St. Augustine Church to close January 2017
The news is coming out after a decision was made by the diocese of St. Catharines, which the church falls under. St. Augustine (Welland) had a meeting with diocese Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie on June 25, when he officially announced the news.
Diocese vice-chancellor Margaret Jong said the future of all churches in the diocese have been up for discussion since January of 2015.
She said the diocese began a “discernment process” to take a look at attendance numbers, building structure and pretty much all things to do with the church. It wasn’t done with the intention of closing churches, but to just see what needed to be changed and improved to make the church community better.
For St. Augustine, attendance numbers are a big determining factor.
“The parish has always been relatively small and it has just grown smaller,” she said.
There are currently only 75 members registered with the church.
Donna Tamburino said she and her husband used to be parishioners of the church when they lived nearby and sometimes still attend services. She said when they do, they’re sometimes the only ones there.
“If we don’t go, no one’s there,” she said of the Tuesday service they attend.
She said she knows people are going to be upset when they hear about the closing of the church.
Those upset are worried about losing the history and sentimentality of the church.
Jong said many of the church’s attendees have been going there since it opened in 1951.
Tamburino said she definitely understands since she was baptized and had her first communion there, but she also knows how much the church has struggled.
Her husband volunteered with the church for six years and within that time frame, the church flooded, the roof needed repairs and overall there was just expensive upkeep. Especially with a church as small as St. Augustine’s and with so little attendance, there’s no way to realistically finance it.
“If people aren’t there putting money in the basket, where is it going to come from?” she said.
“The priests these days seem to become fundraisers and maintenance men, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”
Because of these extra tasks priest take on, she said there’s no time for them to do their actual job of tending to the spiritual needs of the parishioners.
St. Augustine will be merging with St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, also in Welland. Jong said when St. Augustine first opened, it was really just a branching out of St. Mary’s anyway.
“It’s essentially a returning home to the parish where they originated.”
She recognized that the merge will be a big change for people though, especially the older folks who might not drive anymore and used to walk to church.
Both Jong and Tamburino said they think other church members will step up and help with transportation.
Bergie is sending out an announcement that informs parishioners of St. Augustine’s final mass on January 1, 2017. A date will be chosen before then to celebrate its 65 years and share memories of the church.
Photo captions: Donna Tamburino, member of St. Augustine Church, is sad to see the church close. Wednesday June 29, 2016 in Welland, Ont. Michelle Allenberg/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network
By: Laura Barton, firstname.lastname@example.org