After hearing the news that an Elliot Lake Catholic church was chosen to close its doors, many residents are left wondering what will happen to the establishment and their place of worship.
The news came on Nov. 3 that Paroisse Ste. Marie Church will be closing in mid-February. Parishioners will be able to continue their routines at Our Lady of Fatima Church. Seeing as Paroisse Ste. Marie Church is French, services will continue for the French Catholic community until the closing day and will continue at their new location.
The Bishop of Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, Marcel Damphousse, explained that due to the lack of parishioners and with the church not being elderly accessible, the decision was a hard one to make.
“This decision I am announcing is a very difficult one to make,” said Damphousse. “It’s mine to make as the Bishop. I wish I didn’t have that decision to make but as the Bishop, it is mine and the last thing a Bishop wants to do is close down a church. We had to choose between two beautiful parishes. We don’t have the means to keep both parishes open.”
With the tentative date now set, many are left wondering what will happen in the coming months.
“After more than half a century, we learn the imminent loss of our church, Paroisse Ste. Marie in Elliot Lake,” said parishioner Luc Cyr. “This church that has served us all these years since my childhood has been chosen to be closed. Where I have made my first communion, French Catholic confession and confirmation will not be there. For this I share in the sorrow of this day with all the members of the parish who always continue to contribute to the membership of the parish.”
“Very sad day. I remember going there with my dad,” said Loretta Roper. “We would alternate between the French church and Our Lady of Fatima as my mother didn’t understand French. My sacraments were all made there. My son was baptized there as well.”
“It doesn’t matter what church we pray in, as long as we Catholics continue to pray,” said Lise Lamontagne. "All under one roof, separate for language barriers, it doesn’t matter. We’re a family.”
The decision to close Paroisse Ste. Marie Church wasn’t a decision that came easy. Many factors were considered on deciding which one would continue.
“Both churches have pros, and both churches have cons,” said Damphousse. “The fact remains that Ste. Marie isn’t what it used to be.”
“To be completely honest, I’m glad this decision to close the French Catholic church was made because I have been having a difficult time getting to mass and have not been able to attend in a while,” said Richard Ziminski. “I now have a walker and it’s hard for me. There’s too many stairs.”
Before mid-February, six people will be chosen to form a committee: three from Paroisse Ste. Marie Church and three from Our Lady of Fatima Church. Their responsibilities will include deciding on how to proceed with the merger.
Damphousse explained that three organizational models will be taken into consideration:
- Have a shared building, meaning the two parishes would coexist in one church but still remain as separate parishes
- Have a full merger, meaning the two parishes are abolished and all Catholics will unit to form one new parish with a different name
- Have one parish amalgamated, meaning one parish is subsumed into the other one with one parish remaining.
Those interested in submitting their comments, concerns or questions can do so by writing a letter or email to Damphousse.