Turn­ing back the clock on Sa­cred Heart church in Pla­cen­tia

The Compass - - OPINION - BY LEE EVERTS Lee Everts is a free­lance writer and pho­tog­ra­pher. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: lee.everts@nf.sym­pa­tico.ca

Since it was first erected in the nine­teenth century, Sa­cred Heart church in Pla­cen­tia has not un­der­gone any ma­jor con­struc­tion — un­til now, that is.

Time had taken its toll on the iconic church, with its dis­tinc­tive tower reach­ing nobly into the sky. The roof was leak­ing. Much of the wooden ex­te­rior had suc­cumbed to wood rot, and the doors were rusted and de­cay­ing. It was time to act. Now or never.

And so, on Oct. 5, 2011, mem­bers of Our Lady of An­gel s Ro­man Catholic Par­ish met to dis­cuss the chal­lenges that lay ahead. Their church, one that had been en­vi­sioned and erected over a century ear­lier, was in des­per­ate need of at­ten­tion. To save their church was vi­tal in terms of its en­dur­ing func­tion as a place of wor­ship. Equally im­por­tant was the fact that Sa­cred Heart church had be­come a sig­nif­i­cant part of the built her­itage of the Town of Pla­cen­tia. It meant some­thing to ev­ery­one.

Dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture

For much of its his­tory, Pla­cen­tia was char­ac­ter­ized by the same types of build­ings that could be found in most of the com­mu­ni­ties in New­found­land and Labrador. Sin­gle storey rugged-look­ing houses and the well- known salt box house rimmed the road­ways.

Nev­er­the­less, in the lat­ter part of the nine­teenth century, the Pla­cen­tia land­scape changed dra­mat­i­cally. Take a look at the var­i­ous pho­to­graphs from the pe­riod and this change would be easy to see. It was at this time, be­gin­ning around 1886, when the Sa­cred Heart church was built. From that point, Sa­cred Heart church be­came a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture in the vista of what was known as the “Great Beach” of Pla­cen­tia.

From the time it was ini­tially buil t , a m oder­ate amount of changes have been made to the church. At the be­gin­ning of the twen­ti­eth century, a church bell was in­stalled and some additional work was com­pleted. Af­ter­wards, in 1917, stained g l ass w in­dows were in­stalled. Later, around 1975, the church un­der­went a sig­nif­i­cant change to its in­te­rior.

Now, al­most 40 years later, the sounds of ham­mers and other tools of the car­pen­try trade can yet again be heard as Sa­cred Heart un­der­goes its lat­est trans­for­ma­tion.

The most re­cent ef­forts have been noth­ing but mon­u­men­tal in scale. In or­der to tackle the chal­lenge, the parish­ioners formed a com­mit­tee that would fo­cus on the prac­ti­cal as­pect of the con­struc­tion. The restora­tion and ren­o­va­tions rep­re­sented an im­mense set of chal­lenges. They would re­quire ded­ica- tion, pa­tience, com­mit­ment, as well as one other cru­cial in­gre­di­ent — money.

There­fore, an­other com­mit­tee had also been formed that would fo­cus on the fi­nan­cial de­tails of what needed to be done. The fi­nan­cial com­mit­tee would or­ga­nize and ar­range the pay­ments for the ma­te­ri­als that were re­quired by the con­struc­tion com­mit­tee.

More­over, the parish­ioners had to set about rais­ing the funds that would be nec­es­sary to reach their goal. A wide range of meth­ods have been used such as host­ing con­certs, gar­den par­ties, or re­quest­ing do­na­tions “in the mem­ory of ” … cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als in or­der to pur­chase new win­dows.

Fix­ing the leaks

The par­ish has raised close to 70 per cent of the fund­ing that has been needed. In this re­spect, the com­mu­nity at large could lend a hand with rais­ing the money that has been re­quired to un­der­take the restora­tion.

Even­tu­ally, there was enough money in the bank that would al­low the parish­ioners to be­gin their ren­o­va­tions. The work be­gan with the con­struc­tion com­mit­tee de­vis­ing a well-planned course of ac­tion that con­sisted of a range of phases. For in­stance, Phase 1 would en­tail re­pair­ing the leaks in the build­ing as this was con­sid­ered to be of the high­est pri­or­ity. Fol­low­ing this work, the next phases in­volved ad­dress­ing the rusted and de­cay­ing ex­te­rior doors, in ad­di­tion to the sub­stan­tial task of re­plac­ing the clap­board.

Per­haps it was not im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent to res­i­dents as they walked or drove by the church that any­thing was tak­ing place. It was quiet. How­ever, in time, more equip­ment ap­peared and soon, the area around Sa­cred Heart church was bustling with ac­tiv­ity. A “cherry-picker” was in place and men in hard-hats were some­times pre­car­i­ously perched atop scaf­fold­ing.

Grad­u­ally, Sa­cred Heart church was re-emerg­ing — the de­ter­mined parish­ioners were turn­ing back the clock. And on the days suf­fused by the sun, the white paint of the newly in­stalled clap­board was ra­di­ant against the bril­liant blue of the sky. The years of plan­ning and fund-rais­ing had been worth the time and ef­fort. All’s well that ends well.

Al­though, this would not be the end. Not yet at least. While a con­sid­er­able amount of work has been done, more awaits the parish­ioners. For in­stance, when the tem­per­a­tures rise and spring and sum­mer ar­rive later this year, work will again be­gin on the tower. Af­ter­wards, more of the ex­te­rior clap­board will have to be re­moved and re­newed.

Still, what is par­tic­u­larly com­mend­able is that the mem­bers of Our Lady of An­gels Ro­man Catholic Par­ish have al­ready done what must have seemed im­pos­si­ble five years ago. It is some­thing they have done to­gether as the ef­forts to ren­o­vate and re­fur­bish Sa­cred Heart church have been a truly col­lec­tive ef­fort.

Thus, with the on­go­ing help of the res­i­dents in the var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties of the Town of Pla­cen­tia, parish­ioners will set about rais­ing the $124,000 that is still re­quired. To be sure, they’ve done it be­fore. There is no doubt that they can do it again.

Photo by Lee Everts/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

Sa­cred Heart church in Pla­cen­tia has long been a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture in the vista of what was known as the “Great Beach” of Pla­cen­tia.

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