Financial pressures occasion change at cathedral

music department

“Ongoing unsustainable losses” at Wellington’s Sacred Heart Cathedral have put the music department in the spotlight.

The financial situation has been made worse because of the cathedral’s temporary closure and Covid-19.

The church says it has no option but to restructure, and if the current plan is put into action, it will see the Cathedral lose its director of music, Michael Fletcher.

The restructure has shocked the choir, some parishioners and others in the local community.

Music and the choir were both highlighted in the Cathedral’s promotional re-opening campaign video.

Debbie Matheson, the church’s parish leader, says the proposal was put to various parish communities for consultation.

As a result of those conversations, the church made changes to the proposal, she says.

“We are holding further consultations before making our final decisions.”

She will not, however, elaborate on “private employment matters.”

The enforced closure of the cathedral has scattered the cathedral’s communities far and wide from their spiritual home, Matheson notes.

“Our aims and prayers are to be able to carry on and meet the needs of our parish in a pastorally sensitive and financially viable way.”

However, a strongly worded email sent to the parish on behalf of the church choir calls the move “ignorant, demoralising, condescending and cruel.”

Speaking for the ‘choir collective’, an Upper Hutt parishioner at the Cathedral, Clare O’Flaherty Thomas says she is “appalled” at the proposal.

She says it is disrespectful, is causing “unbelievable feelings of grief and pain”.

She expects “more from a Catholic organisation.”

O’Flaherty Thomas asks how those whose positions maybe dis-established will be able to financially survive.

Are “food parcels in the offering?” she asks.

O’Flaherty Thomas says the intention to downsize the department shows senior church staff have no idea of what constitutes a professional level of “sacred” music, “let alone understand[ing] a director of music’s training and qualification requirements.”

To request prayers for the music department while effectively “demoralising them, causing stress and trauma” is “very condescending”, says O’Flaherty Thomas.

She says that if these proposals go ahead the life of the cathedral will irrevocably change.

“The silence when the cathedral reopens will be deafening. No music, no community.”

O’Flaherty Thomas did not suggest how the ongoing unsustainable losses might be overcome.

The cathedral has been closed since July 2018 due to earthquake risk.

Work began last August to strengthen the building, but it’s uncertain when it will reopen.

The Cathedral, a Category 1 heritage-listed building received $8.5m from the Government’s “Shovel Ready” Infrastructure Fund.

The total cost of strengthening is $16.5m.

Including the Government money, the Cathedral fundraising campaign has raised $11m.

$5.5 million is still required to complete the interior and exterior restoration and refurbish the historic Hobday Organ.


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