It has been said in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, NAB). Such biblical verse was what justified the reasoning behind the Catholic Church, from its ancient days as the early Church, to sending missionaries to literally ever corner of the known world. For thousands of years, these missionaries were sent to spread the Good News and the Catholic faith to all sorts of people, from the uncivilized tribal to the accepting cosmopolitan; from the dense jungles of South America, to the unforgiving steppes of Asia. Neither the dangers of disease, nor starvation, nor the threat of hostile peoples from distant lands stopped them from doing what was necessary.
That being said, even the continent of Antarctica – with its inhospitable winter storms and its imposing ice sheet – did not stop even the most headstrong of those who filled the Church Militant’s ranks in spreading word of the Good News. And it was in the year 1958, that the Catholic Church had established a parish in a continent of awe-inspiring mystique. For it was the Roman Catholic Diocese of Christchurch, a Diocese in New Zealand, under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Wellington (also in New Zealand), who were given the task of overseeing such a grand project before the days of the Second Vatican Council.
Yet, as some of us who are probably aware, there are parishes that are closing in droves over the years. Of course, due to the attendance of church congregation dwindling gradually over the years, some parishes have no choice but to close their doors forever. As it always was, it was through the charitableness of the congregation, which kept any parish opened for whole generations. But in regards to this small parish in Antarctica, it too has suffered a similar to those who had closed before it.
Not too long ago, The Catholic Herald, Britain and Northern Ireland’s equivalent of the American New Catholic Register, has reported that this Antarctic parish had seen its congregation reduced to the point in which the idea of even a single priest being there was “no longer needed.” Located at the McMurdo Station, the issue has gotten so bad that the National Science Foundation has requested the diocese in question “to end its association with the Antarctic outpost,” all because of not many people going to attend mass and other important church services over the course of the liturgical year. However, one cannot arrive at the conclusion that faithlessness is growing in an isolated place like Antarctica. In an interview with Catholic Herald, a Catholic priest who acted as a co-coordinator for the Church Antarctic efforts reported that in addition to “a gradual decrease in religiosity, there is also a decrease in the number of people working at McMurdo Station and the South Pole and budget cuts.” (Catholic Herald)
Like all of the other remote and isolated places in the world, so too has the icy landscape of Antarctica been the subject of Catholic efforts to spread the Catholic faith. Even though not many people live and work in that continent, it is yet another place that the Church can never overlook. In the end, the question that really matters now is whether or not the next generation of Roman Catholics is just as willing as their predecessors in spreading the Good News, no matter how unmerciful the circumstances are regarding the nature of their work.
Barrett, David V. “Catholic Church Leaves Antarctica.” Catholic Herald. The Catholic Herald, 27 July 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.
“Gospel of Matthew.” New American Bible. Washington, DC: National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference, 1999. Print.