Roofers work atop St. Thomas Aquinas Church at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. Photo courtesy of Fr. Chris Cauchi

Securities gift makes roof a reality at Newman Centre

  • November 2, 2014

Fr. Chris Cauchi is raising funds to raise an 88-year-old church roof, and thanks to a major donation the heavy lifting has become easier. 

The estimate to replace the roof installed in 1927 on St. Thomas Aquinas Church at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre is $500,000. When apprised of this daunting figure, Cauchi had to remind himself to “breathe in — hold it, hold it — and then breathe out.” 

Then he broke the news to his congregation and others about the church’s need. He said a prayer and, a short time later, an anonymous donor stepped forward with a gift of $100,000 in securities. Repairs are now well underway. 

“Definitely an answered prayer,” said Cauchi, pastor at the Newman Centre. 

The only information the archdiocese has released about the donor is that it is someone who has a love for making churches beautiful and that the funds were donated in the form of securities. 

Cash is the most common way to support the Church and its charitable causes, but many people find it beneficial to donate a gift of securities (stocks and bonds, for example). Giving securities has the advantage of allowing the donor to escape any capital gains tax that might be owed on securities that have appreciated after their purchase. The key is to not sell the securities first, but give them directly to the charity. 

Similarly, people can help fund church renovations and other causes with donations made through will bequests, endowments, life insurance and registered retirement savings plans. Each method has its own requirements, so donors are recommended to seek professional advice to determine which method is best for them. 

“We’re very grateful for the support that we receive from people like this gentleman (or lady) and so many others that we don’t know, but they certainly are part of what we do and we’re very grateful for them and we pray for them every day,” Cauchi said. 

The St. Thomas Aquinas Church was opened in 1927 and its copper and slate roof has been leaking for years, said Cauchi. It’s now at the end of its life after years of patchwork repairs to address dry rot and falling slate. The full extent of the damage was only revealed after consultants were hired. 

“It was only once they removed the copper roof, the exterior part, that we could see the extent of the damage of the three layers of wood,” Cauchi said. And then a “scary moment” happened; a worker’s foot went through the roof. During the removal of the copper roof in June, it happened again. 

“The copper is the top of the line, but nothing lasts forever,” said Cauchi. 

The decision was made to install a pre-finished standing seam metal roof, new waterproof underlay, gutters, rainwater leaders and snow guards to stop ice and snow from falling off the side of the building, plus make other repairs, replacements and safety precautions. 

The parish must raise another $80,000 towards the project. The remainder of the money will be loaned from the archdiocese. The roof should be completed by the end of 2014. 

St. Thomas Aquinas is a one-storey limestone church built in 15th-century Gothic style. Its interior is monastic, with rows of pews on either side of the church facing each other instead of the altar. 

Today, the building is part of the Newman Centre Catholic ministry on U of T’s downtown campus. 

“It’s such a landmark here right on campus. And the location is remarkable. It enables us to fulfill our ministry more effectively when you have such a great location. I think it’s our responsibility to continue to take care of this great place that we inherited,” said Cauchi. 

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