Priest asks Mount Pearl Catholics to unite after decision made to close Mary Queen of the World

·4 min read
Peter Hundt, archbishop for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's, has determined that St. Peter's on Ashford Drive should be the church of the future for Mount Pearl. That means Mary Queen of the World on Topsail Road will close. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Peter Hundt, archbishop for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's, has determined that St. Peter's on Ashford Drive should be the church of the future for Mount Pearl. That means Mary Queen of the World on Topsail Road will close. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

Catholics in Mount Pearl are being asked to unite and show compassion for those losing their church after a decision has been made to abandon Mary Queen of the World on Topsail Road, and make a second attempt to purchase St. Peter's on Ashford Drive.

"This is not a happy day for anyone," Father Wayne Dohey told parishioners at St. Peter's during mass on Saturday, which was streamed on YouTube.

"When you close a church there's a lot of our friends that are hurting; there's a lot of sadness," he added.

Dohey is the parish priest for both churches, and revealed the decision by Peter Hundt, archbishop for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's, during services at both parishes over the weekend.

Hundt was asked to get involved after a steering committee with equal representation from both parishes deadlocked on the question of which church should be saved.

Dohey said the archbishop selected St. Peter's because it's newer, has more seating capacity, and has spacious meeting and activity rooms.

One of the shortcomings at St. Peter's is a lack of parking and accessibility for those with mobility challenges, but Dohey said there are plans to enhance parking, install a chair lift at the entrance, and upgrade the elevator.

"We've resolved the crisis and the tension. And we're going to go forward with St. Peter's church," said Dohey.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

But one of the big questions now is what will become of the artwork that makes Mary Queen of the World one of the most unique churches in the province. The Stations of the Cross, the Triptych of the Death and Resurrection of Christ that hangs over the main altar and The Last Supper were painted by the late Gerry Squires, a well-known Newfoundland and Labrador artist.

CBC News has requested interviews with both Father Dohey and Archbishop Hundt in order to seek answer to those and other questions.

George Horan, an artist and friend of Squires, said the paintings are "one large integrated artwork" and "the church has an obligation to preserve it."

Horan added that the art is a "unique and startling contribution to our religious and cultural history because all the people depicted in there are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Horan suggested that the archdiocese donate the painting to the provincial museum at The Rooms.

"Maybe the government can preserve and protect it," said Horan.

Bids too low

It's the latest development for the archdiocese as Catholic properties are sold off in an effort to raise millions for survivors of abuse at the former Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's.

A handful of notable churches such as St. Patrick's, St. Pius X and Mary Queen of Peace have already been sold to unknown bidders as part of the court-supervised sales process, and are scheduled for closure in the coming months.

In other cases, such as the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, groups with close links to the church have submitted successful bids, and the churches will continue to serve as a place of worship.

'There's so much hurt and anger in the diocese. People are really, really sad. But we must go forth together.' - Wayne Dohey, parish priest for St. Peter's and Mary Queen of the World

"There's so much hurt and anger in the diocese. People are really, really sad. But we must go forth together," said Dohey.

Congregations at St. Peter's and Mary Queen of the World both submitted bids to Ernst & Young, the firm that is handling the insolvency, in hopes of acquiring their respective churches. But both bids were deemed too low by EY, which resulted in a decision to submit a new, higher bid on one of the two churches.

A 10-member steering committee with equal representation from both churches was unable to decide on which church to pursue, so the archbishop was asked to break the deadlock.

Dohey said a new bid will be submitted in the coming days, but he said the process will only be successful if enough money can be raised. In addition to fundraising, he said the the plan is to apply for a mortgage.

"Your generosity now is much appreciated," he said. "We have some funds but not enough to meet what they're asking us to bid on."

'Basically, say we're sorry'

Dohey made a special plea for members of the St. Peter's faithful to be kind, compassionate and welcoming toward Mary Queen of the World parishioners who choose to practice their faith at St. Peter's.

"I'll hope and pray that when you meet people, good people from Mary Queen of the World, basically say we're sorry. We're not trying to rub it in to say we have won out," Dohey said.

"This is a really sad evening at Mary Queen of the World. A lot of parishioners had tears in their eyes. So it was a very sad mass."

St. Peter's was consecrated nearly 20 years ago, and has seating for roughly 650 people. Roughly 50 people attended Saturday's mass, according to the YouTube stream.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting