Nfld. & Labrador

1 church too many: Mount Pearl Catholics divided over which one to save

The two Catholic churches in Mount Pearl are at the centre of lobbying over which one will be saved — and since church leaders in the city are deadlocked, the decision rests largely with Archbishop Peter Hundt.

With committee deadlocked, archbishop asked to decide between St. Peter's or Mary Queen of the World

What will the future look like for the Catholic faith community in Mount Pearl? That tough question is now being debated as a decision nears on whether to close Mary Queen of the World Church on Topsail Road or St. Peter's Church on Ashford Drive. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

The two Catholic churches in Mount Pearl are now at the centre of lobbying over which one will be saved — and since church leaders in the city are deadlocked, the decision rests largely with Archbishop Peter Hundt.

Is Mary Queen of the World Church on Topsail Road, where parishioners have been practising their faith for about four decades, the future for Catholics in Mount Pearl?

Or is it St. Peter's on Ashford Drive, which is newer and bigger?

These are very emotional questions coming at a time of great upheaval for churchgoers throughout the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

St. Peter's Parish was established in the fall of 1982, and the first Sunday service was held in July 2001. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Catholic properties throughout the St. John's area are being sold off as the archdiocese looks to compensate Mount Cashel abuse victims.

Committees linked to both Mount Pearl churches submitted bids to the court-appointed insolvency monitor, Ernst & Young, but CBC News has learned that both bids, considered too low, were rejected. And it doesn't appear there were any other suitable offers from non-church-connected bidders.

Now a big decision has to be made: pool the combined resources of both parishes and submit a new, more substantial bid on one of the two churches.

But here's the problem.

Mary Queen of the World Church on Topsail Road in Mount Pearl was completed in 1984. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

A 10-member steering committee is leading the effort to determine a way forward for Catholics in Mount Pearl, comprising five members from St Peter's and five from Mary Queen of the World.

Not surprisingly, they're deadlocked, and cannot decide on which church to save as a place of worship.

The only thing they seem to agree on is that the only viable path is one church. That's because congregations are shrinking, and raising the money needed for a mortgage to purchase one of the churches is more realistic under a single, united parish.

It's a divisive issue, and no one is talking on the record. 

CBC News learned that a meeting was scheduled for Thursday morning, with representatives of both parishes making a pitch to the archbishop on why their respective church should be saved.

The meeting was to take place at 9 a.m. at the archbishop's office, but it did not go ahead as scheduled.

It's not known if the meeting was rescheduled.

Peter Hundt is the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The only thing known for sure is that the church's footprint in Mount Pearl will soon shrink in a big way.

"Each side doesn't want to lose their church," said one longtime member of St. Peter's. CBC is withholding their name. "Each believe theirs is the right church."

The parishioner said "nobody wants change," but there seems to be agreement that it's no longer viable to maintain two churches in Mount Pearl.

Hundt has declined interviews throughout this entire insolvency process, but he'll have to make a decision — a tough one — very soon.

The total claims have not yet been finalized, but it's expected to be in the range of $50 million.

Lawyers for the victims want the sales process to keep moving along, and a Supreme Court judge is expected to sign off on a number of sales, including the basilica, next week.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: Terry.Roberts@cbc.ca.

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