An artist’s drawing of the church planned for St. André Bessette Parish in Maple, Ont. Illustration courtesy St. André Bessette Parish

St. André church moving toward reality

By 
  • April 23, 2019

Barely two weeks into a capital campaign to raise funds for the Archdiocese of Toronto’s newest church — named after Canada’s newest saint — about $150,000 has been collected, raising hopes shovels will be in the ground by the end of 2020.

St. André Bessette Parish, named in honour of the Canadian saint who is said to have cured the ailments of thousands and who was instrumental in the construction of Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory, was established as a parish in 2013, although one without a proper home. This capital campaign is the latest fund-raiser to help offset the estimated $14.5 million needed to get the church built on 5.5 acres of land on Major Mackenzie Drive between Bathurst and Dufferin Streets in Maple, Ont., just north of Toronto.

Before construction can start, the parish will need $6.5 million in cash and pledges.

“If our fund-raising efforts go as well as we hope, (it’s) within the realm of possibility” construction can begin by the end of 2020, said pastor Fr. Peter Choi.

The goal is to raise $600,000 in this round of fund-raising. It sounds like a drop in the bucket to meet the initial $6.5-million goal and an eventual expenditure of $14.5 million, but Choi is happy with the early results of the campaign and said it will combine with the $2.8 million parishioners have already raised — an annual spring wine-and-cheese event, golf tournament and fall gala have raised the bulk of those funds. Two anonymous donations will match the $600,000, hoped-for corporate donations as well as bank financing to the tune of $4 million (guaranteed by the archdiocese) and a $4-million interestfree loan from the archdiocese’s Family of Faith funds will get the parish to its final goal.

Ideally, Choi would like to see this capital campaign hit $800,000 to $1 million, but it’s still to be seen if that is realistic.

“We have been finding traction and building momentum so we’re grateful for that,” said Choi.

The parish is currently celebrating Mass at Maple’s St. Cecilia School on weekends, with daily Mass at the rectory. The new church will seat 850 parishioners along with a Perpetual Adoration Chapel with 58 seats.

Choi said it is important that a physical structure is built sooner rather than later so as not to lose touch with St. André Bessette, more commonly known as Brother André.

Born in Saint-Grégoire d’Iberville, Que., in 1845, he became a lay brother with the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He served as doorman at the order’s Notre Dame College in Montreal for 40 years, and his devotion to St. Joseph and reputation for healing drew thousands of people to the tiny chapel he founded in 1914. It eventually grew to become St. Joseph’s Oratory, overlooking Montreal from Mount Royal. He was canonized the first Canadianborn male saint in 2011.

“I try to remind people that St. André Bessette promised, ‘Once I’m in Heaven I’ll be able to do a lot more work.’ I tell people when saints pass from this life they don’t become unemployed, they become even more engaged in the mission of the Church,” said Choi.

“I’m a firm believer that he will intervene in our lives. It might not be physical healing, but certainly the healing of families, spiritual healing.”


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