The Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie is facing the challenge of a decline in people attending mass and available priests, the shifting of parishoners out of once-strong neighborhoods, and aging churches.
The diocese will consider combining some parishes, changing parish boundaries, maintaining some ethnic parishes, and closing churches to deal with the issues. A parish is the area covered by a church and its priest.
The Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie covers territory from Temagami in the east and Manitouwadge in the west, and includes Manitoulin Island, Sudbury, North Bay, and Sault. Ste. Marie.
According to a release from the diocese, during the years between 1950 and 1970, there was "a significant increase in the number of priests and in the general population," which in turn resulted in the building of new churches and the creation of new parishes.
In the last twenty years, however, that has changed, as the Roman Catholic church has faced several challenges, including less parishoners, less priests, and scandals. To cope with these changes, the diocese has closed eighteen churches.
The closures and combining of parishes has to continue in order to provide the best pastoral care to parishoners, says diocese Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe, in the release.
He is asking parishes and its members to think about ways they can help the diocese meet the challenges of decreased population and parishoners. In addition, he is asking thirty parishes in specific to examine their viability now and in the future.
The affected parishes will have until March to respond to the review process, and an announcement of changes will be made by May. Changes will go into effect by the end of Dec. 2010.
"The closure of a church is like the selling of a family home. It is not easy, but at times, it must be done," Plouffe said.
For more information about the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, visit www.diocesessm.org.