Bas-Caraquet residents fight to save aging church
St. Paul's Catholic Church needs $1.7M in repairs after cracks discovered
The only church in the small northeastern community of Bas-Caraquet may be forced to close in the next few months after problems were found in the century-old stone structure.
Parishioners were forced to holding their services in a local school, but that posed its own problems.
“We were at school, but that's not a place to do some funerals or ceremonies," said Gilbert Blanchard, a resident in the community.
"So finally we went in the Caraquet church, maybe 15 kilometres from here."
The thought of losing St Paul's mobilized parishioners to form a committee to help save the church.
Last weekend, members of the church held a vote at St Paul's annual general meeting where the majority of the 300 people at the meeting voted to try to raise the $1.7 million needed to save the church.
We have this group who wants to save the building with all these costs. We have other persons who call the priest and say we don't want that, we don't want to pay for that. And we have the majority who say nothing.- Bishop Daniel Jodoin, Diocese of Bathurst
“That's a victory. Of course, yes, victory,” Blanchard said.
The view from the diocese in Bathurst is a little different, however.
Daniel Jodoin, the bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst, said the vote held in Bas-Caraquet may not be enough to save the church.
“We have this group who wants to save the building with all these costs. We have other persons who call the priest and say we don't want that, we don't want to pay for that. And we have the majority who say nothing,” Jodoin said.
Jodoin said it's up to those who want to save the building to pay for it because the diocese cannot afford to contribute financially to the project.
“It's old buildings, less people in the village and the cost now is very expensive for everybody,” he said.
The small congregation in Bas-Caraquet will now have to find the $1.7 million needed to pay for the upgrades over several years.
They will try to target local businesses, offering sponsorship plaques on the stained glass windows.
So far, the parishioners have raised about $100,000.
If the church does close, Blanchard said his fellow parishioners will be headed to nearby Caraquet to attend mass. He said his worry is that many people won't be willing to make the trip to the neighbouring community.
St. Paul’s is a major reason why Blanchard decided to return to the tiny community of 1,380 residents in the Acadian peninsula.
He grew up singing in the choir then left to study medicine in Quebec. But he came back to practise medicine after he graduated.
“It's always a thing that I remember, having people together, work together, advancing in the future and giving hope to rural communities to get stronger,” he said.