Bell Tower Update

Dear parishioners of Ste-Anne and townspeople of Mattawa,

It has been 6 weeks since we received the official report from AKDG Ltd. that our bell tower is structurally compromised and dangerous. We also received a pro bono report from Bryco Eng. Ltd. agreeing with the report from AKDG. If you have not read this report or seen the pictures of the rotten columns and bending steel, please visit https://stannemattawa.com/bulletin/2019/3/2/8th-sunday-in-ordinary-time.

In the time since receiving that report, we have consulted three different construction companies to get estimates on the cost of taking down the tower. The estimates range from $55,000-75,000. This cost includes removal and disposal of the bell tower materials, engineered demolition plans, and the demolition permit.

Salvaging the current structure, unfortunately, is not possible, because of the nature of the deterioration and the design of the tower. In the 90s, the upper portion of the tower was taken down because of rot, the bells were removed and then returned when a casing in the tower had been assembled. That project cost the parish about $70,000. The tower is now being entirely taken down because the legs are rotten. To rebuild the tower according to its current design would require complete disassembly, new architectural drawings, and reassembly with a steel frame. Such a project would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now, the next question is what happens after the tower is taken down? For at least the next year a new bell tower will not be built. This is for two reasons: 1) We do not currently have a bishop, because Bishop Mulhall is now Archbishop of Kingston, and we cannot move forward with a new building project of this scale without the approval of the bishop. 2) The financial situation of the parish needs to improve. For the past few decades, the upkeep of the parish has fallen upon the shoulders of a few dozen faithful people who continue to come to church on Sunday. They are generous, but it’s a big church and it costs a lot of money to maintain it. Just in the past 5 years the parish has received $380,000 in subsidies from the diocese in order to pay for necessary repairs and to pay for the maintenance of the parish. There are still other projects, such as leaking roofs, crumbling stairs, meeting fire safety codes, meeting handicap accessibility codes, and a broken furnace, that need to be done that take precedence over a new bell tower, so we must be patient.

I am not saying that there won’t be a new bell tower. Some people seem to think that I am outright opposed to a new tower. That is not the case. The bells are a treasure. The reason we have bells is to call people to prayer. I prayed the angelus when the angelus bells rang. I was at church when the bells rang calling people to Mass. I was praying with mournful families when the funeral bell tolled. I love the bells, and I want to hear them again. Therefore, I ask two things of you: 1) Please be patient. This challenge is not going to be overcome in a few weeks. 2) Come to church on Sundays and support the parish. The bells will only stay in Mattawa if there is a parish in Mattawa, and there will only be a parish in Mattawa if people come to church. Sentimentality doesn’t build churches or bell towers. Faith builds churches and bell towers, and faith must be lived according to God’s teachings; otherwise, it is no faith at all (cf. James 2:14-26 & 1 John 5:1-5).

As we approach the most Holy Week of the year, I pray that there will be a renewal of faith in Mattawa. Throughout the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church there have been many highs and lows, times when most people practiced their faith and times when few people practiced their faith. The Church has persevered through all of those challenges by remaining faithful to the teachings handed down by Jesus Christ to His Apostles. The same is true for individual parishes. Parishes that are rooted in Scripture and the Sacraments - baptizing their children, confessing their sins, worthily receiving Communion, being faithful to marriage vows, and living out the promises of their Confirmation - thrive. Ste-Anne Parish could thrive again, it’s up to you.

Scott Murray