Engineers have ordered Montreal’s St. Gabriel’s Parish closed due to structural damage to the church’s tower. Google Street View

Montreal landmark church ordered closed

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • September 10, 2020

MONTREAL -- Structural engineers have ordered one of the oldest churches in Montreal that serves an English-speaking, working-class congregation to close its doors because its central tower could collapse at any time.

St. Gabriel’s Parish, a landmark in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood for 120 years, was about to undergo $1-million worth of renovations. But because of COVID-19, the materials needed for repair have become increasingly hard to come by and much of the work has had to be postponed. 

Although the church was not being used for Sunday worship because of the pandemic, the wardens were given 48 hours at the beginning of the month to vacate the building and the rectory next door. 

“The tower, it’s falling, it’s crumbling, it’s coming down,” said Gerry Tibbo, the church’s warden.

St. Gabriel’s grew out of a mission chapel built in 1870 to serve an Irish immigrant community in an area known as the point. The parish was founded in 1875 and the present building opened in 1891. The interior burned in 1956 and was rebuilt, although the exterior remains unchanged. 

“It’s a gathering point for the Irish community within the heart of Montreal,” parishioner Danny Doyle told CTV News. “It’s about religion and all that, but it’s more about the community, the glue of Pointe-Saint-Charles, that just sticks there and it’s in your blood.”

The church is perhaps best known as the gathering  point for the annual “march to the stone” which honours the Irish immigrants who died in 1847 escaping the famine in their homeland.

The parish is anlso known for the annual Mass of Anticipation, the week before the St. Patrick’s parade. 

A food bank that serves about 100 people has already moved out of St. Gabriel’s rectory and found a new home in a vacant dollar store across the street.

Sr. Dianna Lieffers, who runs the food bank, says the future of the operation is unclear.

“We don’t get any government assistance. The people know our food bank, and we have such generous people it floors me,” she said.

“Today someone walks in with $5,000 in cash to give me. These people are from the Pointe. You couldn’t find nicer people than here.”

Meanwhile, as it has done in the past, the congregation will again share the church immediately next door, Eglise St. Charles, with a French-speaking congregation.

The parish is still trying to place Fr. Murray McCrory, the parish priest emeritus, in a retirement home, but because of the pandemic, the 93-year old priest has remained living in the church’s rectory.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.