Clergy at forefront of campaign to raise $300,000 for Toronto seminary repairs

  • March 12, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - After nearly 100 years, the stained glass windows that dazzle the St. Augustine’s Seminary chapel are showing their age.

As their 2013 centennial approaches, the seminary hopes to raise the $300,000 needed to have the chapel windows repaired before the frames and fills deteriorate completely.

“They had bulged and bowed due to the deterioration of the lead connectors — they could either fall out or be irreparably damaged,” said Fr. Tim Hanley, one of three window restoration committee members leading the fundraising project. Hanley is pastor at Our Lady of Grace in Aurora, Ont.

Hanley, whose uncle and cousin preceded him as St. Augustine’s seminarians, hopes to preserve the windows, which are part of “a great sense of history and a great sense of tradition.” But more importantly, he said, “We speak of the stained glass windows as playing a central role in our formation.”

Hanley said studies of the entire seminary were done several years ago and since then, the archdiocese has helped out with major repairs, including to the chapel roof.

So for the windows, the seminary decided to turn to its alumni and has been asking for donations from priests since September.

But to Betty Bujold, a parishioner at St. Bernadette’s in Ajax, it didn’t seem right for the cost to fall on the priests’ shoulders. For her, the need to help was automatic.

“To me it’s the laity that should be raising the money,” Bujold said. “I don’t know if the priests are afraid to ask, but they would find if they asked their parishioners, they would be more than happy to help out.”

Bujold, after going to see the windows with her pastor, decided to host a fundraising breakfast and luncheon.

Parishioners cooked the food themselves, had many of the items donated and charged $10 a plate, with no costs to reimburse, she said. It’s something the parish does every year for other causes so why not this — especially as it’s the Year for Priests and this is one opportunity to show support she added.

Other parish contributions have brought donations for the restoration more than $11,000.

“It’s such an easy thing to do — others could do the same,” she said.

For priests and seminarians, the chapel is an important part of their seminary education and the windows play a part in that, said Fr. Dominic Barber, vice-rector of the seminary.

“For all of us who come through the seminary, it has to be the heart of the whole process of discernment which really involves a relationship with our Lord. Obviously there are all kinds of ways in which you can experience that and counter that, but there’s something special about opening yourself to that in prayer, in the chapel, where the Eucharist is celebrated,” Barber said, adding the coloured light streaming through the windows add sacredness to the quiet “oasis of prayer.”

“I can definitely say the whole growth and surrender and trust and faith in what God is doing in my life and in the church and so on has certainly been deepened in my time in the chapel there.”

In the fundraising campaign, the seminary highlights a quote by Pope Benedict XVI: “Our faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows. Standing without, you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any; standing within, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendours.”

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