WelCom September 2020
The major review of churches and parish properties underway across the Archdiocese is an opportunity to use assets to reach out beyond our own parish communities, says Cardinal John Dew.
‘I often say we are reorganising for mission. We have a lot of assets which we mostly use for our own purposes. How can we use our assets to help the wider community, especially those who are disadvantaged or in difficulties? Every parish will be different in its answer to this question.’
Cardinal John said it was encouraging to see parishes supporting community organisations, not just Catholic organisations, which help families in difficulties, young people, the poor, the elderly, refugees.
‘If we are inward-looking, intent on running the parish and providing for our own needs, we run the risk of becoming very comfortable and losing sight of the mission which Jesus has called us to. Pope Francis’ words about inward-looking communities are well-known – the community becomes self-referential and sick. He uses strong words about this situation saying such communities can become “prisoners of their own rigid formulas” and get caught up in “a web of obsessions and procedures”.’
“Streamlining parish resources is a great opportunity to strengthen a parish’s mission to the world.”Cardinal John
There are over-riding practical issues that are also driving the major reorganisation of the Archdiocese. A growing shortage of priests, and the maintenance and high-insurance costs of some church buildings, made it inevitable buildings would need to close and parishes amalgamate, said
‘Having a priest in each parish is challenging now. We will have fewer priests in years to come, even if we continue to have the help of international priests and religious orders.
‘On the property side, already there are four churches within the Archdiocese that are closed due to earthquake risk, and nine that need significant work.’
The amalgamation of parishes in the Archdiocese was a major undertaking, which was carried out between 2013 and 2017. Last year the new amalgamated parishes were asked to put forward their proposals for rationalising their properties.
Property proposals from parishes were submitted in October 2019. The Cardinal discussed the proposals with the Council of Priests, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Board of Administration. Properties of particular interest to Māori communities were also reflected on by Te Kahu o te Rangi, the Māori Pastoral Council for the Archdiocese.
Cardinal John had planned to reply to all parish proposals around Easter this year, but the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his response until the end of lockdown when parishes could gather and discuss his feedback as parish communities.
Cardinal John acknowledged the review of church assets and properties has been a difficult exercise for parishes.
‘The review and the decisions which come from it have created tensions in parishes. I am very aware of how upsetting it has been for some people. There is no easy way to bring about the changes that are needed. We need to pray for one another and be respectful as we work through a process of discernment and make decisions.’
Cardinal John emphasised the parish is a Eucharistic community and that ‘Mass is central to our worship and who we are. It is not an option to substitute a Liturgy of the Word and Communion on a Sunday, other than when something unexpected happens.’
For that reason, a large church is a very valuable asset in the new structure of amalgamated parishes, particularly city ones, he said.
‘The parish with a large church that can accommodate all its parishioners will have a huge advantage in the future. Major liturgical celebrations such as Easter and Christmas should be in one place if possible, because the parish is one community. A large church enables the many gifts of the people to be shared more widely, it creates better liturgy and a more sustainable future financially. This is not so easy in the regional areas of the Archdiocese but is possible in many city and suburban areas.’
The Cardinal said different parishes faced different challenges but he encouraged all parishes to let go of the established order of doing things and be radical in their thinking.
‘No two parishes are the same geographically or in terms of the properties they own. For some parishes the list of properties is astounding. Looking after them all is a major task, and in some cases maintenance and insurance have become impossible on the parish’s income.’
Streamlining parish resources is a great opportunity to strengthen a parish’s mission to the world, said Cardinal John.
‘We are meant to be out there serving the poor, and those who are struggling. The Gospel calls us to give them hope. As Pope Benedict said in Deus Caritas Est: “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented”.
‘I get anxious we are not using what we have to its fullest potential. We need to ask how can we continue to involve people, and inspire people?’