We are co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. We are family, united by faith in the Most Holy Eucharist. However, that doesn’t mean there will be no challenges. We, as a parish family, as experiencing multiple defining moments, choices that reveal, test, and shape us. Let us continue praying for each other.
Notes of the Informal Q&A Session held at St Finnan’s Basilica on June 1, 2023
Attendance: Approximately 35 persons were in attendance, primarily parishioners of St.
Catherine of Sienna and St. Finnan’s. Also included were one parishioner of St. Raphael’s and the Publisher of the Glengarry News whose presence was unknown to the organizers and unannounced to those in attendance. No parishioners of St. Anthony or St. James were
Chair: The attendees requested who would act as Chair and Lorne Stang announced that he would.
Absence of the Pastor: The attendees expressed their dissatisfaction that the Pastor was not present. It was explained that he had medical tests which arose after the meeting was set. Nevertheless, it was expressed that the informal Q&A should have been rescheduled anyway.
One attendee did express dissatisfaction that the meeting was held during the day when many were working. The session proceeded as set forth below.
The Chair opened the meeting with a scripture reading and prayer. He then asked Bernard
McDonell to present the current status of the file. Mr. McDonell read the summary, which follows these minutes.
A Q&A session followed this presentation. The tone of the questions demonstrated
considerable frustration and emotion.
The attendees wanted to understand the process going forward and were unhappy that the recommendations that were read at the Masses on May 21, 2023 were already submitted to the Archdiocese. Mr. McDonell confirmed that the minutes of this session (these notes) would be sent to the Archdiocese. He advised that his understanding was that, as Fr. Blake was away the first week of June, the Archdiocese was looking into scheduling a special meeting for the first week of July. Mr. McDonell did give a commitment that these notes would be published so that other parishioners would be aware of the concerns expressed at this session.
The parishioners of St. Catherine of Sienna who were present expressed their dissatisfaction to the recommended closing of the Church. They believe that the Church should remain open until their savings run out. They also questioned why they would close when others with falling attendance, such as Glen Nevis and St. Raphael’s were not closing.
They asked where the savings would go. Mr. McDonell explained that the money typically follows the parishioners and that, in this case, the money would go to the new parish. It was asked if a number of parishioners went to St. Andrew’s whether some of the money would follow. Mr. McDonell replied that his understanding was that if a meaningful number of parishioners went to St. Andrew’s, this would be taken into consideration by the Archdiocese in the attribution of the monies.
There was a lot of emotional comments which are not recorded herein.
Some of the parishioners of St. Finnan’s who were present were upset about the recommendation to unite the four parishes under one parish with a new name. They cited the historical legacy of St. Finnan’s, and want the name of the parish to remain St. Finnan’s Parish.
There was a discussion on whether St. Finnan’s was a welcoming parish which became emotional and was inconclusive.
There were several comments for the need to improve communications and a request to
identify who is on each committee.
The meeting concluded shortly after 10am with a closing prayer by Lorne Stang.
Notes and background for St. Finnan’s Basilica’s meeting Thursday June 1, 2023
There have been a number of questions since our announcement on May 21, 2023. Thank you for coming today. We hope to give you a brief overview of the issues and how we came to our recommendations and then will answer any questions that you may have.
In the Fall of 2022, we convened a series of Town Hall meetings at each of St. Anthony’s, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Finnan’s and St. James’.
On February 16, 2023, the Parish Renewal Committee met to discuss the situation and agreed, after a lengthy discussion, that we should hold a meeting in each parish on a weeknight with appropriate advance notice. The purpose of this meeting would be to present a factual overview of the Catholic Faith in the Township of North
The meetings were held on:
April 11, 2023 in Greenfield with about 35 people in attendance,
April, 13, 2023 in Apple Hill with about 40 people in attendance,
April 17, 2023 in Maxville with about 40 people in attendance and,
April 18, 2023 in Alexandria with only 15 people in attendance.
The attendance levels in the Greenfield, Apple Hill and Maxville meetings represented a meaningful percentage of the practising population. The attendance in Alexandria was very concerning especially considering some of the 15 persons were from the other
According to Statistics Canada, North Glengarry has 4710 families with roughly 933 families who identify as Roman Catholic. Total Sunday attendance in 2022 averaged 385 persons per Sunday, down 31% from 2019. This represents both a serious decline and highlights our weak penetration into North Glengarry’s Catholic population.
This attendance decline was spread out as follows:
- St. Anthony -50%
- St. Catherine -35%
- St. Finnan -28.5%
- St. James -10%
The decline at St. Finnan’s is particularly concerning. Our recent hiring of a Director of Evangelization and Parish Growth has started to bear fruit with fourteen new families and a younger demographic at our 11am Mass. Nevertheless, 2022 attendance is down over 100 individuals per weekend since 2019. Teen ministry and Sunday school attendance are encouraging. New programs have recently been introduced for seniors.
The members of the Parish Renewal Committee held a joint meeting with the Parish Finance Committee on May 10, 2023 to discuss the results of the four Town Hall meetings and recommend next steps. We recognize the status quo is not working. Closing the three small parishes without addressing the decline at St. Finnan’s is not a solution. Pope Francis reminds us,
I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #27
Our recommendation to the Archdiocese is as follows:
- That the parishes formally unite as one Parish with one new name
noting that the buildings can retain their existing name.
- St. Catherine of Sienna would close. We would anticipate this closure early in the new pastoral year. The new Parish would be responsible for the building while its future is being determined.
- St. Anthony and St. James would become Missions of the new Parish.
Our proposal of having all North Glengarry parishioners included under one parish is contingent on renaming this new parish. We have researched other Dioceses who have merged parishes and renaming is the most common approach when attempting to unite a parish family.
The following extract, taken from the Archdiocese of Chicago website, offers insight into this subject:
It is important to know that individual churches, the specific worship sites coming together, retain their names. They are consecrated to God, by name. Parishes are actually the communities themselves (not the buildings), so as a family changes so, too, at times the name may change. Uniting as one parish means bringing all that we are and hope to be together, as one Catholic community. Our gifts, our talents, our hopes, our prayers, our needs … they are all shared to the benefit and vitality of the entire, unified parish community led by one pastor. The unifying congregations of each location will now have the benefit of shared resources to work together in new ways to achieve the vision of renewing our archdiocese and bringing more people to know and love Jesus Christ in His Church.Archdiocese of Chicago, Renew My Church
The website further lists the names of some 145 parishes which merged under 70 new parish names since 2019.
Our proposal is to unite under one parish name in recognition of the fact that:
- St. Finnan’s parish boundaries do not cover the entire Township which we wish to serve with our new parish,
- As our ancestors suffered in order to build churches to profess their faith, we too are willing to suffer for the sake of our Catholic faith in North Glengarry by restructuring and uniting as one parish family under a new name,
- This new name will reinforce the reality that the parish family is separate and distinct from the buildings that we use as worship sites and
- Hopefully, with prayer and intentional focus, the new parish will be thriving and welcoming and any lingering biases will dissipate over time.
It is our current intention to use a series of consultations and surveys to engage all parishioners in the selection of potential names which will be submitted to the Archdiocese.