A restoration project that cost nearly $ 2 million not only restored St. Mary’s Church in Campbellford, Ont., To its former glory, it also strengthened the strength of the parish community .
St. Mary’s parishioners kicked off their fundraising efforts, raising half of the funds needed for the restoration even before the project began and have since reduced the debt burden to $ 720,000. At the same time, the parishioners have built and strengthened the community.
The current church, under the official name of the parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was built in 1900, 11 months after a fire on Christmas Eve 1899 destroyed the original building. But over the next 115 years, the deterioration of the historic limestone building necessitated major renovations totaling nearly $ 2 million.
Like their ancestors when the original church was destroyed, parishioners rolled up their shirt sleeves and looked after themselves as well. Pledges have been made and fundraising has started for the massive project over the past 10 years. When the dust settled, St. Mary’s was in debt of just over $ 1 million.
Pastor P. Bill Maloney, who has only been at the ward for 14 months, is delighted with what he has seen in such a short period of time. Since Maloney has been in the parish, he has found the community to be very welcoming, dedicated, loyal and very eager to get involved in fundraising efforts. Even throughout the pandemic, the parish made significant inroads that reduced the total debt to what it is today.
“The parish continues to fight debt for submission,” said Maloney. “It is easier to raise funds for a project in the planning and implementation stages. It is much more difficult to raise money for debt. Dances, bake sales, dinners, serving meals to livestock buyers and farmers at auctions, yard sales, concerts, prayer a-thons were just some of the many activities over the years. .
One such initiative that highlights the spirit of parishioners is Mary’s Closet, a store that opened in the rectory on July 17 and sells second-hand clothing and other household items to help the community. The buzz around the store has grown over the months and the clothes are donated by parishioners and those of the community at large. Open only one day a week, Saturdays, Mary’s Closet offers clothing for men, women and children as well as books, puzzles and appliances. One weekend in October, the store brought in $ 900.
The initiative has drawn everyone from weekend thrift stores to parents looking for a bargain. Wearing children’s branded items, which sell for between $ 1 and $ 3, targets those who may be in financial difficulty and could benefit from the ability to purchase branded items at a fraction of the cost.
“I think it’s a great way to build community because we attract people of all ages, religions, ethnicities,” said Theresa Miller, co-director with Peggy Clark of Mary’s Closet. “We have a really large sample of the population coming in, so that’s great. Members of the parish are also volunteers. We are only open on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., but we also hope to open on another day in the week.
The Holy Smokes firewood initiative is another creative way parishioners fundraise while nurturing spirits as a community. In August, parishioners cut logs and stack them in blocks. It took four mornings and at one point there were five chainsaws running and three people stacking blocks. After letting the wood sit for a full month, 21 people gathered a few Saturdays in September and October to divide it into firewood. When the job was done, 18 and a half cords were split and stacked. The wood will harden and will be sold next year.
“Even though it was hard work, there were a lot of smiles and laughs, especially during the coffee, muffin and apple breaks,” said Maloney. “It was not the diet of the 5,000 but everyone was fed on many levels.”
Not all initiatives have been about raising funds to repay the debt. In the tradition of those with Irish roots, the parish instituted the Parish Potato Patch. The Mahoney family in the ward loaned land and the Oates family donated seed potatoes. The volunteers gathered on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour to hoe, pick up stones or help rid the plot of bugs from the potato. In the end, the 300 pounds of seed potatoes produced 990 pounds of potatoes which benefited food banks in Campbellford, Havelock, Hastings, Marmora, Norwood, Stirling and Warkworth, as well as a soup kitchen. local in Peterborough.
“The Holy Spirit is alive and active in Campbellford in St. Mary’s despite COVID-19,” said Maloney. “In a nutshell, there is still a debt of $ 720,000, but like the Israelites who traveled 40 years and finally arrived in the Holy Land, St. Mary’s will repay that debt and then meet the next challenge, whatever it is. With the Lord by our side, nothing is impossible.
The Diocese was happy to see not only the support of the parish through fundraising efforts, but also to know that it is coupled and supported by an active and sacramental prayer life.
“I think the community is really undertaking this as a long-term project to which they will devote their constant efforts and work,” said Deirdre Thomas, director of communications and deputy to Peterborough Bishop Daniel Miehm. “It will be done little by little. I think the continued good work they are doing will pay off a lot. “
With a social justice approach and a focus on the common good, parishioners have been very responsive to the needs of the poor, Thomas said. Parishioners looked for ways not only to bring people together around fundraising efforts, but also to serve those less fortunate..
Anyone wishing to donate can call (705) 768-0844 or (705) 653-1093 or visit saintmaryschurch.info.