Six Cape Breton Roman Catholic church buildings will close over the next few years, Sydney churchgoers learned Sunday.

In a letter from Brian Dunn, Bishop of Antigonish, parishioners were told the diocese was consolidating several city parishes into one.

"The reality experienced in many of our parishes makes us aware that we need some changes so that this pastoral care can be more effective, especially in light of the challenges within our diocese, including a declining number of priests, a declining and aging number of parishioners who regularly attend church, a declining financial support and an increase in the cost for goods and services associated with each parish," Dunn wrote.

He said the pastoral planning committee has decided to close several churches.

  • St. Augustine's on Grand Lake Road will close in July of this year
  • St. Nicholas in Whitney Pier will close in July of this year
  • Immaculate Heart on Mira Road will close in June 2013
  • St. Anne's in Membertou will no longer hold Sunday services as of June 2013
  • St. Anthony Daniel will close in June 2014
  • Sacred Heart in Sydney will close in June  2014

Dunn said after consulting with parishioners, it has been decided that a new parish with a new name will be established in Sydney next summer.

St. Joseph's will stay open

Dunn said another church, St. Joseph's, will remain open as it is the newest building and can accommodate parishioners from the other Sydney parishes.

St. Mary's Polish church will come under review following its centenary in 2013.

The bishop also outlined a plan for some rural churches that over the next five years will be served by only one priest.

That means services in some areas will have to be scheduled on a rotating basis. 

Dunn said Cape Breton had 82 diocesan priests in 1996, but has 44 in 2012. He anticipates that number dropping to 30 priests for 100 churches in the near future.

"We are coming together in a new and unified way to experience and express ourselves as more living and energized Catholic communities," he wrote.