Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Anonymous donor offers up to $1.25 million towards repairs to St. Anne's Church

It’s a particularly thankful weekend for parishioners at Tecumseh’s St. Anne’s Catholic Church after an anonymous donor offered to donate up to $1.25 million towards the building’s restoration.

The church was informed of the offer Tuesday, a day after former St. Anne’s priest Robert Couture was sentenced for stealing from the church coffers.

“It was a bolt out of the blue,” said Rev. Eugene Roy, who felt the timing of the offer was connected to the completion of the legal proceedings.

“It’s been very difficult for the staff having to testify. We went from a feeling of intense morass to ecstatic jubilation.

“We’re just floored. We feel like we’re turning over a new leaf.”

The 143-year-old church needs approximately $2.5 million in structural repairs. Most of that going to repair the east and west walls that have an imprinted stucco covering brick walls.

“The offer is like a lure that the donor hopes will attract other individuals and groups to jump in,” said Roy, who couldn’t say if the donor was a local resident.

“We’d always planned on a campaign to raise more funds to finish the job, we just didn’t think we’d have to launch it this soon.”

The deal on the table for the church is the donor will match up to $1.25 million for any donations raised before the end of October. If the maximum is achieved, that would be enough to address the structural concerns.

Roy said the steeple — which has been sitting on the front lawn of the church for nearly a decade — is a separate item that’ll be the last thing addressed in the restoration. He said it’ll cost about $632,000 to get the steeple back on top of the tower.

“That’s really the cherry on the top,” said Roy, who said the church will have an announcement on the steeple in the not too distant future.

“There’s no point putting the steeple on until we address what are safety issues. Mortar could fall on the sidewalks along Lespearance Road.

“The next step was getting that fenced off before spring.”

Instead, there’s a glimmer of hope that the whole project could be catapulted forward by years.

The St. Anne’s community has already raised $1.2 million to repair the tower and front facade of the building.

Roy said even if the fundraising campaign can get the church to the 70 per cent mark of what’s needed, that would qualify the parish for a loan to finish the work from the Diocese of London.

“This would be put us in a position to complete the other restoration work,” said Roy, who addresses an average of 1,800 parishioners each weekend.

“The indoor of the church is in good shape. We just have to restore the outer structure.”

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