Announcement Regarding Parish Proposal (June 27th)

Announcement Regarding Parish Proposal (June 27th)

Archbishop Dunn will be the celebrant at closing Masses at the following times:

St. Francis of Assisi
Sunday, September 19th at 11:15am

St. Elizabeth Seton
Sunday, September 26th at 11:15am

Here is a schedule of Sunday Mass times for August and September:

A few other important things to note:

  • Closing Masses will mark the official closures of these churches.
  • St. Francis of Assisi property will be sold.
  • St. Elizabeth Seton property will be retained.
  • The Beaver Bank property front lot will be sold and used for resourcing the mission.
  • The Middle Sackville property will be sold and the money used for repairs at St. John Vianney and the rest will go on deposit with the Archdiocese
  • In order to better care for our people in a large parish, we need to provide staffing for Groups (allowing us to build a “community of communities”, per Pope Francis) sooner rather than later.

Please scroll to read the cover letter and Summary of the Process of Consultation and Decision from Archbishop Dunn.

Summary of the Process of Consultation and Decision

Since 2005, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Elizabeth Seton, and Saint John Vianney have functioned as a Pastoral Unit with one pastor. This was a result of the Forward in Faith initiative in the Archdiocese of Halifax, and was intended to help all three parishes pool their resources to strengthen their mission capacity and sustainability.

This same intention was at the core of our recent pastoral plan, Equip the Saints. The plan was released in 2017 because our desire to more fully equip our parishes and our people with the ability, tools, and resources to fervently proclaim the Gospel in Halifax-Yarmouth. To accomplish this required a radical transformation of our leadership, our methods and our Parish configurations. In order to more fully align our temporal resources with our mission, and after extensive consultation with clergy and laity in the archdiocese, Archbishop Mancini presented an action plan, New Parishes: Stronger Together, which called for significant changes to nearly every Parish in our Archdiocese.

These changes included a merger of Holy Trinity Pastoral Unit to form a new Parish, Holy Trinity Parish, with three church sites. This change was decreed January 1, 2020, but extensive work took place in the year leading up to it in order to support this change.

Throughout 2019, clergy and parishioners of Holy Trinity Pastoral Unit began considering how to align their existing resources and capacities with a missionary focus. A Transition Team was formed, and in the process of their work found significant and costly building repairs were needed for all three buildings in the Parish.

A Working Group was struck in September 2019 to examine the issue of buildings and propose a way forward. The Working Group was asked to consider and respond to the following issues:

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

The Working Group presented a number of options to the Pastoral Council for their consideration. On February 12, 2020, after a period of Ignatian discernment, the Pastor forwarded a proposal to Archbishop Mancini on February 18, 2020, recommending Saint John Vianney Church remain open and Saint Elizabeth Seton and Saint Francis of Assisi Churches be permanently closed.

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 the parish mission of making and equipping disciples who joyfully go and invite others to Jesus.

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns delayed this process considerably. However, Archbishop Mancini reviewed the proposal and consulted with the archdiocesan executive team, the Council of Priests, and the Finance Committee. They found that the proposal had merit and recommended a second phase of discernment and asked Parish leadership to develop a consultation process for the Parish.

On August 28, 2020, Rev. Bryan Sabourin, CC, presented a proposed action plan to Archbishop Mancini for further Parish consultation and discernment on the proposal. This action plan, with minor amendments, was approved by Archbishop Mancini on September 14, 2020.

On October 31 and November 1, 2020, Archbishop Dunn celebrated the Sunday Masses at Holy Trinity Parish to launch the process of Parish discernment, communicate the action plan, and commission fifteen parishioners as small group facilitators for the process.

These facilitators for the small group sessions were chosen based on their public profiles in the Parish, understanding of the process, proficiency with the necessary technology for the sessions, and strong empathetic listening and group facilitation skills. They also received training and support for their role from the Archdiocese.

These faciliatators were instrumental in the biggest outreach of the consultation: an eight-week series of facilitated small group feedback sessions. Importantly, the consultation also very intentionally included prayer at every phase. Parishioners were asked to pray for the process individually and communally. There were several opportunities for intercessory prayer and Adoration at the Parish (due to COVID-19 protocols these were livestreamed and recorded) and archdiocesan level. The Catholic Diocesan Centre met for a number of Holy Hours in the chapel and Parish staff met weekly to pray in an intentional way for the Parish and the consultation and discernment process.

Between November 8 and December 19, 2020, 13 small group feedback sessions were conducted – ten sessions were conducted via Zoom meetings, one was in person, and two were conducted via conference calls. 109 Parishioners, from 80 families, participated in these sessions. 27.5% of participating families regularly worshipped at Saint Francis of Assisi Church, 20% at Saint Elizabeth Seton Church, and 52.5% at Saint John Vianney Church. Parish leadership determined that 12.9% of Holy Trinity Parish parishioners participated in a feedback session. This was further broken down to indicate that 44% of regular worshippers at Saint Francis of Assisi, 15.2% of regular worshippers at Saint Elizabeth Seton, and 9.1% of regular worshippers at Saint John Vianney participated in sessions.

Session participants were asked to submit written feedback online in advance of their facilitated sessions. In both the online form and the session, they were asked to provide pros and cons for the proposal and comment on any positive and/or negative personal impacts that would result for them from the proposal. Feedback from the online form and the sessions was collated and analyzed by Parish leadership.

In addition to this process, a group of representatives from Saint Francis of Assisi Church met with Archbishop Dunn at the Diocesan Office on December 3, 2020 to convey their concerns and suggestions.

On December 1, 2020, Parish leadership submitted a report to the Council of Priests outlining the consultation process then underway at Holy Trinity Parish. On March 18, 2021 and again on June 22, 2021, the Council of Priests, having reviewed the report and preliminary findings, voted unanimously in favour of relegating the two churches.

On March 11, 2021, Rev. Bryan Sabourin, CC, submitted a report to Archbishop Dunn renewing his original recommendation that Saint Francis of Assisi Church and Saint Elizabeth Seton Church close, with Saint John Vianney Church becoming the sole worship site for Holy Trinity Parish. His recommendation was primarily based on a desire to increase Holy Trinity Parish’s mission capacity, in order to more effectively proclaim Christ’s Gospel. His supporting reasons were to ensure financial sustainability for the Parish and strengthen Parish identity.

Having reviewed the above report, Archbishop Dunn requested further information from the Parish regarding the original report and proposals from the Parish Working Group and the viability study that was conducted surrounding Saint John Vianney Church as the long-term site for the new Parish. Rev. Sabourin provided this additional information via email on June 1, 2021.

Archbishop Dunn presented Rev. Sabourin’s finalized recommendation to the Council of Priests, who had another opportunity to consider the proposal with more complete consultation data. On June 22, 2021, Council of Priests, seeing no reason to amend their original judgement, affirmed their vote in favour of relegating both churches to profane use.

Archbishop Dunn is satisfied that a thorough and accurate consultation process has been followed, and that Parish leadership makes this recommendation out of genuine pastoral concern for the people of Holy Trinity Parish. Although church closures are never a happy occasion, Archbishop Dunn is confident that this difficult decision will ultimately bear fruit for Holy Trinity Parish, allowing the community to strengthen its shared identity and share Christ’s salvific love with more people who need it.

Given the unfortunate reality that many of our churches have been closed in fact since May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Dunn has requested that the Parish provide opportunity for some regular Sunday Masses in Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Elizabeth Seton Churches before their final closing liturgies. Although nothing will make this process easy, Archbishop Dunn prays this will give the faithful of Holy Trinity Parish some opportunity to reconnect with their longtime communities and find some measure of personal resolution or closure.

From Sunday Mass on June 27th.

For previous information shared on the proposal, please click here and here.