If you stand in the Sobey’s parking lot in Clayton Park… looking towards the Canadian Tire store… you’ll see an amazing sight! Canadian Tire has a steeple! It’s definitely an institution in our country… but a religion? Oh… hang on just a minute… keep heading around the back of the parking lot and low and behold… it’s the new Saint Benedict Parish… opening this weekend to the delight of the parishoners who have worked tirelessly and proudly to turn a dream into reality.
In 2007, it was determined that a new Catholic church was needed to serve the Fairview, Clayton Park and surrounding population. Three previous parishes… Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Lawrence and St. Pius X were sold. Plans for the new church began to take shape. Fundraising has been going on for a few years, with the last year being a HUGE campaign for the parishoners of the three churches. And now… they should indeed rejoice!
While I’ve not entered a church, except for three weddings and a funeral (give or take a few) in the last number of years, I am looking forward to returning. It might sound selfish to some… that I chose not to be there until the new church was built… but that’s not it at all. For years my faith has not faltered. I’ve continued to pray, not only when I was in trouble… but just for the sake of saying “thanks” now and again. I’ve wanted to return to church… but there’s always something standing in my way… and to be honest… it’s mostly laziness (which is one of the sins so I’ll say an extra prayer tonight). When the new church started… I made it a personal goal to return when the building was complete. As I’ve watched the building grow day by day… it’s opened communication with my children about religion, and brought me to the point that I’ll be walking into the church in the coming days.
I feel I have to explain myself for one simple reason. While the parishoners and staff of St. Benedict Parish have worked non-stop to get this massive undertaking off the ground… have fundraised and given graciously… have gone to mass from one church to another week after week as properties have been sold and closed… I’ve sat back (along with many other people) and said “I’ll go when the new church is built”. I’m sure that’s gotten a few people annoyed! You’ve been fundraising and working hard to see this job to the end… and I show up when all is said and done! Look at it another way… some of you have secured yourself a spot in heaven with your efforts… I’ll have to work a little harder if I’m to get a spot up there with you! I look forward to being part of the community again… thanks for everything you’ve done… seriously… a hearty thank you for everything you’ve done. I hope you’ll embrace me and the rest of us “lazies” when we get there! I’ll help out where I can… don’t be afraid to ask! I’m ready. Isn’t that what they say…. “Build it and they will come”…. we’re coming! Move over and make room!
For those of you like me… who’ve been watching this construction site for several months and are curious about what’s going on… I’ve got a bit of information I can share with you. There’s a lot of history in that brand new building that you might be interested in hearing about.
I’ll start with a story about the beautiful steeple. For awhile there it was a tiny iron structure sitting on the side of this enormous church… waiting for a crane to carefully place it where it belonged. My kids asked me what it was… and well… God forgive me (see… I pray!) but I told them it was the Gazebo! They weren’t impressed with me when it finally found its home on the roof of the building… seems they’d told a few of their friends the Gazebo story!
The beautiful bell in the bell tower came from St. Lawrence Parish, the altar from Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the cross on the outside of the building is from St. Pius X. Some of the solid wood doors came from St. Joseph’s Church in the North End of Halifax after they closed them in 2006… how wonderful that the doors will be opening again. The pews as well are from St. Joseph’s… which was completely destroyed in the Halifax Explosion and later rebuilt. There’s history in those seats. The exquisite stained glass throughout the building was recovered from Mount Saint Vincent’s motherhouse and St. Joseph’s… it will be stunning when the sun comes through the windows surrounding the cupula… and the choir is situated in front of a bank of spectacular glass windows. The wooden floor in the “gathering room” was made from the wood from the pews at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Baptismal Font was made from the communion rails. There’s so much more… but you’ll have to visit yourself to see!
For the last five years, wreathes and flowers have adorned the light post on the corner of Radcliffe and Dunbrack streets where Jonathan Reader died, August 7th, 2005… the victim of an unsolved murder. His family has kept his memory alive by holding a vigil at the site each year. There will be a tribute to Jonathan on the church grounds… it seems fitting.
The church is built with the community in mind. There is an area for community involvement… a hall within the building… a stage… a gathering room… an area for relaxing and reading. There will be new ways of socializing… receptions… community involvement. Put on your Sunday best my friends… we’ve got some celebrating to do!!!!
Sunday, May 16th at 4:00, Archbishop Anthony Mancini will celebrate the Opening and Blessing of the new Saint Benedict Church . Mass will be approximately two hours. People are encouraged to arrive early and walk if you live close… it will surely be a packed house (and a packed parking lot)! The parish will also be hosting an Open House on May 19th from 2-4 and 7-9. Check the website for other Open House dates and times. Regularly scheduled mass will begin the weekend of May 22nd.
For those of you reading my blog from Spain, the Phillipines, Dubai, Germany, United Kingdom, United Sates, other towns in Nova Scotia and provinces in Canada… come visit sometime! St. Benedict Parish prides itself on multiculturalism as there are multiple nationalities that make up the congregation. During the celebratory mass on Sunday, parishoners are encouraged to pray the Lord’s Prayer in their native language.
Congratulations to Father Bernie O’Neil… I told you I’d come back! I’ll see you next week, get some sleep (and thanks for being there for me this year… even when I avoided you!) Congratulations to Father Ed Grant and staff members Robert Doyle, Dinah Simmons, Betty Gillis, Lynda Roberts and Joanne Thibeau… you have brought this dream to reality! Enjoy the coming weeks as you settle into your new offices… your new home. To all the parishoners who’ve been part of this from day one… Thanks! I’ll see you at mass (probably the 11:00 one as 9:00 is just a little too early for my liking!) And I might join the choir… I hear Patrick Salah is doing an amazing job!
Canadian Tire in Clayton Park is under new management. If you haven’t been there lately… the store looks fantastic.