NEWS Parish council defends decision to sell building
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.
The former St. Anne’s Church in Spaniard’s Bay was first advertised for sale last month.
The cemetery behind the building that used to be St. Anne’s Church will not be included in any sale agreement.