TORONTO - In the past decade the archdiocese of Toronto has opened 13 parishes and closed none. This is at a time when across Canada, and particularly in Quebec, parishes are closing or amalgamating.
Guardian Angels parish in Brampton and St. Leo’s parish in Brooklin are the two most recent additions in the Toronto archdiocese, having opened in 2007. There is one new parish planned to open in 2008.
There are more than 1.6 million Catholics in the archdiocese in a triangular area bounded by Oakville in the west, Lake Ontario in the south, Peterborough diocese in the east and Georgian Bay in the north.
Overall the majority of the growth is happening in the northern and western regions of the archdiocese. In the past decade three new parishes have gone up in Mississauga and three in Brampton.
“We’re just responding to the population growth there,” said Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau, who oversees the western region of the archdiocese.
Major growth areas within the archdiocese of Toronto boundaries fall along Highway 407 that stretches across the GTA, including Brampton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham, Pickering, Ajax and Whitby, said David Finnegan, director of planning, properties and housing for the archdiocese of Toronto. And according to Statistics Canada, in 2006 Barrie, in the northern part of the archdiocese, became a metropolitan area, meaning it now has a population of at least 100,000, including an urban core with a population of at least 50,000. Holy Spirit parish is working toward opening its own church.
“The areas are growing, the population of those towns are growing so you have to establish new parishes and with new people moving in you need new parishes,” said Boissonneau.
Opening a new church doesn’t happen immediately. On average it takes about a decade to establish a parish community, raise funds and build the church before it opens its doors.
A variety of ethnic parishes have also opened since 1995, serving Chinese, Korean, Polish, Italian, Slovak and Chaldean populations. Most recently Saviour of the World Chinese Catholic parish opened in Mississauga in 2005 and Markham’s St. Agnes Kouying Tsao parish opened in 2002. It serves the growing Korean community in the area.
Despite the parish closures in Quebec, and clustering of parishes in other dioceses, overall, the rest of Canada is seeing a different reality, according to Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge.
“Catholic participation is increasing outside Quebec,” he said, adding that large numbers of less involved Catholics are open to greater participation in the church.
The archdiocese of Toronto has not closed any parishes in the past decade and Boissonneau said that he doesn’t see the phenomenon of church closures happening here.
“There’s no need to close churches here, the churches are full, there is standing room only on weekends,” he said.
The Catholic Register