Press release May 8, 2006
Archbishop Gervais announces changes to St. Brigids Parish & Church
On Sunday May 7th , a letter from Archbishop Marcel Gervais was read to the parishioners of St. Brigids Church, Ottawa, giving the reasons for the amalgamation of St. Brigids Parish with the Parish of Notre Dame Cathedral this year and the eventual sale or transfer of St. Brigids Church within the year following the amalgamation of the parishes. The complete text of the letter follows:
Dear Parishioners of St. Brigids Parish:
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, I am deeply aware of how my pastoral responsibility for the Diocesan Church sometimes leads me to take difficult decisions which affect a particular parish. It is in that context that I am writing to advise you of changes that will profoundly affect your parish community. Most of the reasons which have led me to this decision are external to your own parish life and history. Those who advise me on the pastoral care of our Diocese are obliged to look at factors which affect us regionally and not just on a parish-by-parish basis.
As we reflected once again on the future of St. Brigids, we realized that there are many factors that are external to the parish which were key to my decision, such as the changed demographics of the area in the last thirty years, the general decrease in Sunday practice by Catholics, and the change in the character of Lowertown. Some of these realities are affecting all of our inter-city parishes. You are likely aware, for example, of the closing of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in September of last year. There are, of course, financial considerations. The Cathedral underwent a major renovation in 1999 and St. Patricks Basilica continues a multi-million dollar restoration. Taking all of these considerations into account, I have come to the conclusion that it would be very difficult to justify spending the considerable amount of money that would be necessary to effect a restoration of St. Brigids Church, or any other inner-city Catholic church.
Having made a decision about the building, my principal concern turned to the pastoral care of the community that worships here. You have a long and significant history with many accomplishments. You actively support your parish and are involved in its life. Given the location of St. Brigids, as well as its origins in the late nineteenth century, it seemed natural to amalgamate St. Brigids Parish with the parish of Notre Dame Cathedral. In effect, the St. Brigids community is amalgamating with its parish of origin.
In the early days of Lowertown, the Cathedral was a bilingual parish, home to both Irish and French-Canadian Catholics. In recent years, the Cathedral Parish has returned, in some sense, to its origins. It is a bilingual community, but it also reflects our contemporary reality in that its community is multi-cultural. In essence, the Cathedral parish attempts to be a faithful reflection of our diocesan church of today and welcomes a diverse group of people which have found in it a welcoming community of faith.
In reflecting on the best approach to the future pastoral care of the members of St. Brigids Parish, I am also aware of the particular ministry that Fr. Arana has had with respect to members of the Filipino community. As a result, my decision has three elements:
As the Rector of the Cathedral charged with the pastoral care of those worshipping at St. Brigids, Msgr. Powers has been asked to make contact with those involved in the various councils, committees and ministries of your parish. He will see to the wisdom of forming a joint committee of Cathedral and St. Brigid parishioners to advise and assist him in the process of transition and integration, in order to form a united and welcoming parish from the two communities.
I am very much aware of the heritage value of Saint Brigids. I want to assure you that any funds which have been collected for the restoration of St. Brigids will be used for that purpose. With respect to the sale or future use of the church building, I will be seeking the guidance of the Diocesan committees and councils, as required by Canon Law. I do, in addition, wish to hear the advice of members of your community. Therefore, I have instructed Msgr. Kevin Beach, my Vicar General, to form a small consultative committee which should include 3 to 5 members of the existing St. Brigids Parish.
Decisions of this nature are never easy to make or to accept. So that we may all keep before us the good and unity of our Diocesan Church, let us ask Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, to be at the centre of our prayer and life. As we enter into this month of May, let us also ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to intercede for us.
For further information: Guy Lajoie, 738-5025, ext. 238