Mountain Catholic par­ishes eye new church in merger

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MARK NEW­MAN

The Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Hamilton is look­ing at merg­ing Our Lady of Lour­des and Cor­pus Christi par­ishes in a new church build­ing on the east Mountain.

“We think it’s the right move,” said Jim Long, epis­co­pal di­rec­tor of fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion of the dio­cese, which rep­re­sents about 365,000 Ro­man Catholics in a wide area stretch­ing from Hamilton to Hal­ton to Brant­ford, along with Kitch­ener and Owen Sound.

Our Lady of Lour­des on Mo­hawk Road East opened in 1958 and Cor­pus Christi on Up­per James dates back to 1963.

Long said both build­ings re­quire ex­ten­sive re­pairs and ren­o­va­tions that could to­tal nearly $3 mil­lion, and it makes more sense for the dio­cese to build some­thing new.

It also gives the dio­cese a chance to up­date its bound­aries on the Mountain.

About 3,000 peo­ple at­tend mass reg­u­larly at the two churches.

The dio­cese is look­ing at com­bin­ing the two par­ishes in a new church on about 8.6 acres of open land it owns on Ry­mal Road East, near Up­per Sher­man Av­enue.

The merger plan is not with­out some con­tro­versy.

“As a staunch Catholic, I can’t ac­cept this,” said 78-year-old Mar­i­lyn McLaren, who has been at­tend­ing Our Lady of Lour­des since mov­ing to Hamilton from Ot­tawa in 1962.

McLaren said she and her late hus­band, Keith, were ac­tive in the church, adding her three chil­dren were bap­tized and mar­ried at the church and at­tended Our Lady of Lour­des el­e­men­tary school next door.

“This was kind of sprung on us,” McLaren said.

McLaren said the parish­ioners were not al­lowed to or­ga­nize a pe­ti­tion against the move, but each mem­ber could send in a let­ter ex­press­ing their thoughts, which she did.

She added the dio­cese never gave the par­ish the op­tion of rais­ing money to fix up the church build­ing.

McLaren noted that about 150 peo­ple from the par­ish met with dio­cese of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Bishop Douglas Crosby, in Novem­ber.

She said many of the older parish­ioners at the meet­ing ap­peared to be op­posed to the move, while the younger parish­ioners were in favour of it.

Pat Daly, chair of the Hamilton-Went­worth Catholic District School Board, said faith-re­lated mat­ters at Our Lady of Lour­des and Cor­pus Christi el­e­men­tary schools will not be af­fected if the dio­cese de­cides to close the nearby churches.

“We un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion the dio­cese is in and we re­spect their right to do that,” Daly said.

Long said the new church, which would be able to ac­com­mo­date 900 wor­ship­pers, is es­ti­mated to cost as much as $13 mil­lion.

The cost of the new church would be cov­ered through the sale of the 1.8-acre Cor­pus Christi site and the 2.2-acre Our Lady of Lour­des prop­erty, along with loans from the dio­cese and fundrais­ing.

He said the dio­cese has re­ceived in­put from parish­ioners at the two churches about the pro­posed merger since Novem­ber.

That process is ex­pected to wrap up at a meet­ing with both groups on Feb. 11.

Long said the merger and new church also re­quires ap­proval from the bishop.

He noted if the dio­cese de­cides to pro­ceed with the plan, a build­ing com­mit­tee will be set up to de­ter­mine the ex­act size of the church.

Con­struc­tion would not be ex­pected to be­gin un­til late 2018.

Long said wor­ship­pers at the two lo­ca­tions would also have a say in nam­ing the new par­ish.

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