Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 17, 2001
Edson church sheds its dowdy past
Parishioners now proud of building renovated to honour God
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
There are bits and pieces of history still left in the newly-renovated Sacred Heart Church.
From the outside, the three shades of brown brick and stucco show evidence of a recent makeover for the 48-year-old church. But beyond the new drywall and lumber, parishioners can still get a glimpse of the past.
The bell tower still hovers over the roofline and children still flock to Father Roger Keeler asking to ring it after every Mass. The stairs which lead to the entrance of the church are still there, now enclosed inside the building, with an elevator built adjacent to them.
"There was a sense that people wanted something from the past," said Chuck Williams, a member of the committee overlooking the renovations. "The decision to renovate and expand this building allowed us to maintain some of the traditions of the original (church)."
When the old church roof came down, so did a couple of the old walls. But the main support beam, made of train track railings, was sturdy and stayed in place.
"There's some of the old and new in here," Williams said.
With the smell of new paint and carpet still lingering in the air, it was standing room only as members of the 600-family parish gathered in the renovated church Jan. 8 for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Collins.
"We wanted it to be done for Advent 1999," Williams said. "We came close."
The Mass began in the gym of Vanier Community Catholic School where Sunday Mass had been held since June. From there, parishioners walked to the church.
"In June we all walked from the church to the school," Williams said. "Now we're walking back - we're going home."
Parishioners who had gathered in the pews of Sacred Heart Church for Sunday Mass prior to the renovations can now gather in that same space to mingle with each other after Mass.
Having doubled its space after the six-month renovation project, the church now has a large foyer where parishioners can gather before and after Mass.
"People would come through the doors right into the church where the pews are," Williams said. "There would be no room for people to stand in the back of the church and talk to each other."
Planning for the project began in 1995. An attempt several years earlier had failed, said Williams.
A committee was formed to examine the needs of the slowly-growing parish. It discovered parishioners needed a church to be proud of.
"If you go to church, you go to church to honour God," Williams said. "This is a place of worship. We should be proud and respectful of this place."
The aging roof was leaking and there was no handicapped access, which meant it took four parishioners to carry a wheelchair-bound visitor up the dozen steps into the church. The downstairs hall was uninviting with its concrete floor and dull walls, said Williams. It was hardly an ideal location for get-togethers.
The entrance of the church left little room for socializing. "We use to call it the cattle shoot," Williams said.
Parishioners decided to change it all.
Plans took shape, a fundraising campaign began and finances were secured. The $1-million project leaves a smile on Williams face. "It's really a beautiful church now," he said.
An interesting feature of the church is the altar which is not permanently nailed down. It can be moved to different corners or to the centre of the church to accommodate special Masses.
"We could have the altar in the middle and have the pews surround it," said parishioner Danielle MacDonald.
Besides the spacious office area, office staff Aline Andre's favourite part of the new church is the Chapel of Repose. With its white-domed ceiling sprinkled with dark mauve paint, the room's walls reflect a soft mauve hue with natural light pouring in from two stained glass windows. It will house the Blessed Sacrament and will be a place for private prayer.
"It's such a peaceful area," said Andre.
"Everything," was Frank Bochek's response when asked his favourite part of the church. "I like everything about it."
Bochek, a parishioner of Sacred Heart for almost eight decades, remembers when the church was a one-room building on the corner of the lot. More than 50 years ago, he helped build a new church, which is now considered the old church. Today he is busy putting the finishing touches on another new one.
"I let the young guys do the hard work," he said while putting together a drafting table for Keeler's office. "I try to do what I can."
Williams laughs when asked the best feature of the new church.
"For as long as I've been here, there was no hot water in the men's washrooms," he said. "Father use to bug me because I would complain about not having hot water in there.
"The light and the space we have in here, it's very warm and welcoming. It's going to be a very welcoming church for everyone."