A number of Catholic churches in the Sydney region are set to close as the financially struggling diocese copes with rising costs and a drop in parishioners.
Priests delivered the news to the faithful in Cape Breton, N.S., on Sunday.
In a two-page document, the Sydney deanery says all parishes need to make efforts to pool resources and provide pastoral programs.
"We are faced with a declining number of priests, declining church attendance and declining financial support, while costs for goods and services to our aging structures are increasing," the deanery document says.
"The status quo is not sustainable," it added.
"We have a lot of churches in the Sydney deanery," said Father Donald MacGillivray, who is on the committee. "We just don't need that many to serve the needs of the people."
Cut from 10 to 4 parishes
It proposes cutting 10 parishes down to four.
Our Lady of Fatima, St. Theresa's and Holy Redeemer would remain. The fourth would be chosen among Sacred Heart, St. Anthony Daniel and St. Joseph's.
A handful of churches would close by July. Holy Rosary in Westmount and St. Mary's Polish Church would close within the next few years.
By June 2013, one priest would serve five churches in the area south of the Mira River, including Louisbourg, on a rotating basis.
Eskasoni would remain unchanged.
"There are two options for those rural churches that would be closed. They might remain parish churches to be occasionally used for services, or they might not be used at all," the deanery says.
"The committee is aware of the pain that parishioners experience when facing the merger of their parish or the closure of their beloved church building … The committee will do its best to recognize vital and viable parishes, while addressing the spiritual and institutional needs of the entire diocesan community."
Polish church vows to fight
Parishioners at St. Mary's Polish Church said their Canadian Heritage Property church should not close.
"We have people coming from all over the city because it is the Polish church," said Wayne Joseph, financial officer at the church.
The church is financially stable and is well attended, he said.
"We're not going to accept this decision at all. This is going to be fought to the bitter end," said Richard White, church administrator. "We'll have to look at every avenue that's out there."
Parishioners are invited to comment on the proposal. Glace Bay and North Sydney parishes are next up for review.