The sounds of sermons have given way to drilling and hammering as Moncton’s historic Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Cathedral undergoes a multimillion-dollar renovation.

The cathedral – one of the most recognizable buildings in Moncton and a highlight of the city’s skyline – was facing a long list of repairs and was in danger of being demolished, until a community group launched a fundraising campaign to save it.

“I never believed for one moment they would wreck it,” says project architect Dianne Van Dommelen. “I couldn’t believe that could happen.”

The Moncton Cathedral Foundation managed to raise more than $6 million to renovate the cathedral, which closed its doors to the public last March.

“It could not be open to the public because it was not according to the code – many codes – so that’s why we had to close it,” explains Marie-Linda Lord, president of the Moncton Cathedral Foundation.

Dozens of pews are gathering dust while the building is renovated, but the group hopes to see parishioners filling them again by Christmas, when the church is brought up to code. They hope the renovations will be completed by 2020.

Immediate repairs include installing sprinklers and fire-rated doors, improving exits, and waterproofing the foundation, with additional projects scheduled over the next three years.

“The restoration of the stone and covering the stained-glass windows with new windows, and the third being the roof, because we do have some water leaks,” says Van Dommelen.

The cathedral is built on the foundation of the chapel crypt of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, which was founded in 1914, while the cathedral itself was built in 1939. More than a century later, it remains a symbol to the Acadian community in Moncton.

“They have a sad history, but the Acadian people are a resilient people, and that’s what the church here, the cathedral, incarnates,” says Lord. “It’s the symbol of resilience.”

The group still needs to raise another $800,000 to finish upgrades by 2020.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke