Please find below some of the common questions people may ask about Bishop Paul’s proposal.

If you have a question that is not below, please email and we endeavour to post the question and provide an answer.

The Feedback Process

That is correct. A group of parishioners from Sancta Maria Parish have put a proposal forward which they have called “the good plan”. This has been given to the Bishop and will form part of the feedback that the Bishop is receiving.

The feedback process was not designed to have people’s individual feedback made public.  The nature of the feedback process is that it is feedback to the Bishop and therefore not intended to be shared.

At this stage it is our intention to provide some summary of the feedback online after 31st August.  It will be a summary and no data will be linked to individual respondents.

The Bishop wants your feedback. Once he has reviewed it he will produce a final decision in early December. If there is an overwhelming lack of support he wants concrete alternative proposals that take into account the key factors he has mentioned including priest ages and numbers. The Bishop is committed to having 13/14 parishes for the Diocese. The Bishop has made it clear that he is responsible for the whole diocese and that he needs to continue to support the regions.   

Bishop Paul is 100% committed to receiving your feedback on this proposal. It is a proposal only. There have been a number of feasibility studies to see what is possible. This was to enable the proposal to be developed. Nothing is set in stone and Bishop Paul is looking forward to hearing from you.

A robust online feedback form has been developed and we encourage people to take time to complete this. Paper copies are also available from parish and school offices.  Parishes and groups can also make a combined submission.  For ease of collation we prefer online feedback submissions.

The date for feedback to be received is Friday 30th August, 2019. Following this date Bishop Paul and his advisors will review and study all of the feedback. This period may involve the Bishop and his advisors seeking more feedback from various groups.  Once all is completed, Bishop Paul will respond on Sunday 1st December, 2019 (First Sunday of Advent).

Yes. The Bishop is committed to visiting each of the five areas named in the plan for public meetings and he would welcome your attendance. This means that there would be one meeting for each of the proposed new parishes. Bishop Paul will also hold a meeting in the Selwyn district and also in North Canterbury. 

Mission And Evangelisation

There are a number of factors that have gone into the forming of the Bishop’s proposal. Primarily he is focused on the mission of the Church into the future as we share the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the deepest reason for its existence; if it is not evangelising then what does it exist for? The Bishop has outlined his belief that the structures we have in place are not serving this mission as effectively as it could. The Bishop wants parishes to be far more effective in sharing the good news.


Other influences such as the earthquakes, clergy numbers and ages and financial considerations are part of the rationale.

The simple answer is no. Over the past couple of years many in the Diocese have heard the stark reality of where we are at in the church, particularly in the western world through attending the Ablaze parish renewal conference and the Fr James Mallon seminar. We have good priests and good parishes, but we also need to be honest and ask our parishes evangelising in everything they do? Are our parishes making disciples, bringing new people into the church every year? Are we training all of our people to share the good news?  We have to be honest and say, no we are not.


Fr James Mallon would tell us that we are stuck in a maintenance model and we are, we are pretty good at this, but maintenance is about maintaining what we have except that we are not called to maintenance but to mission. A real danger for parish life is contentment for the status quo. Everything a parish does needs to be focussed on mission.

No of course not, but Bishop Paul believes that it will assist greatly. Bishop Paul is also aware that a cultural change is required.  He wants each of our parishes to be totally focussed on mission and evangelisation. A radical shakeup and change can really assist this because it makes each of us question what we are doing and why we are doing it.

The Bishop is clear that he is not building for one-off events but for regular needs. Parishes can be creative in coping with large numbers at Easter and Christmas. An example is the Good Friday 3pm Liturgy where a parish might have liturgies, one at 12pm and one at 3pm.

Parishes are doing some great work in the area of mission and evangelisation.  We urge you to continue all the good work that is happening as it will provide an important foundation for the new parishes.  Pastoral life in parishes must continue alongside this process.

The Process Of Establishing Parishes

We already have a very robust process for building a new church in this diocese. Examples are the recent completion of the New Brighton and Lincoln Churches. This process will continue and the new parish and diocese would work together to create beautiful and worthy churches.

We already have a very robust process for building a new church in this diocese. Examples are the recent completion of the New Brighton and Lincoln Churches. This process will continue and the new parish and diocese would work together to create beautiful and worthy churches.

The same process would be followed as happened under Bishop Barry with the parish recommending to the bishop a new patronal name for the parish.  There may be some discussion earlier regarding what might be considered and what message we are trying to convey to people.

Initial thinking has gone into how these parishes might be formed if the proposal goes ahead. A parish priest and his assistants would be named and a new parish would start on Pentecost Sunday 2020. The new parish community would continue to worship at existing sites and work would begin to bring these communities together over a period of time. A transitional leadership team made up of skilled parishioners would be formed to lead this process along with the parish priest.

Financial Questions

The newly merged parish will need to come together and do an inventory of all their assets. Once they have a building plan, it will up to each parish to determine, with the assistance of the diocese, what assets will be kept and what will be sold.  Any money realised from the sale of assets remains with that particular community. We want to ease the burden of debt

on our parishes and make sure there is equal distribution. The principal of the common good will apply as we are one body, while also respecting the individual amounts of money raised in communities.

In the end the Bishop is very clear that rationalisation and freeing up of money is for the sake of mission and evangelisation.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Christchurch legally owns all parish and school land. However under Canon Law, parishes and parish priests have certain rights and responsibility.   

The Diocesan Financial and Property teams will sit down with each parish community to help them assess what is possible. The concept of the ‘common good’ is very important here. The Bishop has stated that no parishes will be burdened with debt while other parishes have little or none.

This would also be on a case by case basis but it is not our intention to sell churches to anyone that would use a church for profane (secular) purposes. There are a number of possible options for that we are considering such as the needs of the Korean Catholic Community.

To fund the buildings and purchase under this proposed plan, we have to sell some existing assets including land. This proposal cannot happen without the sale of some of these assets.

These questions are still being worked through but we understand the issue of houses being built in front of schools.   Due sensitivity will be given to what is sold and what is built around these sites.

The New Brighton church is a new church and the Hornby church has recently been expanded and renovated.  Both of these churches will be Mass centres within the new parish where they are located.

They will remain as they are and it is our hope that a permanent facility will be found for them.

These questions are still being worked through. We have had very successful fundraising programmes in a number of parishes and the money raised in these communities will stay with the new parish. For example, the money raised by the Mairehau parish for their new church would go toward the proposed new Cathedral Parish.

These will be funded from the parish but the diocese will support this and provide as much formation and training as in needed.

Yes. This is a proposal so carry on until final decisions are announced following the feedback process.

What Does The Plan Mean For Schools?

This will be determined on a case by case basis and include looking at the needs of both school and parish. 

As with above, these questions are still being worked through but this is a possibility.

The Bishop is committed to providing every school not next to a church, with a chapel that has the Blessed Sacrament reserved. This will provide the opportunity for school Masses and prayer.

The Bishop is fully committed to strengthening the parish-school connection and is one of the reasons he wants to make sure every school has a chapel. With these new teams of priests, he is hoping that they will spend more time in schools helping our children to encounter Jesus more deeply.

There are no mergers or closures planned for any of our primary or secondary schools.

Parish Structure

The original idea came from the Bishop.  Since his ordination he has been taking stock of the Diocese as a whole. 

During this time he attended the Proclaim New Evangelisation Conference in Brisbane and the national clergy assembly with Fr James Mallon (author of Divine Renovation).

He was then faced with the prospect of Mairehau and Papanui parishes, within 10 minutes of each other, about to start building new churches. This made him pause and rethink everything.


Foremost in his original presentation to the clergy last year was the age, care and projected number of priests into the future.  He has a desire of a different model of priests living together and working in teams with lay people.


The consideration of the whole diocese; what parishes need to be staffed, the age of our priests, the current level of vocations and upcoming ordinations, and the desire to have a parish priest in every parish (rather than a lay led model), it became clear to him that five parishes for Christchurch will work.

In addition less parishes will enable priests to have different pastoral experiences (e.g. working in youth ministry, prison chaplaincy, and hospital chaplaincy) or sending them overseas for study.  He wants priests to be able to work in their areas of strength rather than always having to become a parish priest. 


The bishop is focussed on mission and evangelisation and knows that we can’t keep doing what we have always been doing.


With the advent of the earthquakes, we have a number of buildings requiring significant maintenance and strengthening.  We also have escalating insurance costs. The Bishop wants to put much more resource into mission and thus believes reducing the number of buildings and parishes will help this.


The Bishop also hopes that with bigger parishes, there will be more of a critical mass of people together that will enable a greater level of activity with the end purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the world.


Over the years our rural and regional areas have already rationalised and now is the turn of the city. The Bishop wants to ensure that all people in the diocese continue to have access to the Sacraments. 

No, the Bishop has never used that terminology. Compared to overseas and even some parishes in this country, these parishes will be medium size. In Auckland the Manurewa parish has a Mass count of over 1600 and the Cathedral in Auckland has over 2000.

The Bishop came up with the idea and spoke to the priests about it on a number of occasions. The Bishop then spoke about his proposal to the Property and Financial Staff at the Diocese to conduct feasibility studies to see if this was possible. Staff involved included the Diocesan General Manager (Andy Doherty), the Diocesan Financial Manager (Janice Rennell) and the Diocesan Property Manager (Tony Sewell) and his team. The Bishop asked the Director of his Pastoral Office (Mike Stopforth) to put a small team together to look at the pastoral aspects and implications of the plan and also to put an implementation plan together. This team consists of Matt O’Connell, Jason McTague, Anna Malone, Fr John Adams and Vicki Surrey.

The Bishop came up with the idea and spoke to the priests about it on a number of occasions. The Bishop then spoke about his proposal to the Property and Financial Staff at the Diocese to conduct feasibility studies to see if this was possible. Staff involved included the Diocesan General Manager (Andy Doherty), the Diocesan Financial Manager (Janice Rennell) and the Diocesan Property Manager (Tony Sewell) and his team. The Bishop asked the Director of his Pastoral Office (Mike Stopforth) to put a small team together to look at the pastoral aspects and implications of the plan and also to put an implementation plan together. This team consists of Matt O’Connell, Jason McTague, Anna Malone, Fr John Adams and Vicki Surrey.

Our research indicates that they can. Examples of this include St Benedict’s in Halifax, Canada and the Church of the Nativity in Baltimore, USA. Please check out these sites for more information.

Rolleston is one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand and estimates predict that the population is expected to rise to 30,000 by 2040. The upgrades to the roading network makes it easier to access and it is continuing to develop as the centre of the Selwyn District. A new school is proposed for Rolleston which will be an exciting development for the provision of Catholic education in Selwyn.  Akaroa has also been included because we cannot guarantee a resident priest into the future although a retired priest may choose to live there. A team of priests serving the whole area based at Rolleston will reduce the burden on our priests.

The Chathams will remain as an existing parish and would continue to receive regular visits from priests and the Bishop.

Bishop Paul will appoint a parish priest to each parish.  Along with assistant priests they will work alongside other parish staff as a leadership team.

It is the Bishop’s intention to appoint a facilitator to assist with this.

Absolutely. Bishop Paul is committed to proving all the resources needed to ensure our priests and lay faithful are fully formed and equipped for this.

No decision has been made about the Cathedral but once a decision is made and either the cathedral is restored or a new one built, it is probable that St Mary’s would close. The Catholic shop and offices would relocate to where the restored / new Cathedral is.

Change and Community and Process

Bishop Paul, as the leader of the Diocese, chose to put out a proposal for consideration rather than first consulting the lay faithful.  Bishop Paul did this because he has responsibility for the whole diocese not just one parish. Pope Francis tells us in his document about the Joy of the Gospel, that a Bishop “must always foster … missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Acts 4:32) … To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant”. This is the way Bishop Paul has chosen to go with launching this plan.

He is also very well aware, as Pope Francis reminds bishops that they must also … “encourage and develop … means of participation … out of a desire to listen to everyone.” This is why Bishop Paul is serious about hearing from everybody and why he has gone out to every community to speak with them, to listen to them and answer their questions.  

Yes, this is a risk but there are creative solutions to this. In some big parishes overseas, one of the priests will preach all the homilies in the parish over one weekend so everybody is hearing the same message. He may not celebrate every Mass but can be there as a concelebrant. There are also other ways to increase this connection. The Bishop doesn’t want priests under this proposed new model to become remote. As Pope Francis says, priests must be with their people.

We cannot build a sense of community if we are not physically together. We have already tried to amalgamate parishes and keep churches within the same parish.  Priests in these places say that, in reality, they continue to operate as separate communities. If we are truly to be one community, we need to gather in one space and make that our home.

The Bishop is fully aware of how much people have already gone through in the city since 2010. He is committed to caring and supporting people through this process and is very open to receiving people’s feedback especially about the impact this change will have and how we might support people in the midst of it.

The Bishop is fully aware of what has gone on before. Yes there has been lots of change but it is well known that we can’t continue as we are going. He is committed to a vision of mission, growth and vibrant parishes and believes this plan will contribute to it. He is well aware that we can’t keep doing what we have always done. In this regard he is committed to the learnings of the Ablaze Parish Renewal Conference and the visit of Fr James Mallon. Please give him your feedback if you have thoughts about this.

This is an important consideration for the Bishop. We build community by talking with one another, when we gather for social events, when we gather as a Catholic Women’s League, or a men’s group, or a youth group, or a family group. This is where community is formed and then it is given expression when we gather for Eucharist on Sunday’s. A parish is a community of communities and this will be a primary task of these new parishes to establish these various communities within the one parish community.

In the interim period they would continue as they are but would begin a process, in conjunction with the leadership of St Vincent de Paul and Catholic Women’s League, to come together. Particularly in the case of St Vincent de Paul, this will need to be thought about very carefully as these proposed new parishes will cover large areas and we need to ensure that no one area is unable to access the help they need.


The short answer is no. Bishop Paul has looked at the ages and capabilities of our priests. Our diocese is very blessed with the priests we have, their dedication and their willingness. However the number and age of our priests is not consistent with maintaining the current parish structures we have.

In 10 years’ time, there will only be 12 Priests under the age of 75 who are incardinated in the Diocese. 

Bishop Paul has considered this and is not in favour of it at this time.  

The Bishop remains committed to seeking vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life. This proposed plan, we hope, will actually lead to more vocations as parishes grow into vibrant, dynamic communities for faith. The Bishop is firm that it is the Dioceses responsibility to call men to a vocation to the Priesthood. Young men will see that there are more opportunities and scope to priesthood than sometimes appears possible. 

Many of our priests already live together. Bishop Paul is keen on developing this because our priests living together provides support, accountability and fraternity.  There will be scope for priests to work in some parishes where they will be on their own, but probably not in Christchurch city.

We are greatly blessed by the priests we have working for us from other countries. We will continue to have overseas priests serving us but bringing in more priests is not a long term solution. It is a lengthy and difficult process and many of them serve only for a few years. They can also be called home by their Bishop at any time.  

They are supportive of the Bishop’s proposal. They realise that things can’t continue as they are. Of course they are also nervous as this is a big change for them as well.   

Other Questions

Yes, absolutely. Access to the sacraments remains key and this is also very important for people who work on weekends. The Bishop will make sure that the merged parishes, if the proposal goes ahead, will have a good range of Mass times over a weekend. 

The Bishop is fully aware of the daily impact this will have on many people in the parishes. One of the reasons that he wants every school to have a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament is so that people can make a visit whenever they want to. They may also be the opportunity of some weekday Masses in these chapels that parishioners could. He hopes that parishes will come up with creative solutions to ensure that people continue to have access to the sacraments.  It might be that the parish decided they need to purchase a van or develop a parish transport committee.

Yes, many dioceses around the world are undergoing similar processes and we are committed to learning from their experiences.

The Bishop is fully committed to these communities. It is his hope that these new parishes will have the resources to support these communities even more than they do now. He is also expecting these new parishes to be creative in making sure these communities have the full support needed.

We are blessed at having a number of religious communities serving our diocese. Under this proposed plan, both communities will be staying. No final decisions have been made as yet about who will staff what parishes as this remains a proposal.  It will also involve dialogue between the Bishop and the leaders of each of these Religious Congregations.

The chapel has been a great blessing to the Diocese and it will continue. No decisions have been made about where it will be located under this proposal.

The Bishop is keen to develop a template of what parish life looks like in the Diocese.  This template is not a one size fits all plan but rather some key themes and areas that the Bishop could highlight to ensure that parishes are focused on mission. The Bishop wants to support parishes much more than at present. He wants parishes to let him know how they are going and to share the learnings with other parishes.  The Bishop’s vision is for the whole diocese and each parish would then make it their own and live it out. 

Each parish will have a pastoral centre.  This has yet to be determined but it is important that the design allows them to build community and also be open to welcoming the greater community. They will have offices for people to work from and places for people to gather.

It is hard to judge what will happen in the future but we have to start with what is happening at present. As Christians we are also called to remain hope filled. It would be great if we had to build another church in 10 years’ time because we are growing.  

There are a number of practical details that we are still considering. For envelopes, if they need to be ordered before the Bishop’s final announcement, then it would be practical just to order them until Pentecost 2020. Once the Bishop’s final plan comes out, then there will be more clarity.

No, the Bishop is fully committed to developing true teams of parish leadership.  He wants to expand our parish teams and ensure that we are making the best use of our talents. He would be horrified if the above situation became a reality.  These parishes will be covering bigger areas so there will still be significant pastoral support required.

In the first instance, no. The parishes will be merged and the new, larger parish, will keep the existing boundaries of the merged communities. However we also are very aware that people nowadays are very mobile and are not restricted to join a parish that is in their ‘boundary’. Bishop Paul is happy for people to be free to go wherever they want to.

Yes they will. The feasibility studies done to date and included sufficient carparks for every site.