Catholic parishes merger planned

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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Historic changes are in the wind for Catholic congregations in New Plymouth.

Although the finer details have yet to be established, the most significant involves the amalgamation of the three parishes of St Joseph's New Plymouth , St Philomena's Brooklands and Fitzroy's Our Lady Help of Christians into one.

About 200 people turned out last week to a series of presentations given by a steering group which has the task of explaining the move and organising consultation with the community about the faith's future look. The group is made up of representatives from each of the three parishes.

Father Craig Butler, one of six people on the steering committee, said the changes had been initiated by Bishop Charles Drennan as a way to strengthen the faith in the city as well as make the best use of resources.

"It is exciting," he said.

For Butler, it also meant a change in his role within the church.

As regional dean, Butler will focus on supporting the other priests and Catholic schools in the area, along with facilitating the pastoral care of St Philomena's congregation after their church was destroyed by fire in January.

To do this, he will step aside as parish priest at St Joseph's New Plymouth and will be replaced by Father Adonis Rancho.

Butler said, at a meeting with Catholic school representatives last Thursday, that the potential changes also created opportunities for church members to look at doing things differently.

A possible example of this was working alongside agencies like the Salvation Army regarding services both groups offer to people in need.

Butler said although change was not always easy, there was an opportunity for parishioners to be part of the final plan, which is due to be in place by Easter next year.

"It's about everyone being involved," he said.

Another steering group member, Mark Poppelwell, said the consultation period, which would begin in June, also provided a chance to look at different and more modern ways of engaging people in the Catholic faith, especially youth.

"It's certainly about wanting to have a church that's growing."

Poppelwell said one of the trends that concerned him was the fact that although there were high numbers of children and young people attending Catholic schools, this had not translated to numbers attending Sunday mass.

The steering committee have asked for a wider consultation group of parish and school representatives to be set up by the end of this month. Consultation will be followed by a workshop, with a draft plan to be presented to Drennan later in the year.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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