Nova Scotia

Prospect Old Church Association looks to buy Our Lady of Mount Carmel

A community group in Prospect Village has announced plans to start fundraising in order to buy a former church and hall on a site that has served as a gathering place for the community for more than 200 years.

Fundraising in the hopes the building can serve the community for another 220 years

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax and Yarmouth decided to deconsecrate and sell Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in 2014, in the face of mounting debts. (Jim Lindsey)

A community group in Prospect Village has announced plans to start fundraising in order to buy a former church and hall on a site that has served as a gathering place for the community for more than 200 years.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax and Yarmouth decided to deconsecrate and sell Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in 2014, in the face of mounting debts. Throughout 2015, the church and hall remained open for occasional community events. However, the buildings were closed to all activity in early 2016.

Laura O'Hearn, president of the Prospect Old Church Association, said she grew up in the pews of the church "like my grandmother before me" and she doesn't want to lose the space for community use.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was built by shipbuilders on the South Shore who shipped the pieces to Prospect Village by barge and assembled them on-site. (Laura O'Hearn)

The buildings are "the heart and soul of our community," she told CBC Radio'sInformation Morning Nova Scotia.

"Geographically, socially, culturally, historically, they're right in the middle of our village and it's the only space that we have left to come together as a community and celebrate life and love as we have been doing for the past 220 years."

The second church on the Prospect Village site could seat 500 parishioners. It burned down in 1921. (Laura O'Hearn)

Site of 2nd Catholic church in N.S.

The first church on the site, built in 1794, was the second Catholic church to be built in Nova Scotia following the Acadian expulsion. The small church was replaced by a much larger one that could seat 500 parishioners as the fishing industry prospered in the 1850s. 

Laura O'Hearn hopes to use the church for community events, such as this kitchen party that took place in November 2015. (Laura O'Hearn)

When that church burned down in 1921, community members raised money to build the current building.

O'Hearn said the current church building "was actually built by shipbuilders on the South Shore and then it was shipped here — literally on a barge, I believe — and then put together on site." She said the ceiling was built to look like the hull of a boat.

Plans for purchase

The church is currently listed at $334,900, she said, and the community group plans to make a fair offer that takes the condition of the buildings into account, as well as "the hard work and investment that the community has put into those buildings over the years."

O'Hearn said she is very confident they can raise the money needed to buy the church. The group has also written up an economically sustainable business plan "so that once we do have the church we will be able to maintain it for, hopefully, another 220 years," she said.

From yoga to potlucks

"Prospect is a very active social community. We like getting together to have community meals, music events, potlucks," O'Hearn said, so the primary goal is to maintain the buildings as a community space.

The people of Prospect Village have a vision to transform a deconsecrated church into a community centre 6:55

She said they plan to do regular fundraisers throughout the year, as well as renting out the space for yoga, music camps and research space.

"The beauty of us owning it as a community organization is that as the needs of our community evolve, we can evolve with it and offer what the community wants and needs."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the first photo to Laura O'Hearn. In fact, it was taken by Jim Lindsey.
    Jun 08, 2016 3:16 PM AT

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia