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Sweeping changes proposed to Catholic parish structure in Canterbury

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Bishop Paul Martin, the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, is proposing to create five new parishes in Christchurch by merging 12 existing parishes, in a restructure of the Christchurch Diocese including Selwyn and North Canterbury.

The proposed changes were announced at Sunday masses throughout the Diocese today (Sunday, June 9) via a video message from Bishop Paul and parishioners have been asked to supply feedback by August 30.

In announcing these changes, Bishop Martin said his desire was to make the parishes stronger, able to last into the future, financially viable and able to be staffed by priests and parish teams so they can focus on the mission to spread the Gospel more effectively and to be welcoming to those who have not heard of Christ.

"As a new Bishop to the Diocese, I was familiar with some aspects of the diocese, but not all, so have been able to ask questions about why we do 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 proposed new parishes 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.

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 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 Maori Community.

Selwyn and North Canterbury districts are also included in this proposed plan because of their proximity to Christchurch. These proposed changes would include:

A new Selwyn Parish based at Rolleston. This new parish would be a merger of the existing Akaroa, Lincoln, Leeston and Darfield Parishes. The churches will be retained in each place and a proposed new church and school built at Rolleston. Hornby and Darfield will be spilt. The church at Hornby will be retained and Darfield will be re-grouped with Rolleston.

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.

Bishop Martin said that this work was first started by the late Bishop Barry Jones.

"He put together a group of lay experts in a number of areas to advise him of structural change after the earthquakes. This has been supplemented by work undertaken by the Diocesan pastoral, property, human resources, finance and education staff over the past six months. They have researched, consulted with experts, and conducted feasibility studies to see what might be possible going forward.

"Our parishes are very sacred to us, our history is tied to them - family, spiritual events, key moments, familiarity and comfort. This is not been done lightly. We must be strong, open to the Holy Spirit and brave in that we are stepping out into the deep.

"Our school system is of equal importance. I want Catholic Schools to continue to provide an environment in which young children learn about the faith, learn to pray, experience the rituals of the Church, encounter Jesus, and help our parents encounter or rediscover Jesus and His church.

"One issue created by moving to five sites from the existing 12 in Christchurch, is that some of our Catholic primary schools will no longer share a site with their parish church. While this will necessitate a new way of relating as parish and school, chapels will be established (with the Blessed Sacrament reserved) on school sites where this is the case, and that 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.

Bishop Martin said that he and his pastoral team have been studying trends here and overseas and they can see from parishes that are thriving and growing, that part of their success comes from strong leadership and a real desire to work collaboratively with the laity.

"These thriving and growing parishes are also much larger than the parishes that we have now. They have a critical mass of people, less plant, more staff and financial resources that are leading to vibrant and flourishing parishes.

"I am also thinking of the whole diocese which includes many rural and remote places. We are one body in Christ and larger parishes in Christchurch city will mean that I can staff more easily our regional parishes with active, healthy priests. The demands of these regional areas are great, often including multiple communities and much travel across vast distances. The regions have sacrificed much over the years and this plan will mean that Mass and the Sacraments remain accessible.

"It is also my intention that these new parishes will come into being at Pentecost 2020 (May 31), with the Parish Priest and Assistant Priests initially looking after the existing communities at their current sites. Over the next 2 - 3 years I will be asking the communities in each parish to work together with the aim of worshiping on one site, on, or before, Pentecost 2023.

"Much work is ahead of us and I look forward to hearing from the parishes about what their hopes and dreams and needs are going forward, and working with each parish, with the assistance of the Diocesan staff and other experts, to help them develop facilities that will serve the mission in their area," he said.

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