June 28, 2021
Brothers and sisters of St. Gabriel’s parish
It has now been 10 months since I was named your pastor And it’s been an unusual time to say the least We’ve lived through the worst of the pandemic. We’ve been unable to use either the church or the rectory because of structural issues On the positive side, we have been blessed to have received the hospitality of the St. Charles community in order to worship here in this church and have office space in the St. Charles rectory This has been a blessing in these trying times and for this we are grateful.
When I wrote you a letter last November, I indicated to you that our St. Gabriel’s Church community has a mission to proclaim the Gospel, to educate our children in the faith, to celebrate the sacraments including the eucharist, and to serve the poor. And we’ve done this, with Sister Dianna, Deacon François, the wardens, the volunteers, with you, the parishioners.
I indicated in that letter that we had two basic questions to answer about our physical plant: the St. Gabriel’s Church building and rectory. How much will it cost to get back into the Church for worship and how much to regain use of the rectory.
We have a better sense of these costs today With regard to the Church itself, there are major structural issues with the foundation, the walls, and the east tower. If you simply walk down La Prairie and look at the west wall, you can see plainly what I’m talking about. A ballpark estimate for repairs of the foundation, walls, and tower exceeds $3 million. In discussing this with the wardens, we agree that even with all the good will in the world, these kinds of costs far exceed what the parish could ever hope to pay.
A second question was whether the east tower of the Church could be stabilized such that for a period of three to four years, we could regain use of the rectory, but not the Church. Again, estimates vary, but just to stabilize the tower for the short term, we are talking about at least $ 150,000. In discussing this with the wardens, we are in agreement that such a short-term expenditure would not be a prudent use of our very limited financial resources.
In terms of costs, the other matter we looked at was how much are we paying today to keep the church and rectory closed, heated, with lights and power, and insured as required by law. Costs are higher in the winter months, but from January through March, we were spending $ 9,000 per month to maintain two closed buildings. This is excluding salaries; just minimal safety requirements.
So I am speaking to you today, on behalf of the wardens, and in my own judgment as pastor, and with a heavy heart, it is time for us to recommend to you the parishioners, and to the archdiocese that we should close permanently the St. Gabriel’s Church building and rectory. We should seek other ways to use the church building and rectory for the benefit of the people of Pointe St -Charles, and we should begin the conversation with the parish of St. Charles about a new and permanent relationship with them involving two communities of faith, one French-speaking and one English-speaking, sharing the St. Charles church and rectory as we move forward. In this way, while the buildings may close, the St. Gabriel’s parish community will continue here in the Pointe.
I’m the first to admit that this is going to be a hard thing for many parishioners and former parishioners to say goodbye to a church building that was the place of so many special moments: baptisms and first communions; confirmations and weddings; special events and of course funerals. There will be time for us to celebrate and honour a history that is over a century old. I believe that we can honour the past, but I also hope that we can celebrate our present, and plan for our future.
We’ve just come through our annual celebration of Ascension and Pentecost. With Ascension, the disciples needed to say goodbye to their past with Jesus guiding them day by day during his public ministry. For them to go forward as apostles with a mission, he needed to ascend to the Father, and to send them the Holy Spirit that they received in Pentecost. For the feast of Pentecost is all about mission, about the Church’s future. This decision about St. Gabriel’s, as hard as it is, is also about our future, and I believe it can be a future with hope. As we read in the prophet Jeremiah: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. ” (29:11) After mass, I’d ask you to just stay around a bit to share your thoughts and feelings.
I want to stress that for the moment, nothing is decided. I am only indicating where our discernment is leading us. Today is the time to talk to you as the members of this faith community; as well, I need to write a letter to the Archbishop and wait for some guidance from him as to how we go forward. The parish will need your participation and your prayers as we face the next steps in this challenging process. So pray for me as your pastor and for one another that in the words of the prophet we may receive from the Lord plans for our welfare, to receive a future with hope.
Sincerely in the Lord,
Timothy Scott, CSB, pastor