Fr. Jim Haley stands outside St. Peter’s Church, which is undergoing repair work to its bell tower. Photo by Erin Morawetz

St. Peter’s turns to community to raise $400,000 to fix bell tower

By  Erin Morawetz, The Catholic Register
  • June 20, 2012

TORONTO - The bell tower of St. Peter’s Church in downtown Toronto may be crumbing, but Angela Barbieri hopes the parish’s generosity of spirit still remains strong.

Barbieri is heading up a fundraising campaign in hopes of raising the $400,000 necessary for the repairs to the 87-year-old church. The bell tower was in such dire need of repair that the archdiocese of Toronto has loaned the church half of that amount to begin the work right away.

Scaffolding now surrounds the tower as workers have begun the repairs to the church.

Barbieri said the response to the fundraising campaign by parishioners has been, thus far, very positive.

“They understand that we have to come together as a group,” she said.

Barbieri considers herself a new parishioner at St. Peter’s. She moved to the midtown Annex, the neighbourhood around the church located at the busy Bathurst and Bloor intersection, four years ago, and chose St. Peter’s as her new spiritual home.

“I was looking for a parish to be part of that community,” Barbieri said. “I liked St. Peter’s because everyone … has been very friendly and welcoming, and it really is a community there.

“I’ve inherited this beautiful church … and that was from the generosity of past parishioners. Now it’s my turn to pay the church forward and show the generosity of new parishioners.”

Fr. Jim Haley returned to St. Peter’s in July 2011. He had been both the associate pastor and the pastor on different occasions in decades past, and has seen many changes in the parish population. He said he’s hopeful that today’s parish will support this campaign. 

“It’s really to preserve the church,” Haley said. “Without the tower, the church would go. People see the necessity of doing this.”

Haley said despite being what he describes as a middle-class parish, the people have always been very generous. The fundraising campaign provides households of all incomes with a simple plan of how they can help to the best of their ability over the next five years.

For Haley, it’s about more than just the bell tower’s structural issues. 

“The bell tower is the face of the church, facing onto Bathurst,” Haley said. “It’s a symbol of the Catholic Church in this area of the city, right at the heart of the Annex.”

As for Barbieri, she sees good things to come for the future of St. Peter’s.

“My hope is that we continue to deliver services to the downtown core of the Christian community,” Barbieri said. “I hope we continue to thrive and that our numbers grow.”

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