Three out of five Catholic churches in the Wairarapa are to be put up for sale after decisions made by Cardinal John Dew as part of an archdiocese reorganisation process.
NZ Catholic reported last year (December 1) that the Wairarapa Catholic 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 at the time was opposed to the closure of any of the five churches in the parish area.
According to a recent article in the Wairarapa Times Age, the parish council had acknowledged their financial situation was bad, but said that “with transparency, restoration of trust and certainty, regular giving would increase”.
Cardinal Dew wrote in a June letter that he was very aware of the complexities faced by the parish, with its multiple communities and the “difficulties in the consultation process within the parish”.
In the letter, Cardinal Dew wrote that after consideration and consultation with other archdiocesan bodies, he had decided that the churches to be retained should be at Featherston and Masterton – at each end of the parish.
But with only one priest, “providing Masses in all five churches is not an option for the future”.
Taking what he described as a “pastoral approach”, Cardinal Dew stated in response to the proposals from the parish entities that “The Masterton and Featherston churches are to be retained, and at least one Sunday Mass or Vigil Mass is to be celebrated in both churches. The Carterton, Martinborough and Greytown churches are to be closed and the properties sold. No Sunday or Vigil Masses will be said in these places”.
Other decisions were made about the futures of various presbyteries, halls, land and other buildings in the parish.
Cardinal Dew wrote that “retaining the Featherston church provides a church at each end of the parish. The school is opposite the Featherston church and having the church nearby supports the school, a benefit which the Greytown church does not provide. The Featherston church is larger and while it needs some work, the parish should be able to do this if it sells other properties”.
Other factors in decisions, in general, concerning properties in the archdiocese reorganisation included making best use of properties for helping local Catholics be better missionary disciples, as well as the availability and capability of priests.
Cardinal Dew also noted that, when Mass cannot be celebrated on a Sunday in a church, there is an obligation to go to a nearby church. Citing the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest from the Congregation for Divine Worship, the cardinal wrote that “a Liturgy of the Word and Communion cannot be substituted”.
According to local media reports, St Mary’s in Carterton and St Anthony’s in Martinborough were closed in 2018 as they were only at 20 per cent of the New Building Standard.
Some parish members have reportedly expressed disappointment with the decision.
According to comments on the CathNews New Zealand website, at least four parish council members have resigned, as well as two parish council chairpersons.