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St. Josephs parish to dedicate impressive new church on Sept. 11

by David Meyer

FERGUS - It takes a long time to erect something as important as a new church, but Father Ian Duffy, of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church here knows it is worth the wait.

Bishop Douglas Crosby will help dedicate the $6.4-million edifice on St. David Street at the north end of Fergus at 3pm on Sept. 11.

Duffy is hoping the church, which seats 515 people and is a much needed expansion of the previous church on George Street West, will be packed for that event.

“That’s exactly what I’m hoping for,” he said in an interview. “Nothing would make me happier than to have standing room only.”

Duffy has led the parish for the past five years, but he said the building of the church goes back much farther - all the way to 1984 when the parishioners began raising money to replace their too-small building.

The resulting building is a mix of the old and the new. One small but prominent modern feature is a portable defibrillator that can be used for heart attack victims. It is near the main entrance.

Duffy said a group began fundraising and the “first installment was made May 31, 1984.” The building committee “in one form or another, has existed for at least 10 years.”

The impressive building is almost instantly noted for two features: it is large, light and airy, and there is a lot of wood used in it.

Duffy said architect Andy Baczynski, of Young and Wright IBI Group Architects  of Toronto, likes to incorporate a lot of natural light into his designs. “That’s sort of his trademark.”

Baczynski worked with Duffy and the building committee on the design.

The light is courtesy of a skylight that allows a great deal of sunshine into the church. As well, the stained glass windows from the old church were brought to the new one and the way they were used allows even more natural light.

“It was important to us to incorporate the windows from the old church,” he said.

But the design set-up means the old glass windows were placed inside other clear glass in a big frame, to allow even more sunlight into the church.

Duffy said the crucifix and two statues in the adoration chapel were also brought from the old church.

The adoration chapel is to the rear of the nave (the seating area) and allows people “to come apart and spend a few moments in quiet prayer.”

As for wood incorporated throughout the church, Duffy said St. Joseph was a carpenter, so that motif was a natural choice. The wood is Canadian, because St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of Canada. In this church, the wood is mostly fir, cedar and oak.

Four rows of wooden pews are angled to face the altar and they were built by The Valley City Furniture Company of Dundas. The altar and sanctuary furnishings, including the Baptismal font, are from Bramante Studios in Kitchener.

Kembic Construction Inc., of Richmond Hill, which has built many churches, also built this one.

St. Joseph the carpenter might have appreciated in particular the Stations of the Cross. Duffy explained they were copied from 17th century German woodcuts.

The altar is also decorated with motifs that tie the church to the Fergus community. Duffy said it is “probably the most significant part of the church.”

The marble-topped structure contains four symbols carved into it. They are:

- front, a maple leaf, symbolizing St. Joseph’s status as Patron Saint of this country;

- back, the lily, a Marion symbol, as Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary;

- side, a thistle to show the connection to Fergus, founded as a Scottish community and “reminding us we have a duty to preach the good news to our community”; and

- the other side, a shamrock, symbolizing the first Catholic immigrants to come to Fergus and establish a Catholic Church.

Finally, there are relics from three saints set beneath the altar: Those are Marguerite Bourgeoys (the first Canadian born saint), Marguerite d’Youville (the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame) and André Bissette, Canada’s newest saint.

The tabernacle was saved from a church that was closed in the 1920s. It was refurbished by DiCarlo Religious Supply Centre in Toronto.

While the church is not officially opened yet, there appeared to be a steady stream of visitors to see how it is coming along.

Duffy said he finds it difficult to believe how much interest there is in the community.

“If I go into Zehrs or Tim’s, someone will always comment and ask how the church is coming along,” he said. “I’m amazed at the excitement of the people here.”

The congregation broke ground for the building in May 2009 and the shovel used in that ceremony has a place of honour in the new community hall just to the side of the nave.

There is also a public hall to one side of the nave. Duffy said it will be used for meetings and social functions. It can hold up to 200 standing or with theatre seating, and about 90 seated to dine. It also has a fireplace. Duffy called it “a setting for us, as parishioners, to enjoy one another’s company, and it will be made available for wedding showers and baby showers” and other social events.

He said there are several already booked.

There is a Confessional room, too, where people can take that sacrament in the traditional way, with a barrier between them and the priest, or, more informally, sitting in a comfortable chair and facing their confessor.

Besides a huge entrance area, there is a large space for people to enter and socialize prior to heading into to the nave.

There are statues made of fibre glass, coated in bronze, decorating both sides of the church. One is of the Madonna and Child, and the other St. Joseph.

There is an outdoor Prayer Garden on the side of the church closest to St. Joseph Catholic School. It has a statue of Jesus with two students, which was donated by the school.

The Catholic Church is doing much building in the Hamilton Diocese. Duffy noted St. Joseph’s will be the second church to be dedicated in this year by Bishop Crosby, who is only the ninth bishop in the Hamilton Diocese’s history.

Holy Cross Church in Guelph was opened in February.

The old church

Duffy said the old church is now for sale, although, with replaced windows, and it served the parish all winter and will continue to do that until the new church is dedicated.

He said the plan is to sever the part of the property that is the old cemetery, with the building itself to be sold.

The cemetery, he said, will receive perpetual care from Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Hamilton.

He added that burials for parishioners has taken place at the Catholic section of the Elora cemetery since the late 1800s. The last recorded burial in the Catholic  Fergus cemetery was in 1873.

Duffy said it has been both a tiring and an exhilarating  experience to oversee the construction of a church.

“There’ve been a few sleepless nights but it’s been very exciting,” he said.

And what will come next for the parish priest who helped oversee such a huge project.

“I’m hoping to be able to stay for a few years,” he said. “But, of course, it’s the bishop’s decision, not mine.”


September 2, 2011


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