Former parishioners pay emotional last visit to N.B. church set for demolition

·3 min read
The Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church in Dieppe closed its doors in 2018.  It will soon be demolished to make way for an apartment building. (Pierre Richard/CBC News - image credit)
The Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church in Dieppe closed its doors in 2018. It will soon be demolished to make way for an apartment building. (Pierre Richard/CBC News - image credit)

Mary McCarron walks into the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church in Dieppe for the first time in years.

She's immediately struck by the size of it, so different than she'd remembered.

She'd thought it was "so big," she said, but it wasn't.

"It's so tiny."

McCarron moved to Lakeburn, across from the old Moncton airport, when she was just a year old, and the church quickly became the centre of her world.

"The church became not only a place to go to mass but it was where you went to Brownies, where you went to Majorettes, where you went to Girl Guides. Where wedding showers, catechisms – we had catechisms with the priest so everything was held here and all our sacraments were done here," she said. "Everybody knew each other."

Maya Chebl/Radio-Canada
Maya Chebl/Radio-Canada

Notre-Dame-de-Lorette opened its doors in 1946, and closed them more than 70 years later, in October of 2018, due to steadily declining attendance.

It has now been sold and will soon be demolished to make way for an apartment building, and on Wednesday, former parishioners were invited into the Champlain Street church to have one last look around.

For many, the visit stirred up memories, and emotions.

McCarron, who was married in the church 40 years ago, wanted to come and see what had once been the heart of the community.

Although she moved to another parish after she got married, the church is filled with happy memories. McCarron has some old black-and-white photos on her phone, showing her Brownie pack and a picture of her first communion.

She takes one last look around the empty church and thinks about what it will be like when it's gone.

"It'll be different because I see a couple of homes down in the community gone. It's a different feeling but I'm glad I had the opportunity to be here," she said.

John-Guy Saulnier was baptized and had his first communion in the church.

The memories continued to weave throughout his life for years afterward.

"I remember going to school maybe in Grade One or Grade Two and coming here for the mass at 4 o'clock, and it just kept going from there," he says.

Saulnier's parents had their 50th anniversary in the basement of the church.

He moved to another parish when the church closed, but wanted to stop in one last time.

"It's unbelievable. It's not what it used to be, definitely," he says.

His brother Vincent Saulnier shakes his head.

"I hate to see it go, but that's the way it goes I guess," he says.

CBC News
CBC News

For Jean Richard, the last visit is an emotional experience.

His memories date back to 1973, and the church was a special place for him, and his family.

Richard sang in the choir and was a soloist.

"It was a very close-knit community and everybody knew each other," he says. "It was a very comfortable place to come and worship."

Kate Letterick/CBC News
Kate Letterick/CBC News

Richard tears up as he looks around.

"I had to come to say my last … it's like a last respect sort of thing," he said. "I had to come see."

Richard stands in front of what used to be the church altar and offers one more prayer.

Then he walks out of the church, for the very last time.

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