Rising costs are forcing two Marlborough churches to close.
Catholic churches at Renwick and Havelock are to shut permanently it has been revealed today.
The move comes after a cost-cutting review by the Pastoral Council into church properties. The congregation was informed over the weekend.
Churches at Blenheim, Picton, Kaikoura and Seddon will remain open.
Star of the Sea Marlborough Te Whetu O Te Moana Catholic Parish Pastoral Council chairman Greg Stretch say it was a difficult for all involved.
“Parishioners have been kept informed all the way; they’re upset but that’s completely understandable.
“It was not an easy decision.”
Renwick’s Catholic Church of St Francis de Sales was opened by the son of one of Marlborough’s early settlers, Archbishop Francis Redwood
The Sacred Heart Church on Lawrence Street is also to shut.
Both hold mass about once a month, Greg says.
“We will still make sure that the pastoral needs of their community are looked after.
“Now we need to work on the next steps and what happens now.”
The Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew, last year asked all parishes in the archdiocese to review their properties.
Spiralling maintenance costs, high earthquake-related insurance levies and calls by Pope Francis for Catholics to look beyond their physical churches sparked the review.
“I am very grateful and appreciate the hard and difficult work done by the Star of the Sea Pastoral Council in conducting this review,” Cardinal Dew says.
Cardinal Dew says it has not been a simple task choosing which churches to close.
“I know it has not been a simple task to balance the requirements of local parishioners across such a geographically wide parish with the need to keep church finances in order in these difficult times.”
The proposals have been approved by the Pastoral Council of the region’s Star of the Sea Te Whetu O Te Moana Parish.
“Most smaller churches were built in an era when people had no cars and walked to Mass. “Today, with fewer priests, rising costs and parishioners more likely to drive to Mass, parishes have been asked to reorganise how they engage with their communities.”
Cardinal John said a further reason was the continuing call by Pope Francis for Catholics to go out into their communities on a mission to engage with those who are marginalised and disadvantaged.
“Nobody can be a member of the Church and be a ‘passive recipient,’ expecting everything to be done for them,” he says.
“We are all called to make our contribution to the Church and to the world.”