Rural church life presents some unique challenges here on the Canadian prairies. Here`s a wee look into my experience of our country parish.
Small town means small parish. It`s easier to build community when everyone knows your name. This is a good thing. It also means that everyone knows your business. This is not always a good thing!
In the hierarchy of parishes in a diocese (and yes, it does exist) rural parishes are seldom considered plum appointments. God help you if your parish is a regular target for exiled or incompetent priests who have peeved off the bishop!
Yuppie city-slicker priests can have a hard time adjusting to small town life, and will run back to the city at every possible chance. One pastor arrived at a parish meeting grumbling that the transmission fell out of his Audi and his Espresso machine was broken. True story!
With the present priest shortage, one pastor is often responsible for several parishes and missions. Many smaller communities are being closed or amalgamated. Priest-less parishes are already a reality.
One town equals one parish. There are no choices and no options that don`t include a long car ride. If you`re not happy with the priest, chances are he`s servicing all the surrounding parishes anyway.
While we have a lay ministry formation program in the dioceses, there is a shortage of lay women and men who are professionally trained in religious education or pastoral ministry. Even if we had them, we can`t afford to pay them.
The majority of our young people move away after high school for education, training, and work. We do not have young adult programs or music groups.
These are just some personal observations. Our town is a relatively short two hour drive from the city. These and other challenges are magnified and multiplied for communities that are even more geographically isolated , especially in our northern Canadian communities.
(Note: The beautiful church in the photo is not ours. The photo was taken on a visit to Quebec.)