After a series of public consultations in the fall, six Catholic parishes have a plan to boost involvement at local churches. Parishes in Vankleek Hill, St. Eugène, St. Bernardin, L’Orignal, Chûte-à-Blondeau and Ste-Anne-de-Prescott, as well as the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO) participated in the process, which involved a survey and a series of meetings.

On Thursday, March 30, the results of the consultation process were presented by David Sherwood at Nicko’s restaurant in Vankleek Hill. A summary of the conclusions says that there were three main themes raised by participants: updating masses, involving young people, and modernizing communications.

“Modernizing” masses was the most common comment, says the document. Representatives of the parishes have decided each church will hold 12 “special celebrations” per year. These could include showing a video, or hosting a speaker. They could also include themed masses – a special mass for snowmobilers or motorcyclists, an annual picnic, or a back-to-school mass, for example.

There was also a desire expressed for young people to be more involved in the churches. The plan is for the school board to share its resources with the parishes, including videos, songs and more, as well as the presence of students at masses. Local CSDCEO schools in L’Orignal, Vankleek Hill and St-Eugène will create a “formal structural link” with local parishes, with a parent from each sitting on the local pastoral committee. With an eye to modernizing communications, each parish will also create a Facebook page.

Sherwood said he was impressed by the number of survey responses received – about 500. There will be six more meetings held, where members will have the opportunity to discuss the changes. These are scheduled for April 9 after the 9:30 a.m. mass in Sainte-Anne-de-Prescott, April 20 at 7 p.m. at the community centre in Chute-a-Blondeau (with the support of l’École Curé Labrosse), and April 24 at 6 p.m. l’École Saint-Jean-Baptiste in L’Orignal. Meetings for the Saint Bernardin, Saint-Grégoire, and Saint-Eugène parishes are planned but have yet to be scheduled.

Sherwood says the success of the changes will be measured in part by looking at collections and church attendance.