The Holy Spirit inlay in the carpet at St. Brigid’s Church reproduces a tile inlay beneath, said Fr. Carlos Augusta Sierra Tobon. Photo by Michael Swan

St. Brigid’s ready for vibrant second century

  • October 17, 2020

Fr. Carlos Augusto Sierra Tobon says the 100th anniversary of St. Brigid’s Catholic Church will honour “the past, present and future” of this place of worship nestled in Toronto’s Danforth Village on Wolverleigh Boulevard.

In a way, the Colombian-born Sierra has been venerating St. Brigid’s past, present and future for 11 years, considering he’s overseen numerous renovation and refurbishment projects since becoming pastor in 2009. Changing the pews and carpeting, installing a slate roof, building a parking lot and repainting the church building are several of nearly 20 restorative initiatives undertaken during Sierras tenure — so far.

While many modifications have been implemented, the structural elements that imbue this house of prayer — founded in 1920 — with a singular building character remains.

“We have the ceiling of the church made out of wood, and it’s very beautiful,” said Sierra. “There is also a wonderful simplicity to the unadorned arches and columns. The outside of our parish is made of stone, and today there is no way you could (build) a church like that. We also cherish our stained-glass windows that depict the lives of many saints.

“We can say we have invigorated the church so it is ready for the next 100 years, and we are happy about this work.”

Assuming the role of “builder” was not just limited to directing physical construction projects. Sierra also had the responsibility to forge a vital parish community. The closure of neighbouring St. Catherine of Siena Church in 2009 to merge the two parishes complicated this process.

“We wanted to build one community merged from two parishes. There was lots of strain. Many efforts were needed due to St. Catherine of Siena’s difficult closing and the unpreparedness of St. Brigid’s Church to receive the parishioners of the former parish. For lack of better words, it was perceived as an ‘invasion’ and not so much a merging,” he said.

Sierra said it “took about six or seven years” to blend the two parishes into one community,” but St. Brigid’s “has come an exceptionally long way.” Acknowledging the damage caused by the church’s abrupt closure and hosting community events to foster fellowship were two measures that helped this process of fusion ultimately succeed.

St. Brigid’s has a relatively diverse congregation today as Italian, English, Irish and Filipino parishioners make up the assembly. Italians are even offered a liturgical celebration in their native tongue every Sunday.

The upcoming centennial was put on the’ radar at a Mass in November 2019 as a group of congregants — some had a relationship with St. Brigid’s that stretched back about half a century — was invited to provide living testimony about their years as a parishioner in a Q&A event.

A gala night and other centennial celebrations are potentially on the horizon after the COVID-19 outlook considerably improves in Canada’s most populous city.

Sierra is delighted the festivities will officially begin with a commemorative Mass on Oct. 25. Cardinal Thomas Collins will preside over this special liturgical celebration starting at 11 a.m. A livestream of the centennial Mass can be seen at St. Brigid’s Facebook page.

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