Declining attendance, fewer volunteers, and less revenue puts 20 NB churches at risk of closure

There could up to 20 less Roman Catholic churches in the province if trends of declining attendance, revenue and volunteers aren't reversed.

Moncton Archbishop Valery Vienneau says parishes aren't making enough from Sunday collections and other revenue sources to sustain regular operations and that four English and 13 French churches could shut their doors within three years.

The names of churches on the list of potential closures have not been released, however Vienneau says he and other officials will meet with their representatives in the coming months.

He says some parishes have too many buildings and that consolidation could be a simple way to save money.

A letter sent to affected parishes says they'll have to find other places of worship if they can't spend within their means to maintain facilities and encourages them to come up with a recovery plan.

The letter, Vienneau says, is meant to be a "wake up call" and says parishes will no longer be allowed to operate in a deficit.

Those experiencing financial woes will be required to implement a plan to become solvent within a two year period.

While charges of sexual abuse have caused a downturn in attendance and have had a negative impact on the morale of parishioners, Vienneau says litigation costs are dealt with at the diocesan level rather than individual parishes who, he says, must be financially self-sustaining.

Vienneau says the first priority is to implement a recovery plan, rather than close churches.

He believes most of those churches can recover but predicts as many as five will end up closing.

Father Wesley Wade of the Bathurst Diocese says the potential closures relate to the Moncton Archdiocese.

(with files from the Telegraph Journal)