Overwhelmed by the Gospel

by Mar 16, 2023Pastor's Blog

The process of revitalizing a parish is not simple and necessarily requires patience, wisdom and a foundation of love.

Pierre-Alain Giffard, Director of Pastoral Work, Pembroke Dioceses

Summary of Parish Renewal Committe meeting from March 2.

(a follow up to “Who’s Stealing My Joy?” and last Fall’s Town Hall Meetings)

In the parables about the sower and the seed, the wheat and the weeds, and the mustard seed which is sown and then becomes a large plant, Jesus spoke to us about the growth of his kingdom. On earth, God’s kingdom is his Church and its mission is to make disciples. As God’s plan unfolds, the kingdom of God on earth will continue to grow through the apostolic efforts of its members and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Parish Renewal Committee members met on March 2 to discuss our next steps for our North Glengarry Parish families. As disciples of Our Lord, working in His vineyard, we continue to be overwhelmed by the Gospel, and we surrender ourselves to Jesus. We are also called to go out into the mission. Indeed, holiness and mission are two sides of the same coin.

Our aim, along as the purpose of the Parish Pastoral & Finance Councils, is to highlight and contribute to church growth, evangelization and mission.

Our meeting lasted about 2hours, and present were:

  • Lorne Stang
  • Bernie McDonell
  • Anne MacGregor
  • Monica McLean
  • Chris + Norah Kupczyk
  • Fred Leroux
  • and me, Fr. Jon.
  • * absent (Ivan Coleman, Mary Ellen Villeneuve)

Our next key meetings with all parishioners, at our four churches will take place after Easter:

  • April 11: 6:30pm, St. Catherine of Sienna, Greenfield
  • April 13: 6:30pm, St. Anthony, Apple Hill
  • April 17: 6:30pm, St. James, Maxville
  • April 18: 6:30pm, St. Finnan’s Basilica, Alexandria
  • all parishioners are encouraged to participate.

Here are the minutes/summary of the meeting from March 2.

Lorne began the meeting with a personal reflection on his experience from his home parish back in Halifax from a few years ago. We belong to Jesus, and to Holy Mother Church. As his four parishes were merging together the difficult question came up for his family, “where will you go to Church?” It was difficult, and there was sadness, and lack of trust among many of the parishioners. Some reasons people gave ranged between the historical to the emotional.

Our discussions with the Committee were also guided by Bishop Barron’s video on parish renewal, and parish growth.

Bishop Barron, on 4 Ways To Grow The Church, January 12, 2023

Our Renewal Committee focused on our North Glengarry families doubling down on community, on building up the culture of hospitality, invitation and prayer. It is a joy when we gather together for socials, and the Most Holy Eucharist. We are working in improving the Sunday Experience for everyone, which includes hymns, homilies, and hospitality.

How is our parish growing? How do we bridge the gap for our parishioners about our current reality in the Catholic Church? How do we encourage our parish leaders to help in the renewal process? The Annual Report 2022, along with data from the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall, shared different declining graphs on attendance, and Sacramental trends. As a Church, we’ve often tried to welcome our Catholic brothers and sisters who would only participate at Christmas and Easter. However, with the pandemic, we lost those parishioners too. Vocations to the priesthood continue to decline, and over 55% of the current priests of the diocese have reached retirement age.

Our committee is doubling down on communicating facts in the coming weeks, leading up to, and preparing for our next four town hall meetings, on parish renewal, structural changes, and possible church closures. How do we keep our eyes on evangelization, mission, and parish growth? How can we share the Catholic faith with this generation, and the next?

Our Current Situation:

Discussion is about doubling down on our efforts to go from Maintenance Church to a
Mission Church in North Glengarry.

To be effective as a Mission Church, there are a lot of Maintenance traditions which
need to change … larger masses and liturgies as opposed to more frequent masses for
less people, more active presence by Pastor and Evangelization team in schools, retirement homes and faith growth programs, a proactive approach to outreach.

North Glengarry’s Catholic population will not support the financial needs of four aging
buildings much longer. In total, we spend more money on occupancy and repairs costs than we do on Pastoral programs.

Attendance is declining year over year. St. Catherine of Sienna, St Anthony and St. James financials are barely keeping above water if we annualize repairs for each building. Eventually our savings will be used up. St. Catherine of Sienna, St Anthony and St. James cannot afford the cost of a full-time priest, nor can they afford to allocate any money to Pastoral programs. St. Finnan’s Basilica financial situation is stronger but some capital spending is required to meet the needs of aging demographics, accessibility and a hospitality culture. St Finnan’s Parish needs to have a more welcoming and inclusive approach to the entire population of North Glengarry. The availability of priests is a serious issue … more retiring than entering the seminary, retired priests are less able to commit to serving parishes on a regular basis …eventually we will have only one priest who cannot serve four parishes in a Mission mode.


The status quo, even while acknowledging the recent introductions of a Director of
Evangelization, increased hospitality and pastoral programs will not keep our Catholic
Faith from declining in North Glengarry. Change will come regardless of our emotions
and we must decide whether to sit still and let fate take its course or take pre-emptive
steps aimed at strengthening the Catholic faith in North Glengarry.

Next Steps:

Discuss the merits of structural change, what and when, see above dates for next 4 town hall meetings, in order to outline and hear everyone’s concerns. Prepare a mitigation plan to help parishioners with change … including reach-outs, Prayer teams, small groups, and ongoing communications with the Archdiocese and their requirements.

It’s important for us not to focus entirely on these negative things that happen, to the detriment of missing out on all of the graced good that happens around us.
Our response is prayer. Our response is a public witness to hope.

Come Holy Spirit.
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