Grafton community rallies to restore landmark St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church
A landmark church in Northumberland County has the community of Grafton, Ont., rallying to help restore the structure.
The 148-year-old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is famous for its towering steeple, which for years has been in need of repair.
And the congregation has come to the rescue.
“I think people would miss it if it wasn’t there,” said parish priest Father David West.
“It wouldn’t look like the same skyline. So now we’ve got the steeple up, we’ve secured it; we’ve maintained it. Now we’ve got to pay for it.”
Built by Irish immigrants in 1870, St. Mary’s Catholic Church is considered an icon in the small village about 67 kilometres south of Peterborough. West says that during the church’s construction, builders ran out bricks and the structure was instead finished with wood.
Engineers have determined the switch to wood is now creating structural problems.
“So when this crew took off the steel cap at the top of the tower, they realized that we had seriously damp wood up against the brick and the tower itself was in danger of collapsing,” said parishoner Richard Holland.
So parishoners decided to fix the tower and restore the steeple at a cost of $860,000. To date, close to $350,000 has been pledged.
“I’ve always said God has lots of money — it’s just in other people’s pockets, that’s all,” West said.
“We’ve raised money from the parish and local business community and we’re now reaching out to a broader community asking for help.”
The project began in June and it will take a week to remove the scaffolding to wrap up the work. Services were not disrupted during repairs.
“We were told by the architect when it was still leaning, don’t ring the bell,” Holland said. “So we can now ring the bell, which is a nice feature.”
West says the rest of the halidome is intact and does not require any major repairs.
“People are generous. They’ve always been kind and thoughtful,” West said. “It’s kind of like Peterborough on a smaller scale though — you know, everybody watches out for each other.”
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