A church shakeup is set to take place in Mount Pearl as Roman Catholics prepare to vacate Mary Queen of the World on Topsail Road, and the Baptists get set to move in.
Meanwhile, a parish priest is calling for members of the faithful to unite at St. Peter's church on Ashford Drive, which is set to expand its catchment area as neighbouring churches close amid a dramatic restructuring of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
It's the latest chapter in the ongoing and historic sell-off of properties — from churches and rectories to parish halls and vacant land — by the archdiocese, which is under creditor protection as it tries to raise millions to compensate abuse victims who attended the former Mount Cashel orphanage.
During Saturday mass at St. Peter's, Father Wayne Dohey revealed that the congregation's offer of roughly $500,000 to purchase the church was accepted by the insolvency monitor.
"That's a blessing. So we're safe. That's complete," Dohey said to the congregation during a service that was streamed on YouTube. His words were greeted with applause.
He also said Mary Queen of the World will be sold to Calvary Baptist Church for $1.4 million, with the final mass scheduled for Oct. 2.
"I know hearts are broken. We're all sad. It's a beautiful church. Beautiful parish family," said Dohey, who is the parish priest for St. Peter's and Mary Queen of the World.
Mary Queen of the World is also home to a unique collection of religious artwork by a renowned Newfoundland and Labrador artist, the late Gerry Squires.
The collection includes Stations of the Cross, The Triptych of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, which hangs over the main altar, and The Last Supper. Squires used his own image, and those of other notable citizens of the province, in some of the paintings.
Dohey said the sale of Mary Queen of the World does not include the art collection, which he valued at $400,000.
"That must be sold as well," he said.
Please consider praying with us at St. Peter's church. - Father Wayne Dohey
Corpus Christi church on Waterford Bridge Road is being sold to a private bidder, and held its final mass earlier this month. A church in Paradise has also closed.
Dohey said the plan is to change the name of St. Peter's as the parish looks to start fresh, and welcome Catholics who have been displaced from these and other churches.
"Please consider praying with us at St. Peter's church," he said.
Dohey said the congregation needs to raise another $200,000 to pay for the church, but he's not worried.
"It's not a lot of money paying it over five years; it's not a worry or an anxiety. There's bigger problems that we have to relate to," he said.
Meanwhile, Pastor Steve Bray of Calvary Baptist Church confirmed Wednesday that an offer to purchase Mary Queen of the World has been accepted.
He would not comment on the value of the bid, but said it was lower than the $1.4-million figure referenced by Dohey.
Bray said he was reluctant to comment on the matter because he wants to be respectful to the abuse victims, and to the congregation at Mary Queen of the World.
What's more, he said, the deal is not yet signed, and he's not aware of a closing date for the sales agreement.
"We want to be super-sensitive to so many hurting people," said Bray.
Calvary Baptist Church had planned to build a new place of worship on land it owns in Paradise, but Bray said the COVID-19 pandemic, and inflationary pressures on the cost of construction, thwarted those plans.
The sale of Mary Queen of the World, he added, presented an opportunity.
"We quietly made an offer based on what we felt we could afford."
Mary Queen of the World is home to a food bank operated by a Catholic group called the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. In a gesture of good faith, Bray said, the food bank will be allowed to continuing operating at the church.
"Our desire is to make it seamless and smooth," he said, referring to the potential change of ownership.