On April 24, a good-sized crowd of present and former parishioners gathered to mark the end of more than four decades of worship at St Alphonsus Church in Waverley on the Otago Peninsula.
Bishop Colin Campbell and five priests with strong ties to the parish concelebrated Mass.
Since Easter, parishioners from the four contributing churches of the Dunedin South Pastoral Area have combined for regular worship at the refurbished St Patrick’s Basilica. As a result, the Waverley church centre has become surplus to requirements.
In his homily on April 24, Bishop Campbell acknowledged the sadness many would feel on the occasion of the decommissioning.
He said that he would rather be opening than closing a church. However, as reflected on the Scripture readings for the fifth Sunday of Easter, such events should be seen positively in the context of our journey as a pilgrim Church.
And indeed, although there is regret at the closing of a church that has been at the heart of parish life for more than 40 years, the St Alphonsus congregation has been generally very positive about the enhanced opportunities for Christian action and interaction in an expanded parish.
Many parishioners continue to be actively involved in various ministries an are playing key roles on foundation committees for the new parish.
St Alphonsus parishioners have always been proactive in service to their community.
The decommissioning ceremony was an opportunity for people to reconnect and to recollect significant events and people over the lifetime of the parish.
The bishop gave a historical overview of the parish, and parish council chairman John Curran spoke of the various priests who had served the parish. Those included the founding Redemptorists and the long-serving Rosminians, before diocesan clergy became permanently involved from 1993.
Special mention was made of the Sisters of Mercy who lived and worked in the neighbourhood for decades and provided outstanding outreach to children and families in need.
Ecumenical links were forged over the years with the neighbouring parishes of St Nicholas and St Philip’s. Their clergy and many parishioners joined the St Alphonsus congregation for the afternoon, and it is hoped those connections will be maintained.
The formal ceremony concluded with an extended period of fellowship.