Mountain Catholic parishes eye new church in merger
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.