Blessing Ceremony of the New Rectory at St. Mary’s Church

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It’s taken longer than expected, but the new, state-of-the-art rectory at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Owen Sound is finally ready to move in.

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On Sunday, Bishop Douglas Crosby, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, ninth bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, was in Owen Sound where he officially blessed the new parsonage.

Neil Devlin, chairman of the parish building committee, said they never imagined the whole process would take five and a half years, but they are happy to be at the end and proud of the building they have . The priests are expected to move in on Friday.

“We could always see progress and we knew we would get there,” Devlin said. “The brick went on, then the roof went on, then something else happened, so we knew it was coming.”

About 50 people attended Saturday’s events, which included hymns, gospels and prayers in the church. Crosby was then joined by Father Wojtek Kuzma as they walked through the new parsonage and Crosby sprinkled the various rooms with holy water.

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“Wait until you see it,” Crosby told those in attendance. “It will be a wonderful home for priests.”

Crosby said he loves to visit Owen Sound and has done so many times, and the newly built parsonage will serve the priests well.

“It was worth the wait, because artisans take time to do their craft,” Crosby said. “You will see that they have been very, very successful.”

Bishop Douglas Crosby, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, ninth bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, right, blesses the newly built St. Mary's Rectory with Father Wojtek Kuzma, priest of St. Mary's Catholic Church, in Owen Sound on Saturday, November 12 2022 .
Bishop Douglas Crosby, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, ninth bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, right, blesses the newly built St. Mary’s Rectory with Father Wojtek Kuzma, priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in Owen Sound on Saturday, November 12 2022 . Photo by Rob Gowan The Sun Times

After the ceremony, all those present were invited to visit the newly constructed building.

Participants walked from the church, through the sanctuary and apse and across a wooden “bridge” lined with windows to the new presbytery.

The new, ultra-efficient 5,000 square foot one-story building features large windows, thick insulated walls, and large open common areas, including a dining room and kitchen, library, and lounge. The doors open onto a patio and the church grounds.

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At the end of a long corridor are three suites for the priests, independent of each other with their own rooms, toilets and heating and cooling systems. Across the hall are two guest bedrooms with a shared bathroom.

The basement, which will be finished later, is to house three more suites for priests who choose to stay at the presbytery upon retirement, Devlin explained.

The newly constructed St. Mary's Rectory in Owen Sound on Saturday, November 12, 2022. On Saturday, Bishop Douglas Crosby, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton blessed the rectory, which is in the process of putting the finishing touches on it.
The newly constructed St. Mary’s Rectory in Owen Sound on Saturday, November 12, 2022. On Saturday, Bishop Douglas Crosby, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton blessed the rectory, which is in the process of putting the finishing touches on it. Photo by Rob Gowan The Sun Times

The decision to demolish the old 7,500 square feet. parsonage in the spring of 2021 was a difficult but necessary decision, Devlin explained.

On Saturday, it had been five years, six months and 28 days since he and others had been approached to sit on a committee to explore options for the rectory. Their first meeting was on May 17, 2017, with the committee’s first agenda to assess the old rectory to see if it could be renovated.

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Devlin said it was an eye-opening experience, as engineers discovered that the exterior walls of the old building were bulging and held together by steel rods and plates. A 40-year-old steel beam endoskeleton had been added to the presbytery to separate the second and third floors from the first.

“The plumbing was old, the wiring was suspect, and the original builder had installed the interior plaster directly to the exterior brick walls, with no framing or insulation on the interior walls,” Devlin said. “It was no wonder it cost the parish a considerable sum each winter just to keep residents warm and water pipes from freezing.”

Upon further examination, it was discovered that the plaster was held together with asbestos fibers and horsehair, a definite health hazard. The steep and curved stairs were also dangerous for the priests to maneuver.

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A restoration would have cost millions of dollars and the findings were passed on to the parish, which voted 95% in favor of demolition and replacement.

While Devlin said he was sad to see the original building go, they retained part of the original rectory as part of the new structure, with bricks from the 148-year-old building incorporated throughout.

Devlin said the nearly three-year-old COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas about their ability to meet a construction schedule, bringing its fair share of supply chain issues, delivery delays and supply shortages. workers.

“We couldn’t get plywood and even drywall was scarce because factories were closed during COVID,” Devlin said. “We had to queue. It felt like everything was conspiring against us and it was probably the worst time to build.

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“I’m sure everyone who did a project said the same thing.”

In a speech at the ceremony, Devlin joked that they had managed to beat the time needed to build the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by three weeks.

But even though construction was taking longer than expected, he said they could at least see progress along the way. He attributed the company’s success to the hard work of engineers, various contractors led by general contractor Allen-Hastings Limited and architect Grant Diemert.

“I lived in eternal hope that this day would come,” Devlin said. “There was a lot of frustration, but we just had to keep aspiring and that’s where we are today.”

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Martha J. Finley