SAINT AGATHA — An assessment of the buildings and grounds of Our Lady of the Valley Parish told the parish what it already knew, but the fall of one brick in the winter of 2016 made the ongoing needs for major repairs at parish churches impossible to ignore any further.
The parish consists of St. Agatha Church, Saint Agatha; St. Luce Church, Frenchville; St. Joseph Church, Sinclair; and St. Michael Church, Birchpoint (summers only).
“Following excessive rain, a brick and then bricks began falling from the front façade of St. Agatha Church,” said the Rev. James Plourde, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley. “The mortar holding the bricks was breaking down. We had done as many repairs as we could by doing a bit of patch work, but falling bricks are a major danger to the parishioners. The time to act had arrived.”
What has followed is an amazing display of generosity from a loving Catholic community that was immediately willing to give back to a parish that has provided them so much.
“We realized the parish budget was not sufficient to cover the cost of repairs,” said Plourde. “So, a number of wonderful parishioners gathered together to develop a plan.”
After obtaining cost estimates for the projects, the parish realized the only way forward was a capital campaign. The campaign goal was set at $300,000.
“None of us thought we could come close to that in a small rural parish,” said Plourde.
But the parishioners, local businesses, and even non-parishioners from the communities gladly offered support to the parish in their hour of need. Nearly $250,000 has already been donated to the campaign.
“The response was overwhelming, and we are so grateful,” said Plourde. “We have wasted no time in addressing the priorities.”
The parish decided to first fix any existing safety issues around the entrances of the churches before focusing on other needed repairs. Thanks to the speed with which the assistance was offered, several tasks have already been completed.
“The costliest project was fixing the facade of St. Agatha Church,” said Plourde. “The facade needed to be torn down some 25 feet, secured to the main structure, and then rebuilt.”
A ramp for people with disabilities and an outside stairwell were replaced and updated at St. Joseph Church in Sinclair and, this spring, repairs will begin to the exterior of St. Luce Church in Frenchville.
“St. Luce Church was built in 1908 and renovated in 1950; St. Agatha Church was built in 1941 after the original church was consumed by fire; and St. Joseph Church was built in 1952. These repairs are long overdue,” said Plourde.
The falling brick has ended up showing how strong and sturdy this special parish truly is.
“We are filled with gratitude for the many contributors who felt compelled to help maintain these sacred spaces,” said Plourde.
For those who have not contributed but would like to help Our Lady of the Valley meet its goal, call the parish at 543-7447 or stop by the parish office at 379 Main St. in Saint Agatha.