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Friday, June 9, 2023

Canada: 4 Newfoundland Churches Sold to Fund Abuse Settlements

Rocked by abuse claims, the archdiocese plans to cut St. John’s parishes from 9 to 3.

Newsroom (22/06/2022 8:30 PM Gaudium Press) Parishioners who attended mass at four Roman Catholic churches in the St. John’s area this weekend learned that their places of worship have been sold. The sale is part of the archdiocese’s sell-off of properties. They may have to close their doors by September.

Catholics were also informed that the plan is to reduce the number of parishes in the capital city from nine to three in the coming months. The move is part of one of the most dramatic shakeups in the 238-year history of the Archdiocese of St. John’s, which has been focused on settling massive sexual abuse claims related to Mount Cashel Orphanage. 

“On Friday afternoon, we were told by the archbishop that St. Pius church and [the former] St. Pius school has been sold,” Father John Sullivan, a Jesuit priest who ministers at the church on Smithville Crescent, told those attending a Sunday that broadcast on the parish’s Facebook page.

Sullivan announced on the same day the parish was celebrating its 60th anniversary, a coincidence he described as “a little awkward and a little weird.”

Parishioners also learned that unknown bids submitted for St. Patrick’s church on Patrick Street, Mary Queen of Peace church on Torbay Road, and St. Francis of Assisi in nearby Outer Cove were accepted by Ernst and Young, the firm overseeing the court-monitored sale of church properties.

“While I am deeply saddened by this news, I think our parish made the best decisions we could have made with the time, resources, and support we had available,” Father James Fleming of St. Patrick’s wrote in a letter to parishioners on Saturday.

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The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court will need to approve the sales, but Fleming wrote “it seems likely that the sale of these properties will proceed as outlined above. If there is a note of encouragement here, it may be that a difficult decision has been made for us, and we can begin looking together toward the future.” 

Sullivan said he expects St. Pius will close at the end of the summer, and “a movement would be required to one of the newly identified parishes.”

More than two dozen properties in the St. John’s region are being sold to the highest bidder as the archdiocese liquidates its holdings to raise money to compensate victims of abuse.

The claims for victims of abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage, and those assaulted by parish priests, are expected to be in the range of $50 million.

The deadline for bids was June 2, and details about the sales process have been slowly trickling out.

A spokesperson for Ernst and Young said Tuesday a full report should be published by the end of June.

The most prominent parcel up for grabs is the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a complex which also includes a private school and a skating rink.

Three organizations with deep roots in the Catholic faith revealed last week that their joint offer of more than $3 million was the successful bid for the basilica complex, which means the buildings will continue to serve their intended purposes. A group of parishioners at Holy Rosary in Portugal Cove have successfully bid on the church, while a new Portugal Cove arts, wellness, and heritage committee submitted the winning bid on the Holy Rosary rectory, parish hall, and most of the property.

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Compiled by Raju Hasmukh


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