By: Fr. John Jasica
BISHOP FABBRO’S LETTER IS HERE
This weekend we are publishing Bishop Fabbro’s long awaited pastoral letter that may help us move from “maintenance to mission” at the Chatham Catholic Family of Parishes. (CLICK HERE FOR BISHOP FABBRO’S LETTER)
This letter is the result of many events, meetings and consultations both in the family of parishes and at senior levels of the diocese. Bishop Fabbro has given us direction for the journey ahead based on the following:
- Bishop Fabbro’s pastoral visit to Chatham in June 2023 where he met with family staff, Pastoral Council and Finance Committee.
- Reviewing documents and articles shared with the people of Chatham over the last many months.
- Multiple conversations with me as the pastor along with consultations with senior diocesan leaders.
- Follow up questions presented by the Pastoral Council, Finance Committee and staff over the last couple of months.
In order to appreciate this pastoral letter, I suggest you read or re-read the following major documents and articles that have been produced over the last several months so that things can be put into context. You can find copies of the first two documents at each of our churches or at www.chathamcatholic.ca:
- Ignite the Mission – Apostles for a New Era
- Feedback Forms General Summary Report
- Ignite the Mission Article #1 (online only)
- The Game Plan Message Series (new pastoral plan)
(You can find all IGNITE THE MISSION related documentation at
WHAT DOES BISHOP FABBRO’S LETTER TELL US?
(1) ACKNOWLEDGING THE CHALLENGES
There is no question that there have been various challenges and struggles through clustering and parish re-organization for all the parishes in Chatham over the last many years. The confusing processes and fear of church closures have caused serious and long lasting difficulties. In the third paragraph of the letter, Bishop Fabbro acknowledges and apologizes for these problems which we must now deal with today. The good news is that he expresses a commitment to supporting us along this new path walking with us each step of the way.
(2) “IGNITE THE MISSION” – A CHANGE OF HEART
Bishop Fabbro endorses, supports and appreciates the hard work we all have done seeking to “ignite the mission” of the Good News in the city of Chatham. Our pastoral plan, on-going consultation and focus on forming disciples who reach out to all is the way for us to transition from maintenance (trying to hang on to what we have) to mission (following the call of Christ).
The bishop appreciates the new pastoral plan that is clearly articulated and planned over the next several years, focusing on forming the faithful as missionaries who bring the Gospel to everyone in need. This will require us to all work together, to sacrifice and to serve. We are on the right path.
(3) ST. JOSEPH CHURCH AND SPIRIT & LIFE CENTRE
Bishop Fabbro has decided that St. Joseph Church will not close (this does not mean forever—we must show financial viability for the church) due to its historical and architectural significance in addition to the fact that it is the largest church in the family, centrally located in the city, and along with the Spirit & Life Centre, will offer a very unique opportunity to provide pastoral outreach to all the people of Chatham.
This decision by the bishop is rooted in the great potential for mission that could be “one of a kind” in the diocese and the greater community. With this decision, we are asked to think far beyond our own churches for the sake of future generations. This means that we will be actively consulting/planning for the renovation of the Spirit & Life Centre to centralize our parish offices and create space for different ministries, programs and outreach—seeking to build relationships with social services and organizations that serve those in need.
(4) WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER CHURCHES?
Church closures are necessary for our family of parishes. We have declining attendance, declining finances, insufficient staff/programs/ministries and aging buildings. These closures can only take place when necessary and when they comply with diocesan policies and Canon Law (Church law). The reasons for closure include lack of attendance, activities, programs, reception of the sacraments, finances and building conditions.
The journey ahead for us will be very challenging, frustrating and painful for many. Yet I also know that through our sacrifices for the sake of the mission given to us by Christ will bear fruit in due season.
PART II IN NEXT WEEKEND’S BULLETIN……….