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Foam Lake churches enter into historic agreement

By Nevin Halyk

03/02/2016

FOAM LAKE, Sask. — Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church and Christ the King Roman Catholic Church have signed a historic agreement that will see the Holy Eucharist building on Cameron Street in Foam Lake co-owned by both parishes. As of Jan. 1 the two churches have shared the same building.

The co-ownership agreement is the result of several years of discernment and planning. The process to explore the possibility of co-ownership was spoken of informally for years, but gained momentum in 2009 when committees from each parish met to explore the possibilities. The process gained momentum when the bishops of each parish added their encouragement for the process to proceed in 2014.

The reasons for co-owning the same worship space are compelling, and these reasons helped stimulate further discussion between parishes.

Bernie Schultz, parish council chair for Christ the King, stated that the growth of the Roman Catholic parish and the aging condition of the church on Broadway Street were strong reasons to explore a partnership with Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church.

“Our church has been renovated several times, but remained too small to host large events that would occur several times each year. In addition, the original church building is over 70 years old and required significant capital expenditure to maintain. Our parish has experienced steady growth in the past several years, and we were feeling the pressure to act.”

In addition, Schultz cited the cost of building a new structure as an obstacle. “In 2014 the cost per square foot for new construction seemed prohibitive, so we began looking at all sorts of options as a parish for affordable and appropriate worship space.” Approaching the Ukrainian Catholic parish seemed to be a natural next step. “We know that the sharing of churches is getting more common, and our closest possible fit is another Catholic church.”

Ideologically, the churches are identical in belief; the differences between them are in the type of liturgy used by each, and regional church hierarchy. “We have different bishops, but the same pope and the same beliefs, so it seemed natural for us to approach Holy Eucharist with the idea of co-owning the church.”

The two churches have been partners at different times in their history together. Many joint activities have taken place, including sacrament preparation, catechism classes, and interactions between the parishes through membership in the Knights of Columbus and other groups. This pre-established relationship, which worked well, was extended to include discussions regarding church sharing.

Bohdan Popowych, chair of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church, indicated that a desire to use resources and space efficiently factored into the co-ownership negotiations. “We have two Catholic parishes in town, both spending on infrastructure, maintenance and utilities. The opportunity to use our resources more effectively is an important factor. As Christian communities, it makes sense to use our financial resources for evangelization and growth rather than wasteful double management. This agreement is also about proper stewardship of our gifts.”

During the exploration phase, each parish had processes in place where parishioners could voice concerns and ask questions. Each parish had a series of meetings when options were explored.

Schultz spoke of Christ the King’s discussion: “We costed out different possibilities — building new, renovating, co-ownership — we presented each scenario to our parishioners and had open discussions. Once everyone had a chance to be heard, we had a parish vote.” Each parish had a vote by membership, and in each case a clear majority was in favour of co-ownership.

Once these processes were complete, the Roman Catholic diocese and the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy got involved to help construct a legal agreement for sale and management. This agreement was completed and put in place by Jan. 1.

Schultz has been impressed with the process: “Both parishes have worked hard to be accommodating and sensitive. This is a significant disruption for both parishes, and for the most part the move is going very well.”

Says Popowych: “Compromise and co-operation describe the way that we have been operating. There are going to be some bumps in the road, but in the end we are two Christian communities working it out. It has gone much better than anyone has expected, and the partnership is working very well.”

A committee made of parishioners from each parish meet frequently to manage concerns regarding joint use, expenditures and the like. Otherwise, each parish operates as a separate entity within the building.

“Our two parishes together make for a busy building,” says Popowych. “This is what a church should be — very much alive! It will mean creative solutions for each parish to avoid conflicts, but we can already see that the ‘new normal’ is pretty exciting.”

Plans are in the works for a joint celebration in the next few months. Parishes are hoping for a “large and joyful” celebration in the summer that would see both bishops and large numbers of people affirming this historic agreement.

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