Archbishop Peter Hundt

Second St. John’s parish merger revoked

  • April 16, 2024

For the second time in a month, the Vatican’s Dicastery of the Clergy has ruled St. John’s Archbishop Peter Hundt did not follow the proper canonical procedure in closing and selling a Catholic parish. 

Anna Jasinska, the parishioner who stepped forward as procurator on behalf of St. Patrick’s Church, received a package in the mail before Easter from the apostolic nuncio. The letter declared the decision by Hundt to close and relegate St. Patrick’s, St. John Bosco Parish and St. Pius X Parish to profane status, and have all these parish communities merge into the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist congregation, is revoked.  

Echoing what was written in its decision concerning Holy Rosary Parish of Portugal Cove-St. Philips, the dicastery affirmed the archdiocese’s dire financial outlook and need to liquidate holdings “does not canonically affect the church building of St. Patrick’s.” The ruling also declared that as “a juridic person, the parish of St. Patrick’s has its own rights and obligations,” and the archdiocese had no right “to usurp the finances” of St. Patrick’s. 

The “grave financial situation” the dicastery alluded to is the bankruptcy and restructuring of the St. John’s bishopric compelled by the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador deciding — and the Supreme Court of Canada later upholding — the archdiocese was “vicariously liable” for the acts of physical and sexual abuse committed at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s after the Christian Brothers of Ireland, Mount Cashel’s operators, went bankrupt in 2011. 

For Jasinska, who joined the St. Patrick’s community in 2009, the pain and sadness of losing the beloved parish still feels very raw. The final Mass on Sept. 25, 2022, drew a crowd between 800-900 peoples said Jasinska, but “many (also) chose not to attend as they found it too painful.” 

 “I remember this one particular day after the church was closed,” said Jasinska. “I was driving by and I actually stopped because the little wooden house that (sheltered) the outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary was broken on the ground and the statue was on the ground. I couldn’t help crying and even now I can’t help it. They basically lifted the statue away and protected it in foil. I found it so symbolic about what was happening to the parish.”

She said her father Jan, who served as organist for 12 years, tears up whenever he passes the church.

Since speaking with the Register, Jasinska received a note from Hundt informing her he will not meet to discuss the dicastery ruling until after he receives guidance from legal counsel.  

Interested parties were extended an invitation to join a video conference April 18 with the canon lawyer — who wishes to remain anonymous — who worked on behalf of St. Patrick’s and Holy Rosary. On the agenda is a thorough review of the ruling and a discussion to ascertain the viability of regaining ownership of the building. 

Approaching the current owner of the property with a proposal in Jasinska’s estimation would only be sensible if the congregants could finance parish operations for the long haul and if Hundt provides a priest. 

Jasinska wants to be clear she was “not out for vengeance” in petitioning for the Vatican to overturn Hundt. 

“I believe that he acted in good faith and that is something I really want to emphasize,” said Jasinska. “He was in a very difficult situation. But at the same time, I have to recognize that the process was not followed and people were wronged. The good of the souls were not looked after and fully considered. The process was not transparent. They lost churches that were in the community for generations. They lost heritage and culture.”  

St. Patrick’s cultural tradition is indeed rich. The foundation stone was first laid on Sept. 10, 1855. This labour of love, fashioned in the Neo-Gothic style, took over 26 years to complete. The church was consecrated on Aug. 28, 1881, designated a National Historic Site in 1990 and the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador declared it a Registered Heritage Structure in 1997. 

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