Thursday, April 19, 2007

Saving Assumption.

In today's edition of the Windsor Star, the daily newspaper serving the Ontario city right across the border from Detroit, there's a story on the ever-worsening structural damage threatening Assumption Church, a venerable Roman Catholic parish I know well from my time in the novitiate. As the Star reports, the constant flow of commercial traffic on the nearby Ambassador Bridge is causing significant stress to Assumption's 133-year-old sanctuary:
Church faithful have already remarked upon the phenomenon of "the wandering filing cabinets" at Windsor's oldest Roman Catholic Church.

But, says Rev. Paul Walsh, pastor of Assumption Church, the annual displacement by a few inches of the office's "500-pound" cabinets does not call for exorcism. Nor is it a sign from above. It is, he says, more likely explained by incessant vibrations from transport trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge overhead.

While the priest of the region's most historic place of worship, founded in 1728 as a mission on what is now Huron Church Road near the banks of the Detroit River, says it is difficult to blame the big rigs for all the damage done to the building's structure, he adds the constant rumbling may be a significant contributing factor.

Walsh said preliminary exploratory work is being done to assess what renovations may be necessary to restore the landmark building. He suggests the cost of shoring up the structure, repairing cracks, stone cutting and brick work may amount to $6 million. But, he says, restoration is imperative.

"The current building is the fourth church built on the site," says Walsh. "It's the oldest in Canada west of Montreal. The bell tower and sanctuary were completed in 1874. You need to go to Quebec to find any other church as historic. It's a legacy, irreplacable."
Read the rest here. Assumption Church is a place near and dear to my heart, and I'll be praying for the success of the parishioners' efforts to raise the considerable funds needed to save their historic building. Unmentioned in the Star article - but referenced in this post from my old weblog - is the fact that Assumption was founded as a Jesuit mission and was served off and on by priests of the Society of Jesus for over a century. Though the Basilian Fathers have pastored Assumption since 1870, the parish's Jesuit heritage is still attested to by historical markers at the entrance to the church and in nearby Assumption Park, where you can also find an unusual modern sculpture of several Jesuit blackrobes that I wish I had a picture of.

As a novice, I frequently attended Mass at Assumption and came to have great affection for the parish. Assumption's historic link to the Society of Jesus, the beauty of the church building, the quality of the liturgy and the invariably excellent homilies I heard there always drew me back to the parish in spite of the fact that I had to cross a national border and pay a two-way toll to get there. I'll be praying for the people of Assumption as they work to raise the money they need to save their church, and I hope you'll do the same. AMDG.


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