Bas-Caraquet church listing for $1 raises ire of parishioners

A committee in Bas-Caraquet has faith it can raise the $1.7 million needed to buy and repair the community's aging St. Paul's Catholic Church.

Committee hopes to raise $1.7M needed to buy and repair aging St. Paul's Catholic Church

A decision by the Diocese of Bathurst to sell the crumbling St Paul's Catholic Church in Bas-Caraquet for $1 is facing fierce opposition from parishioners.

A committee in Bas-Caraquet is hoping to raise the $1.7 million needed to repair St. Paul's Catholic Church. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
But a local committee trying to save the church says there's still hope mass will continue in the century-old stone structure.

The committee has expressed interest in the $1 deal — if it can raise the estimated $1.7 million needed for repairs, said committee vice-president Lucie LeBouthillier.

“The parishioners don't seem to want a new church. So if there's no committee to build, and no money coming from the diocese because there's no money there, it has to come from the people here," she said.

"It's a community effort. People really have a strong belief here."

The committee has raised about $400,000 to date, but LeBouthillier says progress is slow and communication is strained.

"We [spent] a lot of time dialoguing, trying to find a solution to go ahead with the diocese to save the church. So that made us lose a lot of time unfortunately, I'm sad to say. But I hope the diocese will see that we're there to help. We have a good heart," she said.

We can't maintain these buildings just on prayers.- Father David Ferguson

A building inspection in November discovered cracks in the foundation of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, which was immediately closed.

Parishioners have since been attending services at a church in Caraquet, about 15 kilometres away.

The diocese has offered to build another, smaller church somewhere else, said Father David Ferguson, who used to oversee the congregation of St. Paul's before it closed.

"We can't maintain these buildings just on prayers," he said.

"I mean, financially we need help. And on fixed incomes, when you're mostly a retirement community in many cases, it becomes very hard," he said.

In addition, like many congregations across the country, the church-going population is shrinking, said Ferguson.

The condition of the church has also deteriorated in recent months, officials said.

Passers-by have reported rocks falling from the facade and post-tropical storm Arthur caused flooding, threatening the church's main asset — the pipe organ.