In a Letter to the Editor from Joseph Samson of West Arichat in this edition of The Reporter, the letter writer called into question some of the points raised in an April 12 editorial entitled “Catholic Church abandoning its flock.” In turn, The Reporter reserves the right to call into question many of the assertions made in his letter.
The letter incorrectly claims that the April 12 editorial stated that St. Joseph’s Parish Hall in Petit de Grat was closing permanently. The editorial and an article published in the March 22 edition only alluded to the fact that it was closed, and there was no mention in either that this was a permanent arrangement.
Of equal importance is that the editorial did not state that the closure of the hall and other churches on Isle Madame was, according to the letter, part of a “secret plot” by the diocese. The editorial did correctly state that this process was being directed by the diocese, a fact which Father Doug MacDonald confirmed when he declared himself the lone representative of the diocese in Isle Madame during a public meeting at Our Lady of Assomption (OLA) Hall in Arichat on the afternoon of March 12.
The most important aspect of the letter which requires clarification is that which claims the divestiture of parish assets is not part of the process to fund the multi-million dollar compensation of sexual abuse victims at the hands of priests in the Diocese of Antigonish. The Reporter has written several articles on this issue over the past few years, and the diocese has repeatedly confirmed that the divestiture of all parish churches, halls, buildings, and land held by the Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Antigonish is part of a long-term process to offset the costs of compensating sex abuse victims.
As well, those at the public meeting on March 12 in Arichat were clear in their opposition to the closure of OLA Church and many in attendance expressed their displeasure with closure even being considered, so to assert in the letter that the news was “well received” is inaccurate. In the time since that March meeting, many current and former residents of Isle Madame have expressed their opposition over the possible closure of OLA Church. And, since the publication of the April 12 editorial, The Reporter has been flooded with criticism of the potential closure from all corners of its readership.
Contrary to what the letter contends, the editorial did not at all suggest that church buildings and other structures should remain open “without insurance and without addressing structural and safety concerns.” Feedback received from stakeholders with decades of experience volunteering with the OLA Church challenges the assertions of Father MacDonald, the letter writer, the insurance company, and the engineering report that some of these repairs are required, or that they should force the building to close.
The Reporter also takes issue with the letter’s assertion that the parking lot at OLA Church was “doubled” in size after the closure and demolition of the glebe house. In fact, the parking lot has been slightly increased, to the extent that cars still park along Highway 206 and at adjacent law and dental offices, as they did before the parking lot was redesigned.
The Reporter also questions the assertion of the letter writer that the proposed closure of OLA Church three years ago was because of the “insolvency” of the Arichat parish. According to volunteers with OLA Church, its finances remain solid as they have for many years.
The Reporter would like to conclude by commending the volunteer community group “Friends of Notre Dame” for working to preserve the church. Contrary to what the letter states, the April 12 editorial will not “hinder” this group, but will assist them in meeting their goals by giving this issue the attention it deserves.
This issue has ignited passions in many people connected to this historic church, and almost everyone is in agreement that it should remain open. The Reporter agrees with the letter that this is not the time for finger-pointing. However, we strongly disagree that raising questions will put the future of this beautiful and historic church building in jeopardy.