CHA warns that St. Pat's is in jeopardy

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CHA warns that St. Pat's is in jeopardy

Postby Bob van Wegen » Wed Jan 25, 2006 3:05 pm

Save St. Pat's

Calgary Herald letters
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Heritage -Re: "Churches' fates diverge," Jan. 7.

The Calgary Heritage Authority recently expressed deep concern about the state of disrepair of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, on Macleod Trail. The outstanding job done by the Midnapore Church of England Society in acquiring, restoring and maintaining the neighbouring St. Paul's Anglican Church is a fine example of what can be done by committed heritage supporters.

The CHA has also written to Gary Mar, Minister of Community Development, requesting assistance in this matter. We hope the owners will take some responsibility for a creative solution to this problem, perhaps in conjunction with an interested group of heritage-minded Calgarians. With the assistance of the St. Paul's support group, the restoration of this important part of Calgary's history could become a reality.

Sheila Johnston,

Sheila Johnston is chair of the Calgary Heritage Authority

Link to information about St. Pat's: ... /index.asp

Link to the CHA: ... hority.htm
Bob van Wegen
Posts: 148
Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2005 12:02 pm

A tale of two churches

Postby newsposter » Fri Jan 27, 2006 10:08 am

A tale of two churches
One has received tender, loving care while the other has endured years of neglect

David Bly
Calgary Herald

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What a contrast between the two little white churches along Macleod Trail in Midnapore.

St. Paul's Anglican Church gleams like a jewel in the winter sun, its surrounding grounds and cemetery neatly kept. About 100 metres to the north, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church stands neglected, the overgrown shrubbery hiding some of the vandalism and neglect that is slowly ruining the old church.

The two buildings could have shared the same fate after their congregations moved to new and larger premises.

But a group of determined Anglicans, led by the likes of Clarence Patton and Neil Brown, stepped in and defied the Anglican diocese which was considering selling the property.

The Midnapore Church of England Society was formed, a reincarnation of the group that built St. Paul's in 1885.

Through vigorous fundraising, and thanks to a hefty donation from the Shaw family, the group saved the building, and has $250,000 left over to generate interest that pays for the upkeep and continuing restoration.

The group won't restore the parish hall, the former St. Martin's church from northwest Calgary which was moved to Midnapore in the 1960s. It has no historical value, said Patton, and it will be torn down.

St. Patrick's is in limbo. The property was sold to a funeral home, with the condition the Catholic diocese would demolish the old building.

Designation as a provincial heritage resource gave the church a stay of execution in 2001, but if something isn't done -- and soon -- time and vandals will do what the wrecking ball couldn't.

Wooden frame architecture from Alberta's settlement era may not be as grand as the stone cathedrals and palaces of Europe, but the two churches are beautiful in their own right.

And worth saving, says Daryl Cariou, senior heritage planner for the City of Calgary.

While wood is not as durable as stone, the prairie climate works in favour of the old churches.

"I like to remind people our climate is almost a desert," said Cariou. "Wooden structures can easily last hundreds of years.

"The problem with wood is it rots if it gets wet and stays wet. With a good roof and a good foundation, a wooden building can have a long life, especially in our climate."

But it's more than architecture that's at stake here. Each of the buildings has its stories, but it's the shared history that makes this spot unique.

Several Anglicans and Catholics gathered at the churches this week to offer their memories and perspectives for this column.

A mixed crowd like this is nothing new -- the Anglicans and Catholics have been helping each other out and intermingling since the churches were founded.

It was a Catholic -- John Glenn -- who donated the land in 1885 so the Anglicans could build St. Paul's Church. His son, Patrick, donated the adjacent land 20 years later to the Catholic community for St. Patrick's.

When Patrick Burns, Calgary's legendary cattle baron and a staunch Catholic, paid for a new coat of paint for St. Patrick's, he reportedly looked over at St. Paul's, and said, "Paint that one, too."

When Samuel and Helen Shaw came to the Fish Creek area in 1883, they brought with them Calgary's first woollen mill, an entrepreneurial spirit, and staunch Anglicanism. Check out the stones in the St. Paul's cemetery -- lots of Shaws there.

The legendary Father Albert Lacombe came to be the parish priest at St. Patrick's in 1909, and he didn't mind associating with Anglicans at all.

"Old Father Lacombe would go over to Granny Shaw's for tea every Sunday after service -- they were great friends," says Bernice Gough Williamson. She's a great-granddaughter of the Shaws, but her father was a Catholic, so Williamson grew up attending St. Patrick's.

"People mingled," says Rosamund Sanderson, whose family came to the Midnapore area in 1912 and were Anglicans.

"Everyone knew each other. I remember if the Anglicans had a tea, the Catholics came to it, and vice versa.

"When the fence fell down between the two churches, my mother said that was the best thing that happened."

No fence divides the two cemeteries -- except for legalities, the two are one.

"There's an imaginary line along here," says Patton, whose parents are buried in the Anglican cemetery and whose grandfather was the contractor for St. Patrick's. "On that side, it's the Anglicans, the other side is the Catholics. But there's people from both churches on both sides."

When fire damaged St. Patrick's in 1970, the Anglicans shared their St. Paul's with their neighbours until St. Patrick's was repaired a few months later.

"The Catholics had their services at 9 a.m., ours was at 11 a.m.," says Betty Hervey.

"Yes," jokes Williamson, "I never knew when I went to church if I was going to have a father or a minister in front of me."

The stories pour out, one after another. Jim and Dot McKevitt were married there. Hugh McKevitt, Jim's cousin, lived across Macleod Trail from the church, and was an altar boy.

Samuel Shaw would play the organ in the Anglican church," said Williamson, but he smoked during the service.

"They told him he couldn't smoke," she says, "so he said he wouldn't play the organ. They had to let him smoke or they wouldn't have music."

In the early 1940s, a man hanged himself in the Pine Creek area. Since the Catholics did not allow suicides to be buried in consecrated ground, the man was buried just outside the cemetery, although Williamson said church officials later denied there was a body there.

"I know there is," she says. "We lived across the road, and I watched as they did the burial. A pile of gravel marked his grave for years, and we would walk past it every day on our way to school. It was right outside the gate."

She points to the spot next to a row of unkempt caraganas. Tucked among the prickly branches is the remains of a fence, and on the post is the latch for the gate.

"There's a body right there," she says.

She looks around the two churchyards that are one in heart.

"There's so much history here."

Some of that history will fade in the next few years, unless someone steps forward to rescue a humble prairie church from the ravages of time.

Contact David Bly at 235-7550 or by e-mail:

© The Calgary Herald 2006
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