Polish Community Ready to Fight for Church

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
January 19, 2012

Wayne Joseph, secretary for St. Mary’s Polish Church, places a candle on the church’s altar Thursday. The congregation plans to fight the Diocese of Antigonish’s decision to close the church by this July. Chris Shannon – Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — The Polish community is fighting back against the Diocese of Antigonish’s decision to close down their church in Whitney Pier within six months.

The diocese’s pastoral planning committee for the Sydney deanery proposed the closure of St. Mary’s Polish Church, along with nearby St. Nicholas Church, and St. Augustine’s Parish on Grand Lake Road in July.

In a report released Sunday, the committee cited the declining number of priests, church attendance and financial support, as well as increases in the cost of operating and upgrading aging structures.

“If that’s the criteria they’re using, then why are they closing us?” asked Wayne Joseph, parish council secretary at St. Mary’s Polish Church.

“We don’t have the declining numbers. We don’t have the declining money. We could actually support a priest on our own. Right now we have the one priest that’s been servicing us, Holy Redeemer and St. Nicholas. And we have a cost-sharing (agreement) to pay for Fr. Paul Murphy.

“So if that’s the criteria, it doesn’t seem to wash when they’re closing a church that’s quite viable.”

Parishioners are devastated by the news at the prospect of losing a church that’s a registered provincial heritage property, said Joseph.

The church is planning a letter writing campaign to Bishop Brian Dunn, encouraging the 100-member strong congregation to explain to the diocese what the church means to them.

He said St. Mary’s parish council will also send an official letter signed by parishioners to the bishop.

The pastoral planning committee has been encouraging people with suggestions or comments on the changes to write directly to committee chair Rev. Donald MacGillivray, the parish priest at St. Anthony Daniel Church.

Joseph said parishioners are still welcome to send letters to the committee, although St. Mary’s officials feel they need to have their concerns heard by the church leadership in Antigonish.

“We feel we should be going directly to the bishop because that committee under Fr. MacGillivray does not have the authority actually to go any further with it. They can’t close the church, only the bishop can do that.”

According to Joseph, St. Mary’s is the only Polish church in Atlantic Canada, making it an important historical site.

Under the pastoral committee’s plan, four churches will remain open to serve the Sydney area by July 2013, including Holy Redeemer, St. Theresa’s and Our Lady of Fatima, plus one more church that has yet to be decided.









Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.