Back on its feet
Sydney church damaged by Thanksgiving Day flood could reopen by Easter.
The reverend of a displaced congregation is hopeful his flock will be celebrating Easter in the familiar confines of its own church.
Rev. Bill Burke said renovations are now in full swing at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the south end Sydney church that was extensively damaged in last October’s Thanksgiving Day floods.
“We had to wait until the insurance company gave the final word because they had to come to a final figure of cost, not only of renovation and restoration, but of any contents that were not salvageable,” said Burke, who added that workers were on the job the day after the church received the go-ahead from its insurers last Wednesday.
He did not disclose the insurance company’s final assessment of what it will cost to cover the renovations, repairs and replacement of lost contents.
For the past four months, parishioners of the former St. Joseph’s Catholic church have been guests of Ashby’s St. Theresa’s church, and while they are grateful for the accommodation, the Main-a-Dieu-raised reverend said the congregation is looking forward to returning home.
“When I announced in church on Sunday that the work had already started they burst into applause, they were really, really thrilled to hear this,” said Burke.
“It’s nice to get the word out now because there were so many rumours going around that we weren’t going to rebuild, that we were going to demolish, and those rumours persisted no matter how hard I tried to quell them.”
The church, constructed in 1996, was swamped with more than a metre of sewage-contaminated water when the nearby brook flooded in the torrential rainstorm that also rendered about 20 nearby houses uninhabitable. The future of some of those structures remains unclear as a group of homeowners continues to press the provincial government for better disaster relief compensation packages.
With more than two months of labour still required to bring St. Marguerite Bourgeoys back to its previous condition, the good news is that the solid oak pews were deemed salvageable and have already been restored.
“We’re very fortunate that the pews are solid wood and the water drained out before they were lost — we were very blessed because it takes a very long time to get pews made,” said Burke, adding that lost contents included some desks, chairs and computers.
Unfortunately, some hard copies of the parish files were contaminated. But, the reverend had more good news. Thanks to some advice from the archives people at Cape Breton University, the books are now hanging in a standup freezer that actually freeze-dries the pages before they can eventually be photographed and stored electronically. Burke also said that about 90 per cent of the church’s vestments (liturgical garments and articles) were saved.
The return of parishioners to their St. Marguerites Bourgeoys church will mark the second congregational homecoming in Sydney over the past couple of years. The members of Whitney Pier’s St. Mary’s Polish Church parish returned to their own building last summer after their church was rebuilt following a November 2015 fire that completely destroyed the historic place of worship.
Rev. Bill Burke is hopeful that the congregation of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic Church will return to their place of worship in Sydney’s south end by Easter. Workers are now on site renovating and repairing the church that was extensively damaged in last October’s Thanksgiving Day floods.
Shown above is an interior view of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic Church, which is undergoing renovation and repairs after the devastating Thanksgiving Day flood.
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