New Parishes, Stronger Together Proposal

New Parishes, Stronger Together Proposal

Parish Prayer

Heavenly Father,

As our parish contends with our changing world, and adopts the missionary posture necessary to bring the light of the Gospel to it in our time, grant us the courage to re-evaluate all that we are doing in light of that same mission given to us by your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to “make and equip disciples who joyfully go and invite others to Jesus.”

We ask in this time especially, as we discern a path forward along with our Archdiocese, for a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit, that we would be united and explosively alive. Strengthen our community through bonds of friendship, growth in holiness, and commitment to our mission. Empower us for the work of ministry so as to transform the world, making present Your Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

Amen.

Table of Contents


A Message From Archbishop Dunn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZiAguwGZeI&feature=youtu.be
Archbishop Dunn came to celebrate Mass and give this talk. In his talk he makes reference to this document. We encourage everyone to read this document and listen to Archbishop Dunn’s talk.

Hearts and Minds: Preparing to Give Feedback

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFpeKQXkC-U

Fr. Bryan’s Homily – Sunday, November 8th

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jsM0L5zYgY

A Letter from the Pastor

November 1, 2020
Solemnity of All Saints
Dear Holy Trinity Parish Family,

By now you will have heard the announcement from Archbishop Dunn that our parish is moving into a time of soliciting feedback regarding the proposal to close Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Elizabeth Seton churches. On this webpage you will find the process of how to engage in these feedback sessions. You will also note that prayer, communication, formation, and pastoral care are all important aspects of this process, and we are addressing each of them. My hope is that you will know what to expect over the next few months upon reading this information.

Our parish, existing both as three separate parishes, and now as one, has experienced many peaks and valleys through the years. We have a proud history of working through struggles and accomplishing great things. Most recently, we have responded to the COVID pandemic with resourcefulness, innovation, and most importantly reliance on the Holy Spirit. I have seen our people step up and work together from day one. While I leave the outcome of this new process in the hands of the Lord, and I invite you to do likewise, at the same time I invite you to participate in the feedback process with charity and honesty.

What I know with certainty is that the Lord is calling us to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to His Church, here at Holy Trinity parish. That mission is unchanging, even as the world turns. The Archdiocese has asked us to re-evaluate our pastoral plans, our finances, and even our buildings in light of that mission, in much the same way that Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to re-evaluate its “times and schedules, languages and structures [to] be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world.”(EG, 27) While any choice of methods to accomplish our mission in our time will remain imperfect, it’s incumbent upon us to discern an appropriate response, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We want to be a community of Spirit-filled evangelizers, bringing the Gospel to those who have not heard it. We want to alleviate the physical, spiritual, and emotional burdens of those we encounter as we do so. We want to be united in purpose and vision, offering a true experience of community and love, strengthened by the witness, the presence, and the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We want to do all these things in and through Christ Jesus who is our Lord and God, and whose Holy Spirit enables us to live our lives for Him, to the glory of our Father in heaven. We want this not just for ourselves, but for our children, our grandchildren, our neighbours and friends, and for the generations to come that we will never meet on this earth, but hope to meet one day in heaven, saints among the Saints.

On this Solemnity of All Saints, we entrust our parish to that great cloud of witnesses who have run the race and won the prize. We ask the intercession in a particular way of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Elizabeth Seton, and Saint John Vianney. May their prayers sustain us in this time.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Bryan


Copies of the letter and handout from Archbishop Dunn below were available for pick up on the way out of Mass on October 31/November 1.

A Letter from the Archbishop

November 1, 2020

To the faithful of Holy Trinity Parish,

As part of our effort to create new parishes, Archbishop Mancini and I asked each parish to conduct a review of their current and future resources needed for missionary renewal. In February of this year, Fr. Bryan wrote to Archbishop Mancini, after careful consultation with the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, and Leadership Team, to propose exploring the closure of Saint Elizabeth Seton Church and Saint Francis Assisi Church. A brief summary of this proposal is attached.

This proposal was not considered or made lightly. It came as a result of extensive study and discernment by the leadership of Holy Trinity Parish assisted by a working group, comprising members of each church community, that was struck by the Pastoral Council specifically to explore this matter. 

The letter outlined several significant concerns that had prompted this discernment:

  • A need for greater parish unity
  • Declining attendance
  • Significant (and costly) repairs and capital projects needed for all three sites
  • Financial concerns, including a 2019 deficit of $74,143

This proposal was a forward-looking one – the desire was not just “to save money” but also included the need to reach out more fully and more effectively to the community—in order to live out your parish mission of making and equipping disciples who joyfully go and invite others to Jesus. 

Archbishop Mancini and I reviewed the proposal. We consulted with the archdiocesan executive team, the Council of Priests, and the Finance Committee. We found that the proposal has merit, and recommend a second phase of discernment. This period will be an opportunity for the entire community to consider and provide feedback on the proposal. This will happen through a number of facilitated small group gatherings, the content of which will be duly collated and submitted to Archbishop Mancini and me by the parish. 

I understand this is a difficult announcement for anyone to read, and that the discernment ahead may not be easy or quick. I also believe, however, that it will be necessary – and ultimately fruitful – in helping Holy Trinity Parish become a community of missionary disciples, and a community that truly does “joyfully go.”

I would like to reassure the entire community that no decision to close any churches has been made. What has been decided is that this conversation is worth having, and that you must all be a part of it. Please know that you have my support, my commitment to be present and involved, and my prayers throughout this process.

Sincerely in Christ,

+BJD

A Handout from the Archbishop

SUMMARY OF PROPOSAL

  • January 2019: Transition Team formed to look at bringing the former parishes of Saint John Vianney, Saint Elizabeth Seton, and Saint Francis of Assisi together as Holy Trinity Parish. In the process of drafting five-year plan and assessing current situation at the three parishes, Transition Team discovered significant (costly) building repairs needed.
  • September 2019: Working Group, with members from all three churches, formed to prepare proposals for how to best move forward with regards to buildings and daunting repair costs
  • November 2019: Pastoral Council hosts Communication Series, sharing details about Holy Trinity’s five-year plan, finances, and state of the buildings
  • January 2020: Holy Trinity Parish established by canonical decree
  • February 2020: Working Group presents six proposals to Parish Pastoral Council to address concerns about the future of Holy Trinity.

These concerns included:

  • Need for greater parish unity
  • 48% decline in attendance in the past ten years
  • Mass attendance that did not proportionately reflect those living within the greater community of Sackville-Mount Uniacke-Beaverbank
  • Building repairs and capital projects with a combined estimate of $500,000 – 1.5M
  • 2019 deficit of $74, 143

Three proposals had been considered but deemed not viable, and three were possible ways forward. Pastoral Council, after a process of discernment, voted to keep Saint John Vianney Church open, to close Saint Elizabeth Seton Church, and to close Saint Francis of Assisi Church.

  • February 2020 – Pastoral Council sent Archbishop Mancini the results of their preliminary discernment, and their recommendation that he close Saint Elizabeth Seton Church and Saint Francis of Assisi Church 
  • July 2020 – Parish leadership was informed that, after consulting with the archdiocesan Executive Team, Finance Committee, and Council of Priests, Archbishops Dunn and Mancini found the proposal had merit. This launched a second phase of discernment, inviting the parish to submit an action plan for soliciting community feedback on the proposal.

Next Steps

Parish leadership has completed a process of discernment and submitted a proposal to Archbishops Mancini and Dunn to close two church buildings. This proposal has not been approved or passed; it has been shown to merit further study and discernment. 

The next phase is to gather feedback on the proposal from the entire parish. A six-to-eight-week consultation period will invite all parishioners to submit their thoughts, concerns, and questions. A series of facilitated small-group sessions will bring parishioners together to discuss the proposal and offer their feedback. All feedback will be collated and submitted to me for my final decision.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who made this decision? The Pastoral Council proposed the closure of two church buildings to the Archbishop. He will make a final decision.
  2. Is this proposed closing of the churches related to COVID-19? This proposal was made before the global pandemic. COVID-19 was not a factor in the proposal.
  3. Why wasn’t I asked for input? Parishioners were asked to attend a three part series on our Pastoral Plan one year ago. During the Communication Series the state of our finances and buildings were raised and the floor was opened for questions. Representatives from each church were on the working group who presented options for the Pastoral Council. People were invited to attend those three sessions in person or online as they were live-streamed on YouTube.
  4. I’m against this proposal. Why should I bother signing up for a feedback session if a decision has been made already? While the proposal has been found to have merit, a decision has in fact not been made yet. Feedback sessions can help surface concerns that have not previously been raised, and allow you to voice where you stand.
  5. I’m in favour of this proposal, is it necessary for me to give my feedback? Yes, absolutely! We want to collect all the feedback on this proposal. These sessions can help surface reasons for adopting this proposal that have not previously been raised, and allow you to voice where you stand. So please do sign up to attend a feedback session and share.
  6. Are we the only parish proposing building closures? As part of New Parishes, Stronger Together, Archbishops Mancini and Dunn asked every parish to conduct a review of their current and future resources needed for missionary renewal. So all parishes of our diocese are undergoing a process of resource inventory.
  7. What about people who don’t want to be part of a large parish? We recognize that many people’s experience of Church at Holy Trinity has been tied to a unique church building and unique Church community which is smaller than the whole body of our parish membership. Bringing the dynamism and character of these communities under a common church roof does present both challenges and opportunities, and our parish is working to ensure that all who come through our doors are able to find authentic Christian community in groups large and small.
  8. What happens to my ministry if the proposal is accepted? We believe that ministry is a part of discipleship! We also believe that we have all been given gifts and are called to use those gifts to build up the Kingdom of God. We hope and expect parishioners will continue to serve in ministries going forward. “In our new parishes, we have all the talents and gifts we require and we require all the gifts and talents we have, to become centres of spiritual and pastoral care; to become worshipping and prayerful communities of communities with dedicated disciples ready to be effective witnesses of the truth that Jesus Christ is the hope and light of the world.” (Archbishop Mancini, Becoming Stronger Together letter, January 2020.)
  9. Is the proposal related to the recent class action lawsuit against the Archdiocese? No. Parishes were restructured to increase our ability to live the mission Christ called us to: spread the Good News and make disciples. Our culture, demographics, and realities of the world have taken their toll on our communities of faith in Halifax-Yarmouth. To have healthy, viable, growing communities of faith, we need to change how we live and act as members of the Church and how we respond to the world in which the Church finds herself.
  10. How can I give my input? Whatever your thoughts and feelings are, please sign up for a feedback session.
  11. Does the proposal mean my church is closing? The Archbishop has not made his final decision. This will come after the feedback sessions are complete and a report is submitted to the Archbishop.
  12. Why don’t we just build a new building instead of choosing one of the existing buildings over another? The option to purchase land and build was considered but not deemed financially feasible.

How Do I Give Feedback
on What’s Been Proposed?

From early November through until mid December, we hosted feedback sessions for small groups. Several parish leaders were trained to facilitate these sessions to record and collect all the feedback which will then go into a report for the Archdiocese. As there are many restrictions in place due to the pandemic, the majority of these sessions were held over Zoom to protect all involved.


Visual Timeline


Brief Video on the History of
Holy Trinity Parish

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_5EhLe0B1c&feature=share

Click here for another video from the same series entitled, Hope for the Future and click here for a video highlighting the parish history of music and drama.


Five Key Areas of Consideration

  1. Feedback

The goal of this process is to solicit feedback from our parishioners on the proposal and its implications. This will aid the bishop in making a decision regarding the proposal once this process is complete. Care will be taken to receive reasons for and against the proposal itself, but also to ask the question, how would/does this proposal impact you personally?

Consultations will take place for 6-8 weeks beginning Monday, November 9th. They should be finished by Christmas at the latest. They will take place by church site.  Consults will be around one hour in length, and will be held primarily over Zoom. Provision will be made for in-person meetings for those who cannot use Zoom, so long as we are compliant with provincial and diocesan regulations in force due to COVID. Group size will be 9 windows consisting of 7 households and 2 facilitators for Zoom meetings., and 10 parishioners plus 2 facilitators for in-person meetings.

Sessions will be recorded to ensure we capture all that parishioners share with us. Sign-up began on November 1st and continued through to the end of the 6-8 week feedback period.

If you are taking part in a Zoom meeting, you will receive a form to fill out beforehand.

The structure of the meeting itself will be as follows:

  • Welcome, introductions, opening prayer
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Opportunity to share reasons for the proposal (pros)
  • Opportunity to share reasons against the proposal (cons)
  • Opportunity to share how the proposal impacts you personally
  • Brief Sharing of Next Steps
  • Closing Prayer

These feedback sessions will be run by two trained facilitators who will guide you through the process. They are there to listen, facilitate, and receive feedback. It may arise that you have questions about a variety of topics. These facilitation sessions are not Q&A sessions. Please find a FAQ section below.

The following people are facilitators:

  1. Kim Pickup (Pastoral Council)
  2. Colleen Owen (Pastoral Council)
  3. Stephen McDonald (Finance Council)
  4. Cecelia MacLellan (Finance Council)
  5. Deacon Art Mitchell (Clergy)
  6. Kate Pinto (Staff)
  7.  Kate Robinson (Staff)
  8.  Steve O’Quinn (Pastoral Council)
  9.  Alex Craven (Staff)
  10.  Deacon Rod Rowlands (Clergy)
  11.  Greg MacIntosh (Pastoral Council)
  12.  Stephen Melanson (Digital Ministry)
  13.  Steve Owen (Confirmation Preparation, In formation for the diaconate)
  14.  Debbie Brown (Care and Companionship, Engagement Team)
  15.  Terry Toner (Music Ministry)
  16.  John Stevens (Archdiocese)
  17.  Elizabeth Craig (Archdiocese)

The facilitation team was commissioned by Archbishop Dunn at the 9am Mass on November 1st.

2. Prayer

The parish staff and clergy are committed to prayer and fasting specifically for the parish and this process for the duration of the feedback period. The staff and clergy have already been meeting at 9am on Tuesdays to pray together and intercede for our parish. As part of this prayer effort we are going to pray a Novena to Saint Joseph, patron of the Universal Church and of Canada (we are praying this Novena December 15-23rd). We are also praying a Memorare each day.

For their part, the Archdiocesan office for Pastoral Life and the New Evangelization will be holding a Friday Holy Hour to pray for all the parishes, and for our feedback process specifically.

We invite you to join the staff and clergy by setting aside a regular time each day to pray for our parish, and if you can, a slightly longer time each week. We invite you also to fast for our parish.

Regardless of where our feelings and thoughts might lie at this time, we have great need of uniting ourselves to Our Lord, and of asking the intercession of Mary, and all the saints. In particular, we want to ask the intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Elizabeth Seton, and Saint John Vianney.

We held two nights of Adoration and Worship, on November 14th and December 12th from 7:30-8:30pm. Both were live-streamed and can be viewed on our YouTube channel (here and here).

3. Pastoral Care

Although the Archbishop has not made a decision regarding the proposal at this stage, we recognize that some people will experience thoughts and emotions that are reflective of being in the cycle of grief. We likewise recognize that the feedback sessions are not the place where the needs of someone experiencing these things are going to be met. We have asked three retired priests to be available to parishioners who may wish to share how they are doing and receive prayer and counsel.

The clergy available for this ministry are:

  • Fr. Owen Connolly
  • Fr. Jim Richards
  • Archbishop Martin Currie

Parishioners who wish to avail themselves of this help can contact Elizabeth Craig at the Archdiocese, who will set up a time to meet with one of the three available clergy.

Alex Craven and Kate Pinto released a video (Hearts and Minds: Preparing Yourself for Feedback) addressing the topic of grieving from a head and heart perspective. We encourage you to watch it.

4. Communications

We want to hear from as many people as possible in the feedback sessions. And we want to stay in communication with you during this process. To do that, we plan to use as many tools as we possibly can. This will include messaging in the First 5, post-mass announcements, this dedicated page on our website, a document (with the information on this web page), video messaging from members of the staff and clergy, posts on social media, letters from the pastor and phone calls to solicit participation.

5. Formation

There are several formation topics that the Archdiocese wants to ensure we speak on in the months ahead. The key topics we have been asked to address are as follows: evangelization, the cost of discipleship, and the nature of the Church. With regard to the nature of the Church, a sub-topic of particular importance is the difference between a parish and a church. Finally, we have been asked to re-present our mission, vision, and 5 year plan. The parish clergy plan to address these topics in homilies over the coming months.

Archbishop Dunn, who will visit to celebrate a couple weekday masses, will stay afterwards and record a brief talk each time. One of them will specifically address the difference between a parish and a church. The video from this talk is linked above (and here).