Editorial deemed ‘inflammatory’

This is in response to the editorial dated April 13 entitled “Catholic Church abandoning its flock.” I feel that the author should have checked basic facts before speculating and pontificating about what is in the minds of other people or organizations.

I am not angered by news that my church requires repairs to keep the public safe and protect its structures. Church buildings do not maintain themselves. The fact is that there has been insufficient repair and maintenance performed on these buildings for years. Informed parties know that the diocese is not responsible for church repairs, the parish is.

Fr. Doug MacDonald requested the 2014 engineering assessment, not the diocese, to ascertain whether he should sell the Immaculate Conception Church building. The engineer then offered to look at the other buildings for free. Father MacDonald ultimately recommended keeping the Immaculate Conception building open as a chapel and pastoral centre. He could have recommended it be sold. He did not abandon us. This fact alone debunks the suggestion of a “master plan” to close all church buildings on Isle Madame.

As for OLA Church, the engineer stated that the foundation of the 187-year-old church was eroding and it was very serious. Without addressing the foundation issues, the engineer stated the church could be lost. The engineer also cited safety concerns. This was passed on to the responsible laity committees in 2014. It is now 2017.

Fr. MacDonald said publicly that the church buildings can remain open if repairs are completed that meet basic insurance requirements and ensure the safety of parishioners. I feel that the editorial is suggesting that the OLA Church should remain open without insurance and without addressing structural and safety concerns. What is wrong with repairing the church buildings and ensuring safety? People have already graciously volunteered to address some of the major items, including the French drain to save the foundation. This project is not “designed to fail” nor “impossible” as was suggested.

Also, contrary to what was suggested in the editorial, St. Joseph’s Hall is currently undergoing repairs and will soon re-open. Their community pulled together and chose to make the necessary repairs. Why can’t we?

The OLA parking lot was expanded following a unanimous decision by the Pastoral Council not to repair the 186-year-old glebe house/pastoral centre. Further, the restructuring process began 20 years ago because of low church attendance, not because of sexual abuse. Church closures were made on the advice of laity committees which included members from Isle Madame. The diocese completed its pastoral planning in Richmond County and two churches, not one, were decreed for Isle Madame. I lost my parish and joined OLA.

Aside from continued insolvency, only public safety concerns and the insurance broker would force the closure of OLA or any church property. This can be resolved by proper maintenance, repair and giving sufficient donations to run the church.

While the editor feels that “the diocese has had plans for some time to close” OLA, they are plain wrong. I feel that this inflammatory and divisive editorial, however, may only hinder the “preserving, maintaining and celebrating” of OLA Church by discouraging people with conjecture and misinformation.

I was at the public meeting and I concur with Father MacDonald that the information was well received. I did not hear anything about the OLA repairs themselves having anything to do with the sexual abuse settlement. A recent meeting with diocesan and parish accountants debunks this assertion. This conflated idea advanced by the editor only caused further confusion and raises my concerns about its purpose and sensationalist nature.

In my view, the inflammatory attack on the priest’s credibility the week before Easter is nothing short of despicable. This is a priest who gave up his glebe house and sold his personal belongings to help Syrian refugees fleeing a war-torn country. The truth is that Fr. MacDonald is the first strong leader I have seen in a long time. He is trying to fix problems that have been neglected for years. Using the shepherd analogy in the editorial, I wonder who is tending to the truth at The Reporter?

I am committed to renovating these church buildings so they are safe. Let’s stand together as a community and repair our buildings so that we can have these beautiful safe facilities moving forward. Rather than curse the darkness, why not light a candle and be part of the solution to keep OLA open for years to come.

Joseph R. Samson

West Arichat