A huge, deconsecrated Roman Catholic church that has been a landmark to the Acadian community in southwestern Nova Scotia is up for sale.
St. Bernard Church officially closed last summer as the number of people attending mass in the 1,300-square-metre building had fallen to about 30 to 40 people.
It was listed on Thursday for private sale with an asking price of $250,000.
The listing says during the church’s 32-year construction over 8,000 blocks of granite were transported by railroad and oxen from Shelburne, N.S., to the small community 35 kilometres southwest of Digby. The church officially was completed in 1942.
Its interior is coated in plaster and framed by religious statues, with Douglas fir plywood from British Columbia used in the pews and wall panels.
However, Suzanne Lefort, a former treasurer of the parish council, said in an interview that it’s been estimated last year that thorough repairs would cost over a million dollars for improvements to the roof, water system and the 28,000 cubic metre interior.
“One part of the roof should be shingled, but because of the height you’d need cranes. So what would be a normal shingling job for a roof gets to be much more expensive,” she explained.
“Whoever takes it over will have to put some money into it now.”
Lefort, 72, said she hopes an investor purchases the building and gives it a fresh purpose that benefits the community.
She said she and some other parishioners now attend another Roman Catholic church in the Parish of Notre Dame d’Acadie in Clare, N.S., which is an amalgamation of six parishes.
Jean Le Blanc, the president of the Heritage Society of St. Bernard, said in an interview Saturday he’s hoping that the church will be converted into apartment units that address the shortage of housing in the rural area.
“Hopefully, if somebody does buy it we (the community) will have some input as to what they will actually do with it,” he said.
Le Blanc said a study by an architect had indicated that the building would be viable as a housing development with about 28 units, if the provincial government or donors assisted.
Le Blanc said he’s also hoping that artifacts from the church will find homes within the area, rather than being sold or disposed of.
Lefort said it’s expected that items such as religious statues and a crucifix that was behind the altar will be stored in another parish.
A spokeswoman for the diocese of Halifax-Yarmouth was not immediately available for comment on Saturday evening.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.