Parishioners at St. Patrick's Church hope 'God will intervene' to keep their home from being sold

·3 min read
St. Patrick's Church is located on Patrick Street in St. John's. Its cornerstone was laid on Sept. 17, 1855, and it was completed in 1881. The church property has been sold as part of a liquidation of assets by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
St. Patrick's Church is located on Patrick Street in St. John's. Its cornerstone was laid on Sept. 17, 1855, and it was completed in 1881. The church property has been sold as part of a liquidation of assets by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

The Wednesday mass at St. Patrick's Church in the west end of St. John's evoked feelings of togetherness and uncertainty, as its congregation braced for news of their building's future.

Members of the Patrick Street church learned earlier this week that a bid by a unknown buyer to purchase the church had been approved by Ernst & Young, the firm overseeing the court-monitored sale of church properties owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

Leona Dooley, who goes to mass as often as she can, said she was heartbroken by the news of a sale.

"This is as much my home as my house is, and these people are as close to me as blood family," said Dooley.

"We come here and pray together, and it's been devastating for us knowing just the thought that the church might close."

Dooley said St. Patrick's is her "spiritual home" and the congregation and Father James Fleming have played key roles in her life — especially after the death of her father.

"I can't believe how much it's helped me not just spiritually, but with my mental health. I've made friends here," she said.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

The church, completed in 1881, is all parishioner Mary Ring has ever known. She was born into the church 84 years ago.

"There's something that's going to be missing in my life. I was born in this church, this parish," Ring said. "If our church closes, and I'm still hoping it's not going to happen … I'll take God's will and go to another parish."

'This church is a haven'

Michelle Martin, who was married in St. Patrick's, values the building as one of a few churches that keeps its doors open for prayer seven days a week.

"This church is a haven," Martin said. "This is where everybody who wants to pray knows you can come and have quiet time, and be with Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament and pray."

Martin, who lives in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, has spearheaded an effort to save Holy Rosary Church in that community. But parishioners in St. Patrick's were unable to put a bid forward to buy back their church, leaving her to wonder what will become of the building.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

"These are God's houses, and you don't know what they're going to be used for," she said.

"This church here is historic. Like the Basilica [of St. John the Baptist], we hope in some way that God will intervene and that this will be saved."

Dooley said she and other members of the congregation will keep the faith if their church closes but she wishes action from the archdiocese had come sooner so congregations wouldn't have had their churches put on the line today.

"All I ask is people respect the way that we feel.… This is where we come to pray and congregate together. To know that you're going to drive by and some of those places will be gone, that is heartbreaking."

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