Amalgamations and closure of churches were among the proposals submitted by Wellington parishes in response to a directive sent by Cardinal John Dew on the need to overhaul the archdiocese.
Cardinal Dew had earlier cited increasing insurance cost and declining number of priests as reasons for the need to reorganise the archdiocese.
Parishes were asked to review how many churches are needed — and where they should best be located — to cater for Mass counts, taking into account availability of priests and lay pastoral leaders.
Over the next few months, all the documents submitted from the parishes of the archdiocese will be reviewed.
Cardinal Dew advised that, when he considers proposals, he will not be making a decisions to “approve” them.
“My response to a proposal will be expressed as ‘no objection’, ‘further
work needed’ or ‘opposed’. It is the parish’s decision to actually proceed with a proposal if I have no objection. Once the parish decides to proceed, its decisions are subject to the archdiocesan norms and approval processes.”
Some parishes presented clear cut proposals, while others gave the cardinal
options from which to choose. Neighbouring parishes consulted with each other on the possibility of amalgamation.
The Lower Hutt parishes of Holy Spirit — Te Wairua Tapu (Eastbourne, Petone, Wainuiomata and Waiwhetu) and Te Awakairangi (Lower Hutt, Avalon, Naenae, Taita) put in separate proposals (with eight and seven suggestions, respectively) that had some commonalities.
Both suggested an option of a major Catholic community and church hub in Taita, where St Michael’s church is currently situated. This would include either new accommodation units for priests or a central presbytery.
They also agreed that properties in Avalon should be sold.
The two parishes suggested the property in Naenae be retained, at least in part in one case. Te Wairua Tapu parish suggested it be developed as an outreach centre. Te Awakairangi suggested subdividing the presbytery and its land in Naenae, and using sale proceeds to renovate St Bernadette’s church.
For St Peter and Paul church and buildings in Lower Hutt, Te Awakairangi
proposed demolishing the existing presbytery and using the space for more parking.
Te Wairua Tapu suggested that the St Peter and Paul church and buildings be a central location for youth and community with a chapel.
There were further suggestions about some other church buildings in the two parishes.
The Holy Family parish in Nelson is leaning towards either a status quo or
amalgamating with Richmond (Our Lady of Perpetual Help).
St Theresa’s in Plimmerton is likewise planning for staying on its existing site as growth trends in the area project a steady, if not increasing, number of Mass-goers in the parish. They offered three other options in their submission, including a possible merger with Our Lady of Hope parish in Tawa.
The Tawa/Titahi Bay parish acknowledged that a merger of Porirua parishes had been discussed previously, but they do not see it as feasible at this time. They submitted two proposals, which included the closure of St Pius X, which they acknowledge would be very divisive for parishioners in Titahi Bay.
“A number of Titahi Bay-based parishioners have indicated through the parish consultation process that, if this church is closed, they would likely go to Mass at another church such as Holy Family or St Theresa’s, or not attend at all,” the submission noted.
Our Lady of the Valleys (Heretaunga/ Stokes Valley) parishioners suggested
keeping the two sites as a short-term measure, but for the long-term, they proposed moving to one site. They have not decided on the location of the site.
In the Wairarapa, parish priest Fr Bruce England said they were granted a two-month extension to produce a combined decision on one proposal.
The parish finance committee had proposed retaining only St Patrick’s in Masterton and Sacred Heart in Greytown and selling other assets. The parish pastoral council is opposed to the closure of any of the five churches in the parish area.