Citizens committee wants Bishop Richard Grecco to save Belcourt Centre
A citizen group is asking Islanders to add their voice in a final desperate plea to Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Grecco.
The group wants to save the Belcourt Centre in South Rustico, the final element in what the National Trust of Canada calls “an extraordinary cultural landscape.”
The group held a news conference at the Farmers Bank Wednesday to update Islanders on what is happening at the site.
“Anyone that has an interest could write a letter, encourage the bishop or other members of the (Belcourt) committee to say maybe we should pause for a moment, slow down, and see what can be done,” said committee member Arnold Smith..
“We would like the diocese to halt the project for two or three months, allow us, as a community, to work with them to really explore the idea of refurbishing and renovating Belcourt Centre where it sits now and continue its use as a spiritually centre on the present site,” said Arthur Buote, chairman of the citizens’ committee to save the Belcourt Centre.
The centre was formerly a convent but is now and continues be an active centre that includes accommodations for overnight retreats and meetings with a spiritual focus.
Surrounding Belcourt Centre is St. Augustine church built in 1838, the Farmers Bank of Rustico which is a National Historic Site, the Doucet House of 1772 and other buildings.
“There is a lot of pride from the Acadian community in what has been done here because it is one of the only intact historic districts that represent Acadian (built) heritage,” said Judy MacDonald, another member of the committee.
“It’s a beautiful collection of heritage buildings and one that you would want to preserve.”
She also likes that the Belcourt Centre is active every week with groups coming to use it.
“It is so wonderful to bring people into this community,” she said.
The church wants to use a large bequest from the estate of the late Owen Kelly to create a larger, modern spirituality centre, says the group.
The local community has laboured, been driven and persevered to acquire, restore and recover the other buildings in the area.
As such, it has gained expertise in assessing restoration needs, costs, and possibilities, “outside the box,” said Smith.
None of those community members were asked to bring this expertise to the table when it came to decisions about the Belcourt Centre, says the committee.
It is worried that decisions about the centre have been made using poor information.
The decision from the Roman Catholic dioceses is that Belcourt Centre cannot be used for a new or expanded spirituality centre, is therefore about to become redundant and is therefore not worth restoring.
The committee understands that options have ranged from knocking it down or selling.
“We are not saying restore what ever the cost,” said Smith. “All we want to do is try.”
Arthur Buote, left, chairman of the ad hoc citizens’ committee to save Belcourt Centre in South Rustico works out a detail prior to a news conference Wednesday with master of ceremonies Edmond Richard.