Nfld. & Labrador

Financial woes force possible sale of century old church

A historic Roman Catholic church in Harbour Grace is facing closure because of poor attendance and financial challenges.

Parish council confirms buyer has come forward, no decision made yet

The Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic church in Harbour Grace is slated to close permanently. (CBC)

A historic Roman Catholic church in Harbour Grace is facing closure because of poor attendance and financial challenges.

On Sept. 17, parishioners at Immaculate Conception, a registered provincial heritage structure, were given a presentation by the parish council outlining the struggles facing four churches in the area.

The parish council announced that it had been contacted by a third party interested in buying the former cathedral, but no decision had been made.

The news surprised parishioners like John Coady, who had gone to the Roman Catholic church his whole life. 

"I was shocked and a lot of more people like me," he told CBC News. "So I guess we really don't know the ins and outs about it all."

"Everyone's tight-lipped about it all," Coady said.

Parishioner John Coady says he has heard a brewery wants to purchase the former cathedral. (CBC)

The church had been under restoration since 1987, and to date, $3.5 million has gone into the work. Half of the money came from the provincial government, while the rest came from donations.

In the presentation, the parish council suggested that people in Harbour Grace, Riverhead, Spaniard's Bay, and Upper Island Cove combine resources and attend a single church instead of four separate ones, lessening the cost of operations.

Buyer unknown

The parish council won't divulge who the interested party is, but there is plenty of speculation around the community.

"I heard different little things. There's talk of a brewery or something interested in to it. Now that's talk, whether it's correct or not, I don't know," Coady said.

Coady said renovations at Immaculate Conception are important in order to protect a church that is steeped in history.

"I'd like to see it restored, like they're doing it now. I may not live to see it, but I'd like to see it put back to tip-top shape... It's been on the go now 20 years, so they've been doing quite a bit of work with it," Coady said.

"It's a really old landmark — it's over 100 years old — and the grounds here are beautiful and it's just a beautiful church."

Immaculate Conception Parish was built in 1892 in the same grounds that a previous church had been before it burned down during a fire in 1889.


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