New Brunswick

20 Catholic churches in Archdiocese of Moncton in danger of closing

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moncton is reviewing 20 of its 53 parishes and some are certain to close, says Archbishop Valéry Vienneau.

Archbishop Valéry Vienneau says some of the churches being reviewed are certain to close

A Moncton church's steeple on a cold February day

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moncton is reviewing 20 of its 53 parishes and some are certain to close, says Archbishop Valéry Vienneau.

The list of the churches at risk is not yet public. Vienneau says he will personally deliver the news to each parish over the next few months. 

The four English-language and 16 French-language churches will have a few months to present recovery plans before the archdiocese decides their fates.

It's not likely all of them will close, but some will, confirmed Vienneau.

'Getting in touch with reality'

Archbishop Valéry Vienneau reviewing 20 churches in the Moncton Archdiocese in the coming months because of dwindling congregations and declining finances.
"This is an exercise of getting in touch with reality and then hopefully finding some direction," he said from his Moncton office.

"I think it's part of the normal process of a lot of dioceses at this point."

Vienneau says both priests and parishioners are aging and many of the churches aren't sustainable, being short on people or money, or both.

I think it's part of the normal process of a lot of dioceses at this point.- Valéry Vienneau, Archbishop of Moncton

​Vienneau will visit each of the churches in question in the next six months to deliver the news and offer support.

"Some people want me to be very rational and say some churches are closing tomorrow but that's not the way to do it. Because you're dealing with people, you're not just dealing with structures," he said.

"It's not like an enterprise, people have put their heart and soul in there so I want to respect that."

Parishioners waiting for news

Cail Bastarache hopes to stay at his parish but believes his church is one of the four English parishes being reviewed.

Cail Bastarache is a parishioner at Holy Family Catholic Church in Moncton's west end and believes his parish is one of the four English churches on the chopping block.

"Our church, we've been talking about this for three years and we know that it's coming," he said. "I think it's the only decision [the Archdiocese of Moncton] can have because there are a lot of churches that are struggling."

It's not the first time Bastarache and his wife have been through this adjustment. They had to relocate from their parish in Dieppe 10 years ago because it stopped offering English services.

"That was an emotional thing. We lost a lot of our friends, we had to go to Moncton," he said. "We may be going through it again. We're hoping beyond hope that isn't the case."

New uses considered for some

Just because a church is closed doesn't mean the archdiocese will be selling the land or building.

In some cases the building will be given a new purpose within the Catholic community.

But if unable to find a new, sustainable use for the buildings left behind by condensed parishes, then Vienneau says the archdiocese will have to demolish them for insurance purposes, or sell them.

"We don't have a choice," he said.

Ultimately, Vienneau hopes his report and reviews are seen as positive.

"If we don't do it it would be a lack of responsibility on our part," he said. "Some parishes will find themselves in a situation they never thought."