Our Lady of Assumption Church in Windsor, Ont., is ready for the next phase of its revitalization. Photo courtesy Assumption Parish

Assumption reno counts on fresh flow of cash

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • December 8, 2019

WINDSOR, Ont. -- With phase one of renovations complete church officials are now moving ahead with the next phase of repairs to 177-year-old Our Lady of Assumption Church — but they’ll need to dig into some deeper pockets to complete it.

The $1.5 million first phase consisted of a new roof, new heating system and asbestos removal, and the church, mothballed five years due to severe structural deterioration, has now reopened.

The second phase is the restoration of the church ceiling including paint and plaster. The parish, the oldest in Canada west of Montreal, has embarked on a new fund-raising campaign to pay for it.

With $1 million in hand after the first phase costs came in lower than expected, officials are seeking at least $450,000 — for a total of $1.45 million — to begin the second phase. They hope to have funds in hand to start the work after Easter.

“It’s more than cosmetic, it is a substantive piece of work that needs to be done,” Paul Mullins, a lawyer who has voluntarily overseen restoration and fund-raising activities, told reporters Nov. 29.

But that $1.45 million would only pay a portion of phase two’s costs. 

It would cover repairs to the ceiling above the church’s east aisle. But there are two remaining sections — one being the ceiling above the west aisle, the other the ceiling above the centre aisle, the sanctuary and two side chapels. Altogether, phase two costs could come in between $3.5 and $4.1 million.

“We don’t have the money to be able to undertake all that work at this time,” Mullins said. So, the immediate focus is just on paying for the ceiling’s east side repairs. 

Church officials generally have been cautious in their fund-raising, raising only enough money to undertake specific work, pay for it, then move on to the next set of repairs.

While phases one and two could cost a minimum of $5 million, entire church renovations could total as much as $20 million and take several more years to complete. That work includes exterior brick and masonry, stained glass window repairs and a rebuild of the Sacristy.

To obtain the second-phase money the church will apply for City of Windsor heritage funding and to the Ontario Heritage Trust, Mullins said.

And it has also launched a campaign to seek individual donations. 

Donors giving $1,000 or more will receive a replica star of the kind that appears in the church’s art-filled ceiling. And those who donate $10,000 and $25,000 will receive framed photographs of the church’s chandeliers and of its angels and saints.

Mullins said officials are optimistic they will receive support based on successful fund-raising to date.

He said donations for the first phase were “really encouraging,” including $160,000 from more than 600 people during an inscribed copper roof shingle campaign. He said this was a “very positive sign of the health of the parish and the sustainability going forward.”

Among other donations have been $1 million from the Diocese of London, an earlier City of Windsor donation of $250,000 and two major private donations totalling $350,000.

Mullins said he hopes the fact the church has reopened — weekend Mass attendance is up to 950 from 800 previously — and the parish is now a member of a major city-wide charity that aids in community improvement, will demonstrate Assumption’s viability and its ecumenical commitment.

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