Many parishioners are expressing their disappointment after hearing the news that seven Catholic churches will be closing in Cape Breton.

“There were some tears in there today,” said Delores Kelloway, a member of St. Anthony’s Church in Glace Bay, after Sunday Mass.

Kelloway’s church is among the seven Cape Breton parishes slated for closure.

“It’s disappointing to us and disappointing to most of the parishioners, all of them I would say,” said parishioner Joe Fahey. “Because people have history here, couples being married, children baptized.”

Three other Glace Bay-area churches and three on the Northside will also close their doors by June 2014 - the latest in a long string of Catholic Church closures in recent years.

According to the Diocese of Antigonish – which just finished paying off a multi-million dollar legal settlement – a declining population and fewer people attending Mass are to blame.

“It’s really difficult. I think people have a sense that their churches were given to them by their forbearers, that they were called to use these churches and serve them and protect them,” says Father Donald MacGillivray.

He says the diocese received plenty of public input to determine which churches would close and which would stay open.

“I can go to any church,” said parishioner Kaye Ford.

“Yes, as long as we can go to church, it doesn’t matter where it’s at,” said Kelloway.

However, not everyone is as understanding about the closures. Several parishioners told CTV News they feel hurt and betrayed by the decision and are planning to contact Bishop Brian Dunn to voice their anger.

The Diocese of Antigonish paid off the last of its $16-million sex abuse settlement in the fall and is now paying back a loan on the money.

MacGillivray says the settlement has nothing to do with the closures directly, but admits it has added to financial hardships in the diocese.

“Money is tighter because parishes had to give their savings to satisfy the class-action lawsuit,” he says. “Those certainly are things that played a part.”

Some parishioners now forced to move to other churches say their faith will help them adjust to the change.

“As our priest said today, the church is not the building,” said Fahey. “It’s the people in the building, so we have to keep together as a faith community wherever we go.”

  • Saint Leo’s, Glace Bay – to close April 2013
  • Saint Anthony’s, Glace Bay – closure TBA
  • Holy Family Parish, MacKay’s Corner – to close June 2013
  • Saint Eugene’s, Dominion – to close June 2014
  • Immaculate Conception, Sydney Mines – to close June 2013
  • Saint Stephen, Florence – to close June 2013
  • Saint Barra’s, Christmas Island – closure TBA