LETHBRIDGE: A group of city residents is mobilizing a protest against the closure of a downtown church. Calling themselves the "save our churches association" the group says it's opposed to shutting St. Patrick's church, located across from city hall, and moving the parish to a multi-million dollar "mega-church." "We have three vital, fully paid for churches that are treasures in our city and they meet our needs at this time," said Grant Algers, one of the association's members.
He and his associates say having localized, neighbourhood churches is a model that better serves the parish, which includes about 3,000 households. But parish priest Tim Boyle disagrees. He says plans to consolidate the three east side churches into one new building have been in the works since 2005, when financial pressures and a priest shortage led to consolidation of the three parishes into one, served only by one priest. Not only that, Boyle says the expense of updating the three buildings to meet the capacity and accessibility needs of today may cost more than building a completely new church. "Were we even to spend money on fixing it up, we'd still be left with inadequate, small, but nice-looking buildings." He adds the diocese is committed to possibly re-opening St. Patrick's one day, but they need to focus on the new property first.
Members of the "save our churches association" question why this church was closed when the new church is still so far away from completion. After two years of fundraising, the parish has raised only $4 million of the total $20 million cost for the 1,200 seat church. The land has also yet to be purchased and approved by city hall, but Boyle says he hopes the land deal to be negotiated by the fall. Meanwhile, the association's efforts should gain steam with a public meeting planned for Saturday, June 25. The meeting will be held from10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Fritz Sick Centre gym.
Photos by Country 95 News: top -"Save Our Churches Association" members Barb Maclean and Grant Algers read the notice of closure sign outside St. Patrick's church downtown.
bottom - Parish priest Tim Boyle says the closure is necessary to focus on building a new church with better parking facilities, accessibility and more capacity.