Parishioners prepared to fight for closing church
A community of Roman Catholics on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore say they are fed up, and fighting back against leadership that they say is not listening to them.
The congregation met at St. Philip Neri Church in Musquodoboit Harbour for Sunday Mass. But the topic of discussion was another church, St. Anselm’s in West Chezzetcook, about 20 minutes away.
St. Anselm’s has been closed since November, when parishioners were told there was mould on site. They were also told the church owed nearly $800,000 to the Archdiocese, a claim they refute.
“This church is 125 years old, build by the Acadiens with bricks from their own brickyard,” says St. Anselm’s parishioner Bernadette Robicheau. “I want to know where this debt came from, and what’s going to happen to our church.”
Robicheau is one of many with family ties to the Church going back generations.
“It’s my heritage,” says parishioner Bernard Baker. “It’s my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents that done the work to build that church, and they done it out of their sweat, their equity, they’re the ones that done it.”
Several churches in the province are scheduled to close this summer, but their parishioners are not going down without a fight.
St. Anselm’s is one of four Catholic churches that are scheduled to close this August. The congregations will be consolidated, and the Archdiocese has until the end of November to decide what to do with the empty buildings.
But some parishioners say the Archdiocese has not been forthcoming when it comes to their reasoning.
“We’re advocating truth and transparency,” says Madeline Oldham, Chair of the Friends of St. Anselm’s Church Society. “We haven’t seen the truth, and we haven’t had transparency in all our dealings with the archdiocese leadership.”
The churches have a transition team in place, ready to help parishioners.
Diane Nolet is the coordinator for the Eastern Shore, and is dealing with the loss of her home church as well. She says the committee made their decision carefully.
“This is just a building, but the church is the people,” says Nolet. “The faith community that comes together to worship. If this building, God forbid, would burn down, we’d have to find another place to worship.”
But members of the church are upset at what they say is a lack of communication, and questions remain unanswered.
“Can we have one more mass in here to say goodbye?” asked Robichaud.
Archbishop Antony Mancini of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth declined an interview on Sunday, but says parishioners would be given a chance to ask questions about St. Anselm’s and any other churches that are shutting down after mass next week.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.