Back on its feet

Syd­ney church dam­aged by Thanks­giv­ing Day flood could re­open by Easter.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA CAPE BRE­TON POST david.jala@cb­post.com

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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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