by NZ CATHOLIC staff
Catholic priests from Christchurch diocese will no longer be going to Antarctica as chaplains there.
The National Science Foundation, which manages the United States Antarctic Programme, has announced that a steady decline in churchgoing at US Antarctic stations means the programme can no longer support the services of Catholic priests through the diocese’s Antarctic Chaplaincy Programme.
The diocese has been advised that McMurdo Station will continue to have the services of a military chaplaincy, which will provide interdenominational religious services and personal
support to the population.
The foundation has worked with Fr Dan Doyle, Antarctic Chaplaincy coordinator, on the transition that will bring an end to a 57-year relationship between the diocese and the programme.
In recent years attendance at the Chapel of the Snows at McMurdo Station and in the numbers of residents availing themselves of services of the chaplains has steadily declined.
Chaplains were based there from October until February each summer season.
For 57 years a Protestant chaplain from the US Military and a Catholic priest provided by Christchurch diocese offered religious services, individual counselling and support for as many as 2000 men and women stationed at McMurdo and Amundsen-Scott Stations and Scott Base at any one time.
The chaplains reported that they have been aware for some time of the declining religiosity of the Antarctic population, and have made considerable efforts to provide relevant and timely
religious opportunities to the population.