The formerly Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, Oshawa, was brought into full communion with the Catholic Church on 22 April, 2012. In the eleven years since, this close-knit community was served lovingly by Fr. Tilley who retired last December. Because of a lack of available clergy in the Canadian Deanery, and a lack of capacity on the part of the community to support one, there was no Ordinariate Priest available as a replacement. As a stop-gap measure to better assess opportunities, Deacon Joseph DeCaria was appointed Parochial Administrator by our Bishop, with Fr. Marco Testa (a Priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto), generously agreeing to serve as a Supply Priest. It has become clear in the last several months, that despite a welcoming and other-wise vibrant congregation, there are two significant barriers to the ongoing viability of Good Shepherd:-
The most pressing is that the present building is no longer fit for purpose and requires significant repairs. In response to needs, Deacon DeCaria convened a Building Committee that reached the conclusion, (sent to the Bishop in July) that current “building deficiencies present significant financial and operational risks, and the inevitable upgrades will cost hundreds of thousands dollars”. These are not cosmetic issues. A letter sent to the Bishop in August, further emphasised the urgency of the matter, also reporting significant safety issues that force immediate resolution. In response to that correspondence, Bishop Lopes sent the Very Rev’d Fr. Adrian Martens to assess the situation in person. That visitation took place on 2 and 3 September and a report was sent to the Bishop where Father agreed, with the committee, that the building was indeed no longer suitable and repair not viable.
A more significant concern, however, is that Good Shepherd does not currently have an Ordinariate Priest, because they cannot afford to house and support one—especially should he be married with children. Architects of Communion, the document that communicates the necessary minimum requirements for any given Ordinariate community, says: “the presence of a priest appointed as Pastor or Parochial Administrator, to celebrate the Mass and to assume pastoral care of the community, is required for quasi-parish, or parish status.” Accordingly, the current arrangement with Deacon DeCaria, as Parochial Administrator and, Fr. Testa, a diocesan priest assisting, does not fulfill this basic qualification and thus was only ever a temporary solution. Unfortunately this reality, coupled with the urgency around the physical plant, has made the current situation one with few real options.
It needs to be said, the building committee worked hard, and in good faith, these past months to find a possible alternative location. It was, however, decided by the Bishop (and confirmed by the visit of Fr. Martens) that although certainly better in several respects, the proposed building was not ultimately appropriate for Ordinariate needs given that it too requires repairs, and expansion, doesn’t have a Rectory, and so forth. Also, it would not be reasonable to expect that the congregation could afford these additional costs (even with a sale of the current church) along with the housing and stipend required for an Ordinariate Priest.
Because of these two main issues, and a number of small ones, it’s with a heavy heart, that I informed the congregation and Deanery, on behalf of His Excellency, Bishop Steven Lopes, that he has discerned that the Church of the Good Shepherd, Oshawa, is not viable in it’s current location—and because they do not have, and cannot support an Ordinariate Priest—is not currently viable in another one.
This decision has immediate implications for the faithful who gather at Good Shepherd and it is recognised that this is a significant loss for not only the members of the Ordinariate in Oshawa, but for the whole Deanery.
As of Monday 18 September, the Church of the Good Shepherd (300 Court Street, Oshawa) will be permanently closed. Members of the Ordinariate are encouraged to attend St. Thomas More, Toronto, at least from time to time, if they are able. (We know distance is prohibitive for many.) Other-wise, members should integrate with their nearest Catholic parish. We thank Fr. Marco Testa for his kind generosity in providing liturgical and pastoral care to the faithful and for Deacon Joseph DeCaria, Parochial Administrator for his leadership.
Please know, the Deanery of St. John the Baptist (the Ordinariate in Canada) is currently seeking ways of supporting members of the Ordinariate who do not live near an Ordinariate parish, so please sign-up to our on-line news service (ordinariate.ca) to keep abreast of developments. We are hopeful that, in time, regional Ordinariate events can take place, with a provision for funerals, weddings, and other supports for members at other times. The Deanery is in the first phase of capacity building, so we aren’t there yet, but despite this disheartening set-back in Oshawa, progress is being made. When expansion can take place in Canada, it is the intention that growth will be set on more solid foundations.
The Bishop extends his gratitude to the faithful who accept this difficult cross with grace and understanding. The request by the Building Committee, based on the several safety concerns and the dilapidation of the structure, has necessitated a quicker closure than would normally be had. This is an additional burden and sorrow to bear. May God bless you as these things necessarily take place. The Bishop keeps you in prayer as do I. Thank-you again Fr. Testa for your efforts, and for the efforts of all the faithful who made Good Shepherd a refuge and a place of joy where God was worshipped in the beauty of holiness. God be praised for your steadfast faith and joy in believing.
The Very Rev’d Fr. Robert-Charles Bengry
Dean, Deanery of St. John the Baptist, Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
For Members of the Deanery:
Obviously this is discouraging news for members of the Ordinariate across Canada. What is highlighted here by this unfortunate situation, is that each congregation, and those currently in formation, need to be oriented towards two main goals if long-term viability is to be established: the financial support of an Ordinariate Priest (including housing); and the purchase and maintenance of a suitable Church to be the centre of the worshipping community. Unfortunately it’s been the case that some of our communities in Canada have relied on the generosity of clergy with other means of support, without sufficiently planning for the future. The priest cannot, by foregoing a full stipend and housing, be the largest financial contributor to a parish if it is to be truly viable. When he retires, no one will be able to fill his shoes and this is essentially what has happened in Oshawa. Please pray for the members of Good Shepherd who need to find a new place to worship on such short notice and pray for our Bishop who has had to make this difficult decision. And finally, pray for our little and fragile Ordinariate in Canada—that we build capacity, and find stability in order that we grow on solid foundations. — Fr. RB
Our Lady of Sorrows, 2023