Demolition beings on St. Agnes Catholic Church in New Waterford Nova Scotia. Photos by Josh Brake.

Demolition begins in the Diocese of Antigonish.

  • August 7, 2014
Demolition of St Agnes Catholic Church in New Waterford, Nova Scotia Video by Cori McIsaac

In the small township of New Waterford, N.S., a parish has fallen. 

On Aug. 4 heavy equipment rained down upon St. Agnes Catholic Church crushing the building almost entirely in minutes. The parish has been closed since 2009 as the amalgamation of the township's six Catholic churches was completed. 

Collins leads people through vespers and lectio divina once a month at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral.

In just minutes heavy equipment destroys St. Agnes Catholic Church in New Waterford.

Photo by Josh Brake

"The process is extremely difficult, as you might expect," said Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn. "It is extremely difficult because people are connected to their own buildings and their parishes."

At least two of the town's five other parishes have closed. St. Joseph's and St. Alphonsus, affectionately referred to as the Stone Church by locals, are slotted for demolition. 

Members of the public have been fighting to save St. Alphonsus since February when demolition intentions were announced, said Fr. Donald McGillivary, director of pastoral planning in the Diocese, 

"The so-called Stone Church, there is a group that wants to take that over and turn it into a community building," McGillivary said. 

The Stone Church Restoration Society has gathered about $640,000 to preserve the 100-year-old building since forming several years ago, before demolition was announced as the building's fate.

While it is New Waterford's steeples feeling the weight of the hammer right now, church demolitions will continue to play out across Cape Breton Island as the diocese struggles to maintain vibrant parishes. 

Sydney, the neighbouring city to New Waterford, recently heard two of its parishes will be closed. The city's St. Mary's Polish Parish, originally scheduled to close in July 2012, continues to hold weekly Masses thanks to dedicated parishioners, but only for "the time being," said Dunn. 

Jazz singer Matt Dusk likens choir school alumni to being part of a group like the Masons, so strong is the bond between its students.

Little remains of St. Agnes Catholic Church as crews unbiasedly smash the holy building.

Photos by Josh Brake.

"It is like a perfect storm," added McGillivary. "We have less clergy to do the work, we have less of an ability to finance the infrastructure that we have, so that is what we have to deal with and that is what we are responding to. What we are trying to do is to keep or develop or maintain viable parish communities where there are enough resources to be able to do what a parish needs to do." 

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