To: The Faithful of the Diocese of St. Paul

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Throughout history, our human settlement has constantly undergone changes in society and demographics due to the migration of peoples for social, economic or political reasons. As people move and communities grow and diminish, the Church must continue to adapt to these changes in society and respond to the needs of our time.

Even within the Diocese of St. Paul, communities and parishes have undergone significant changes. I would just like to point out a couple of examples, as evidenced in the Alberta Catholic Directories of the past 80 years.

  1. In 1933, the community of St. Bride’s (17km East of St. Paul) had a resident priest and two mission churches in Cork and Ashmont. None of which have regular Sunday services today.
  2. Also in 1933 Thorhild was a mission of Radway, but now the priest serving these communities now resides in Thorhild.
  3. Again in 1933 Whitecourt was served from Onoway and only in 1951 did it receive its first resident pastor. Today Whitecourt is a growing community whose priest also serves Fox Creek.
  4. In 1957, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish was established in Cold Lake (formerly Grand Centre) to respond to the growing needs of that community.
  5. In 2013, St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Fort McMurray is being formerly incorporated as a separate parish to better serve the faithful living there. As of this year there will officially be two Catholic parishes in Fort McMurray and the rate of the community suggests that more will be required in the future.

As a Diocese we often feel nostalgic but still we have to think ahead about how we will continue our mission of evangelization throughout the next decade and beyond. As I explained in Ft. McMurray, last weekend – “people living and sharing their faith are always more important that the buildings in which they worship.”

In this time of evangelization, our priorities need to be ministering to youth and families and thereby building up our Church for years to come. This is why we have an Office of Family Ministry as well as the recently reestablished Office of Youth Ministry to support our parishes in its youth and family activities and projects.

Vocation ministry is therefore very important.

There were over sixty priests serving our Diocese in the 1950’s at a time when the Fort McMurray region was not under our care. Today we have only 22 active priests which challenges us to look at ways to more effectively use them in order to continue the important work of evangelization and providing the sacraments to the faithful.

We also have limited amount financial resources. Throughout the Diocese we spend a significant amount of money maintaining buildings that are barely used and this money could be spent on ministry and support for our youth and families; and presently several priests burn a lot of gas driving to churches sometimes for less than 10 people.

Recognizing these challenges, Bishop Luc Bouchard established a Parish Review Committee back in 2005 to examine all of the parishes in the Diocese and to determine their viability. In 2006 this committee prepared the document “Diocese of St. Paul: Making Our Catholic Community More Vital-Vibrant-Viable”. A lot of work and research went into this document but it was unfortunately never implemented. This review called for no longer having regular weekend Mass in several parishes which either had too few attendees at Sunday Masses or were financially unsustainable. It also suggested a review after five years of other parishes that had concerns. It has now been seven years since this document was produced and it is my responsibility as your bishop to address these difficult and painful issues.

Therefore as of the end of July 2013, the following parishes will no longer have regular Sunday Masses but can still be available for their catechetical activities as well as for weddings, funerals and other special occasions:

  • Atmore
  • Ardmore
  • Beaver Lake
  • Caslan/Buffalo Lake
  • Dapp
  • Fort Assiniboine
  • Fort Kent
  • Frog Lake
  • Pickardville
  • Prosperity
  • Rochester
  • St. Vincent
  • Venice
  • Vimy
  • Waugh

This is not an easy decision and I am not making it lightly. I understand the pain and hurt that comes with no longer having Sunday Masses in a church which has been there for your entire lives. However, I must look at the good of the entire Diocese, the good of the priests and the good of all our Catholic faithful who live and will live in our Diocese for years to come.

For those whose churches will no longer have regular Sunday Masses, I encourage you to bravely take an active part in the parish closest to you; I ask those in the welcoming parishes to warmly greet your brothers and sisters in Christ as they become part of your parish communities.

May God be with all of us during this time of transition!

Sincerely in our Lord, the Good Shepherd,

+ Paul Terrio
Bishop of St. Paul, Alberta