Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Eleven months ago, Pope Francis appointed me Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall following the departure of Bishop Marcel Damphousse for the Diocese of Sault-Sainte-Marie. The reason for my appointment was to help discern whether this Diocese should continue and therefore request a new bishop or whether it should be merged with one of the neighbouring dioceses, the Archdiocese of Ottawa being the most likely.
During these past eleven months, I have had the opportunity of getting to know your Diocese. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you at various Masses and events. It is clear you love your Diocese and are proud of your history and tradition.
While many would no doubt like an answer on the future of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall right now, this is a relatively unprecedented question. The merging of two dioceses is actually quite uncommon in the Catholic Church and there is nothing in Canon Law (the Church’s legal code) that spells out when or how a merger should happen. As a result, we have been discussing the best approach for making a good decision, since it will affect many people for years to come.
It has never been my intention to come into your Diocese and impose a decision after just a few short visits. Rather, I felt it was important to get a good overview of the Diocese and you its faithful people first, something I continue to do. Following discussions with the clergy and staff of the Diocese, I made the decision earlier this fall to retain an outside consultant, who knows and understands the Catholic Church, to assist in developing a process for making this important determination.
Early in the New Year, the clergy will meet to discuss the merits of remaining a stand-alone diocese as well as the merits of merging with a larger diocese. There are also plans in the works for a survey that will consider all facets of the Diocese from the health of the parishes to the demographics of the Diocese. I invite your cooperation in this process as it proceeds.
Making use of our Diocesan Prayer, let us ask Our Blessed Mother’s intercession, seeking enlightenment from the Holy Spirit as we move forward in this discernment process.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
✠Terrence Prendergast, S.J.