NEWS Par­ish coun­cil de­fends de­ci­sion to sell build­ing

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The po­ten­tial sale of a for­mer Catholic church in Spa­niard’s Bay is leav­ing a bad taste in the mouths of many who used to at­tend wor­ship ser­vices at St. Anne’s. But the chair­man of the lo­cal par­ish coun­cil re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing the de­ci­sion to put the prop­erty on the mar­ket says they were left with lit­tle choice on the mat­ter.

The chair­man for the lo­cal par­ish coun­cil sell­ing a for­mer Catholic church in Spa­niard’s Bay stands be­hind the de­ci­sion it made.

For­mer parish­ioners at St. Anne’s Ro­man Catholic Church con­tacted The Com­pass to share their dis­may over news the prop­erty was on the mar­ket. When the clo­sure of the church was an­nounced in 2014, Theresa Gree­ley said they were told the par­ish coun­cil would only look to sell the phys­i­cal build­ing it­self and not the land.

Gerard Gre­gory told The Com­pass Mon­day morn­ing the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Par­ish Coun­cil did put to­gether a ten­der for sale and re­moval of the build­ing in 2015, but no offers were re­ceived.

At an an­nual gen­eral meet­ing held in Fe­bru­ary, a sug­ges­tion was made to re­tain the ceme­tery and sell the re­main­der of the prop­erty, in­clud­ing the park­ing lot across the street. Fol­low­ing some dis­cus­sion, a vote took place to ap­prove a mo­tion to do just that.

“I can ap­pre­ci­ate where the peo­ple are com­ing from,” Gre­gory said, not­ing he has grand­par­ents, great-grand­par­ents and great-great grand­par­ents buried in Spa­niard’s Bay. His par­ents were among those who helped fundraise for St. Anne’s Church, which was built in 1973.

“The fore­most pri­or­ity was as­sur­ing the re­spect to the ceme­tery and ac­cess to the ceme­tery.”

The fore­most pri­or­ity was as­sur­ing the re­spect to the ceme­tery and ac­cess to the ceme­tery. Gerard Gre­gory

Right of ways will be es­tab­lished along the right side ap­prox­i­mately six me­tres from the build­ing and along the north­ern bound­ary fac­ing the har­bour if a sale is fi­nal­ized. A fence will be erected two me­tres from the back of the build­ing. A grotto to dis­play the St. Anne statue that re­mains in­side the build­ing will also be set up in the ceme­tery.

Con­cerned parish­ioners who spoke with The Com­pass last week wor­ried what the sale of the for­mer church build­ing would mean for the ceme­tery. They also in­di­cated there were un­marked gravesites in front of the build­ing and along both its sides.

Gre­gory dis­puted the ex­is­tence of those gravesites when ques­tioned about the is­sue.

“Not any­thing that we know of. I’ve heard some in­clines to this here and there, but not that we can find any records of (them) or know that would be the case,” he said. Gre­gory added the cur­rent build­ing was moreor-less built on the same piece of land where its pre­de­ces­sor stood dat­ing back to the 1840s.

The par­ish coun­cil can­not carry li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance for a va­cant build­ing.

“Now what hap­pens if some kids de­cide, ‘Hey, let’s have a few beers and break in some­where,’ … and this place catches fire and now we have a ma­jor is­sue on our hands, or some­one has a loss of life,” Gre­gory said. “So now we have an­other is­sue to deal with.”

Since go­ing to mar­ket, a cou­ple of po­ten­tial buy­ers have come for­ward, ac­cord­ing to Gre­gory.

When St. Anne’s and Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Church in Har­bour Grace for­mally closed in 2014, low at­ten­dance and the need to con­trol costs in light of re­duced rev­enue were cited as fac­tors in the de­ci­sion. The cost to re­store the lat­ter church was as­tro­nom­i­cal, re­quir­ing mil­lion of dol­lars.

At the time of the clo­sures, there were ap­prox­i­mately 1,100 Catholics in the area, with only 180-200 deemed to be ac­tive parish­ioners. Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Par­ish in­cludes Spa­niard’s Bay, Til­ton, Up­per Is­land Cove, Bishop’s Cove, Bryant’s Cove and Har­bour Grace.

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

The for­mer St. Anne’s Church in Spa­niard’s Bay was first ad­ver­tised for sale last month.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

The ceme­tery be­hind the build­ing that used to be St. Anne’s Church will not be in­cluded in any sale agree­ment.

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