Catholic diocese merger talks with Ottawa underway

In this Monday, April 3, 2017 photo provided by Don Smith, St. Francis de Sales church was packed during the first of five public meetings on the future of the local diocese. The Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall is contemplating a merger with the Ottawa diocese. (Don Smith via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – It appears many local Catholics are cool to the idea of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall merging with its Ottawa counterpart.

The pews were packed at St. Francis de Sales church on Second Street West Monday night as over two dozen people spoke about the future of the diocese locally.

This was the first of five meetings meant to target all groups within the diocese: anglophone, francophone, bilingual, urban and rural.

Attendee Don Smith told Cornwall Newswatch, of the 25 or so people who took to the microphone, many were against any kind of assimilation by the Ottawa archdiocese. He said the meeting was “respectful, but passionate.”

Smith said some of the concerns included the preservation of local history to making sure a person is here locally to shepherd local people. There was also a call for a better reconfiguration of the Catholic dioceses.

“Many feel that bigger is not better and that our situation will decline even more rapidly should the local diocese cease to exist,” Smith said.

A couple of people did acknowledge that merging with the Ottawa diocese will eventually happen at some point, Smith added.

The panel hearing Catholics included Archbishop Terrance Prendergast, Vicar General Kelvin Maloney and Director of Administration Deacon Pierre Aube. There were also a number of diocesan priests in the audience.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours, before the facilitator had to close the discussion despite more people wishing to speak, Smith recounted.

In addition to the meetings, people can also complete an online survey or email or mail the archbishop.

The recommendations and feedback will be prepared in a report that has to be approved by the Catholic Church in Rome and Pope Francis.