Above: St. Jean Baptiste Fundraising Committee member Simonne Chevalier spoke on the update of the church, fundraising committee, and the event to be held May 14 at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. – Lucie Roy Photo
by Lucie Roy
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St. Jean Baptiste Fundraising Committee will host a FUNdraiser Extravaganza on May 14 at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. The event is a variety show featuring comedian Don Burnstick, Chance vocal group, Two Bad Apples, juggler Jordan Imgrund-Harvey, the MCHS Drama Llamas, and cohosts Justin Pautonnier and Ed Bulger.
Tickets are available through Ticket Pro with pricing depending on donation level and closeness to the stage.
St. Jean Baptiste Fundraising Committee Simonne Chevalier said a Book of Names, into which every person who helped make this event a success, will be recorded for generations to witness
“You will forever be a part of history,” Chevalier said. “The bells will ring again.- that is our goal. We want to see the steeple and hear the bells ring again.”
Of the nearly 400 people from Morinville and the area who took part in a recent survey, more than 95 per cent voted for a steeple and bells. Many people commented how much they missed hearing the bells and seeing the steeple as they left Morinville and again when they came home on their commute.
“It is a tradition in the Catholic Church to recast the bells should they be damaged like these were, but there is no one left in Canada who does this.”
The church, destroyed by fire on June 30, had four large bells. The largest is 48 inches across. The bells fell in a heap of twisted metal with a couple of bells still attached. Another bell fell near, but they had to dig for the fourth.
“On the morning of the fire, as I stood in tears across the road watching the steeple and bells fall to the ground amongst the sparks and flying ashes, my heart ached as did everyone around me,” Chevalier said. “There was sadness, anger and a feeling of loneliness at this devastating loss.”
The committee did find a company in Maryland that sells bells, but the company is not interested in recasting the existing bells because they said they would never sound the same. However, the company said it could tune new bells to sound very close to the originals.
Chevalier said they are thankful no one was hurt and that neither the rectory, the old convent, nor any other buildings burned.
“Do we know who did it? Not a word from the police. They only say it is under criminal investigation. We do not know if an accelerant was used,” Chevalier said.
“I know it was just a building, but this one had 114 years of memories. Thousands of baptisms, weddings, funerals, graduations and Christmas celebrations were held in the church over the 100 years. No amount of crying will bring the church back, so we have to move on.”
Chevalier said the committee would do what those who built the church did – start from scratch.
Many of the bricks of the church were saved and have been made available as part of the fundraising activities.
When the site was tested, vermiculite was found at the north end, and although that was not the case in the rectory area, the entire site was condemned, which meant not a brick or timber could be salvaged.
“That was unacceptable for many,” Chevalier said, noting they had the site retested at their expense and learned the bricks from the front section were safe. “We had a brick picking bee to clean and stack those bricks for future use. We salvaged 13 pallets, about 8000 bricks. It was a mixture of whole, chipped, and broken pieces.”
Chevalier said people asked what was happening with the bricks and said there were offers from bricklayers to take 10,000 of them to build something for the community. Others said they would take them off the church’s hands for no charge.
“Mostly, people just wanted one,” Chevalier said. “It was something from the church that brought back precious memories, a piece of history.”
The committee gave one brick to a woman who was dying of cancer. “She so wanted a brick or even a piece of rubble by her bedside, offering comfort on her final journey,” Chevalier said. “Her sister said she felt at peace knowing it was there.”
Once it was determined there were not enough salvaged bricks to use in the rebuild and the fact they were compromised, they decided to share them with everyone to help raise funds for the rebuild.
In total there were 494 bricks boxed by the St. Jean Baptiste Fundraising Committee. There are 240 Premium red for a donation of $100 (92 left), 28 Premium white for a donation of $100 (16 left(, 60 Standard red for a donation of $75 (57 left), and 16 standard white for a donation of $75 (10 left). There are also 75 large fragments for a donation of $50 (70 left), and 75 small fragments for a donation of $25 (70 left).
All purchases of bricks are eligible for a tax receipt. Those interested in purchasing one can contact the St. Jean Baptiste Parish.