Although this letter is addressed to the members of our churches, it is distributed to all (residents of the Municipality of East Ferris and the Township of Bonfield) to share interesting information. Please know that while our faith may be different than yours, we are always open to dialogue and to journey together.
I am Father Réal Ouellette, your pastor since September 2020. Having grown up in Rutherglen, I am happy to be back in my part of the country after having done most of my ministry in the Pontiac parishes, at the other end of our diocese of Pembroke. With this letter, I wish to share with you some news and parishes’ projects.
Our world was turned upside down in the spring of 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic raging around the world. This is a difficult time for each and every one of us: be assured of my prayers. At the time of writing this letter, we are in general lockdown across the province, and our churches could accommodate a maximum of 10 people, including the priest. As it is pastorally impossible for me to make a fair and just decision about who could attend Mass, during this type of lockdown, Masses are only live streamed on social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitch). Links are available on our website: ourabcparishes.com.
Although we have adhered to strict protocols (e.g. physical distancing, wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands, keeping a record of attendance, etc.) to avoid any spread of the virus in our churches, some of our parishioners have decided to suspend their attendance at Sunday Mass. I respect their decision, but I want to reassure them that they can feel safe if they decide to come to Mass.
These lockdowns and decreased attendance at our Masses have had a direct impact on the donations we receive through the collection. Each of our parishes has seen a decrease in revenue. Some parishes have even had to resort to borrowing money from the Diocese in order to meet their expenses. They will have to pay back these loans.
An important source of revenue for Astorville and Bonfield has been their parish picnics with their sea-pie suppers. Unfortunately, the 2020 picnics had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Although vaccination is continuing at a good pace, it will be some time before our social life returns to normal. With the situation not looking any better for this year, we must also cancel the 2021 church picnics. This was not a pleasant decision to make, but it is for the safety and peace of mind of our volunteers and participants. The cancellation of the 2020 picnic had a big impact on parish finances. The cancellation of the 2021 picnic will also have a big impact on our finances IF we do not nothing about the shortfall.
In 2020, Bonfield still held its annual Raffle. It was a success and I wish to express my gratitude to all those who contributed to this success.
This year, both parishes, Bonfield and Astorville, will have their respective annual Raffles. Thank you to the many sponsors answering the call year after year. Tickets are already on sale. For more information you can contact the respective parish offices.
The Bonfield draw will be held on Sunday, July 25 (2021) at 9:45 a.m.
The Astorville draw will be held on Sunday, August 8 (2021) at 6 p.m.
Even before the pandemic, the situation of our parishes was not ideal. While the parishes were not in a deficit, they were not building up reserves. As good managers of large buildings, we need to plan ahead for certain repairs, renovations or preventative maintenance. Otherwise, we will always be faced with emergency situations for which we are not financially prepared.
With the pandemic having dealt a blow to our traditional funding sources, we have to turn to other means. However, we are not like a company or business that can reorient itself or find new products. As parishes, we have only one purpose: to evangelize, that is, to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, and to give people a place to discover him, to get to know him better, and to live the faith in the community of Christians.
Thus, our income comes from the generosity of the people’s donations to our parishes. That is why we are launching this new annual Fundraising Campaign initiative to invite you to contribute in a special way to our parish mission. I invite you to take time to reflect on the importance of your parish and your church; the place it has occupied in your past; the place it occupies in your present; and the place you want it to occupy in your future. I invite you to realize that without your financial support, the burden becomes increasingly heavy on the few parishioners who currently support your parish.
There are various ways to make your contribution. There are the traditional methods (by mail, in person, or through the collection). There are also modern alternatives, such as e-transfer or online donations via our website. A tax receipt will be issued at the end of the year for all contributions. A form is available at the beginning of this brochure.
Summer Student Jobs
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few ongoing and upcoming projects in our parishes. The first: two summer student jobs. In January, I filed an application for a Canada Summer Jobs grant from the Government of Canada. In the past, parishes I was pastor at benefited this kind of grant to accomplish some special projects while alleviating the costs that would have been related to these projects. Also, as a teenager/student I benefited from this type of program with summer jobs at the parish in Mattawa. This kind of program gives an organization the chance to offer jobs and work experience to students.
That being said, our application for a student summer job grant was approved! We will be offering 2 summer jobs for students : the first posting is for manual work (mowing the lawn, grounds keeping, painting, etc.); the second posting is for office work (especially digitizing church records). Each position is for a period of 9 weeks, at 30 hours per week. These positions are posted on our website as well as on our Facebook page.
Christmas Angel Tree
Secondly, last year, the parish of Astorville organized a fundraiser by selling lights that illuminated the large tree in front of the church. A big thank you to all the people who contributed to the success of this project. On the one hand, this fundraiser helped the parish. On the other hand, these Christmas lights have also enhanced the atmosphere of the area. We are planning on doing this again in the fall of 2021.
Finally, an important project that I would like to bring to your attention is the evangelization project that our new bishop, Bishop Guy Desrochers, has initiated in the diocese. For several decades, the Church and the popes (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Francis) have been urging a new evangelization that is so necessary in today's world. Bishop Desrochers has set up a committee to explore and oversee to the new evangelization throughout the diocese. I appointed to this committee and also appointed as the episcopal vicar for the French sector of the diocese delegated to this task. This is a long-term project that cannot be completed overnight.
However, this pastoral orientation of the Church has been at the heart of my vision of ministry as a priest, even before my ordination. It is in this perspective of evangelization that I have already initiated changes in our parishes. Since we are in a time of pandemic, the majority of my initiatives to date are through technology (social media, Zoom, etc...) Starting in October with the online streaming of all our liturgical celebrations, I then added a time of Eucharistic adoration before the weekday Masses. For the past few weeks, during the lockdown, I began reciting the rosary with people on Zoom (and live streaming it on social media). Also, I am hosting an evening of (French) religious songs on Friday nights on social media.
As I write this, I am in the process of organizing (with the help of Zoom) an Alpha program that allows people to discover or rediscover the person of Jesus and the faith that He calls us to have in Him. These programs and initiatives are available separately in both French and English. You are all welcome to join them. Details and links are available on our website. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Centennial of Sacred-Heart Parish
Sacred Heart Parish in Corbeil was founded in 1920. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all festivities had to be postponed. We will be celebrating our centennial in conjunction with the Municipality of East Ferris who is celebrating theirs this year. The festivities will take place on Saturday, November 27th. On the parish schedule, we will have a centennial mass at the beginning of the day. In the afternoon and early evening, there will be a play and a musical concert. Details will be posted on the parish and municipal websites in due course.
In closing, I want to express once again my joy of being your priest here in the parishes of Astorville, Bonfield and Corbeil. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, all who are involved in one way or another in the functioning and support of your parishes. Like you, I am looking forward for us to emerge from this pandemic, to meet the challenges that lie ahead, and to embark on projects that will share the Gospel and bring a better future.
I assure you of my prayers, and I entrust myself to your prayers.
Father Réal Ouellette