is that if we wish to grow and develop into the future, we cannot continue with the current structures and models that we have been using. We must reduce the number of parishes that we operate in the diocese, particularly in Christchurch,” he said.
The five new, larger, better-resourced, parishes, proposed after much backgound work, would include:
• A new parish in north Christchurch based at the St Joseph’s, Papanui site on Main North Road. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Mairehau, Burnside and Papanui parishes.
• A new parish in west Christchurch based at the Our Lady of Victories,
Sockburn site on Main South Road. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Riccarton, Sockburn and Hornby parishes. Hornby-Darfield parish will be split. The church at Hornby will be retained. Darfield will be re-grouped with Rolleston.
• A new parish in east Christchurch based at the St Anne’s, Woolston site on Ferry Road. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Ferrymead and Christchurch East parishes.
• A new parish in south Christchurch based at the Our Lady of the Assumption, Hoon Hay site on Hoon Hay Road. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Addington-Beckenham and Hoon Hay-Halswell parishes.
• A new Cathedral parish based at either Barbadoes Street or a new site. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Bryndwr and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral parishes as well as Te Rangimarie Māori Community.
Bishop Martin is looking at a new Selwyn parish based at Rolleston.
“The Selwyn region would become a new parish amalgamating the existing Akaroa, Lincoln, Leeston and Darfield parishes. The churches will be retained in each place and a new church and school built at Rolleston,” he said.
“I am also considering options for North Canterbury. One option is to keep the current parishes of Waimakariri and Hurunui. Another option is to merge both of these parishes into one new North Canterbury Parish,” the bishop stated.
It is proposed that , eventually, teams of two to four priests will be living and ministering in the new parishes. Ultimately, any buildings not used in the new structure will be closed, but new buildings are envisaged too.
Bishop Martin said one consequence of the restructure would be that some
Catholic primary schools would no longer be attached to their parish church. He gave an assurance that these schools will have a chapel established on their sites (with the Blessed Sacrament reserved).
“There will still be provision by the parish for the students to regularly attend weekday Masses (at the chapel on site) and celebrate school Masses with the parish community,” he added.
Bishop Martin said that, at present in the diocese, there are 21 incardinated priests under the age of 75, seven priests from overseas and two religious orders staffing two parishes. He projected that, in ten years, there will be only 12 incardinated priests under the age of 75, plus any new ordinations.
“The number and age of our clergy does not allow us to maintain current structures,” he said. “This situation requires immediate response to ensure that the pattern of growth, which has been our experience in the past, endures into the future.”
Bishop Martin said he intends to have the new parishes in place by Pentecost, 2020 (May 31). Parish priests and assistant priests will initially look after existing communities at their current sites.
“Over the next two to three years I will be asking the communities in each parish to work together with the aim of worshipping on one site, on, or before, Pentecost, 2023,” he said.
Bishop Martin asked for feedback on the proposed plan, particularly on how it would affect parishioners in these areas as well as suggestions on how to move “forward to achieve a more vibrant and active Church”.
“I know that, for many of you, this proposed restructuring will mean a loss
of much of what you have built up and been a part of in your existing parishes. I hope you will also be excited that we are stepping into a new era of bridging the distance that many of your children and grandchildren, family and friends feel between themselves and the Church.”
The feedback process opens on June 22 and concludes on August 30, 2019. The results of the feedback will be revealed on December 1.