Parish merger gets Pope’s blessing
A little more than a year after he started consulting with local Catholics to get their views on a potential merger between the Alexandria-Cornwall Diocese and the Archdiocese of Cornwall, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast says that the two will be united “in the person of the bishop.”
Bishop Prendergast spoke to the media briefly on Sunday morning at St. Finnan’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where he was overseeing the confirmation of several Grade 2 students from St. Finnan’s and Iona Academy. He said that the decision came from Rome and that he is no longer the Apostolic Adminstrator if the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall; now he’s its bishop. A second Auxiliary Bishop will be appointed to assist specifically with the AlexandriaCornwall territory.
“I recognize that this decision will not satisfy everyone and that some people may be upset,” the new bishop said. “However, it is my hope that this decision will ultimately
contribute to the creation of vibrant faith communities in Alexandria-Cornwall, which will be evangelizing presences in our midst.” Indeed, one of the most common complaints about merging the two dioceses would be that the one in AlexandriaCornwall would lose its bishop. At a public meeting held at St. Francis of Sales Church in Cornwall in April of 2017, several area Catholic pushed for this very thing. One went so far as to say that the shepherd should “live among the sheep, not from a distance.”
Ron Eamer, a Williamstown resident who is also vice-chairman of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, was also in favour of this. Last April, he lionized Bishop Marcel Damphousse (who was transferred to Sault Ste. Marie in 2015) and his predecessor, Bishop Paul-André Durocher, for their visibility throughout area schools.
Reached on Monday morning, Mr. Eamer said that the decision has been made and that local Catholics should accept it.
“I felt, as a lot of people did, that it would be better to have a local bishop,” he said. “When an Auxiliary Bishop is appointed, things should go well. I think it’s the decision that had to be made and that everyone will understand.”
In any case, the archbishop says that most of the reaction has been positive and that he’s received emails from several priests who say they’re happy with the announcement.
When asked if he can adequately serve the Catholics in two dioceses at the same time, he said “I’ve been doing that for two years.”
Bishop Prendergast said that Rome’s decision is just adjusting to the way society is changing. A lot has changed since the Diocese of Alexandria (Cornwall was not added to the name until 1976) was created by the Vatican in January of 1890. Farms are getting bigger, rural populations are getting smaller, and the number of people attending Sunday Mass is shrinking.
An April 30 press release says that “as the unification of dioceses is extremely rare, the transition period will take some time as plans are elaborated to effect the change.”
NEW BISHOP: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, seen here at St. Finnan’s Cathedral in Alexandria Sunday, is the new bishop of the Alexandria-Cornwall Diocese.