The 114-year-old St. Malachy’s Church in Kinkora, P.E.I., needs repairs that it can’t afford, but an anonymous donor is chipping in to help preserve the parish. Photo courtesy of Patrick McSweeney

Anonymous donor to the rescue of P.E.I. parish

  • August 16, 2015

A recently launched capital campaign at St. Malachy’s Church on Prince Edward Island is getting a helping hand from outside the parish community.

After being tipped off that the Kinkora parish was considering selling off its rectory and 100-acre farm to pay for renovations and to combat a deficit, a member of the Community Foundation of P.E.I stepped in to offer to help.

“(The donor) is a big believer in preserving history,” said Patrick McSweeney, chair of St. Malachy’s capital campaign.

“St. Malachy’s parish is one of the few parishes left on P.E.I. that does still own the church, the house and the 100-acre farm and he wanted that to stay together. So he advised that he would match what we raised up to $25,000 a year for five years for a total contribution of $125,000 under the stipulation that we don’t sell the house and the land.”

The donor — who wishes to remain anonymous — also stipulated that he will only match individual gifts that are less than $5,000 per year.

“He wants us as a parish to work hard to raise our portion.”

If the parishioners can pull together to max out the matching gift that will give them $250,000 at the end of the five-year campaign. McSweeney hopes to add another $125,000 from “tier two donors,” former parishioners who’ve left the island and “done very well.”

Where the parish won’t be getting donations is from the Diocese of Charlottetown.

“The diocese is pretty much saying to all of the little churches basically it is sink or swim,” said McSweeney. “If the parishioners can’t keep and support your parish being open then you as a parish will decide to close it.”

Fr. John Molina, chancellor of the diocese, confirmed that while the diocese supports and endorses the capital campaign there just isn’t any extra money in the diocese’s bank account to maintain any of its 53 parishes.

“While we fully support the fund-raising initiative of St. Malachy’s ... at the moment the Diocese of Charlottetown does not have a specific fund to aid the maintenance and upkeep of parishes,” said Molina. “It is really difficult for some of the communities to maintain some of their own buildings. But they are the owners of their own parish and if a community is not able to sustain and keep a building for the parish then they have to ask themselves the hard question.”

Money raised through the capital campaign will be put towards addressing various renovation needs of the 114-year-old church, including repairs to the roof, repainting the exterior as well as some cosmetic work inside.

McSweeney said anything left over will be used to re-establish a cash reserve for the unforeseen, like when the heating system needed replacing this past winter, which forced parishioners into the community centre to celebrate Mass for a month.

“Up until the last 10 years we had a bit of a bank account” for that kind of stuff, said McSweeney, who also sits on the parish finance committee.

“Years ago we used to do what they called a fall campaign where we went out and dropped off envelopes to everybody. So we had built up a bit of a kitty of money and I think we sort of got lazy and stopped doing that.”

While the campaign has not garnered much in terms of actual dollars just yet, he is confident parishioners will give to the campaign, which officially launched in July when letters were issued to each parishioner.

“We’ve had some really positive responses,” he said. “We’ve received some pledges and we’ve had other people who’ve indicated to us that they would be making a pledge in the fall. In September the committee plans on regrouping and following up on the letters. We thought we’d give people the summer to think about it.”

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