Letter to the Editor, The Ottawa Citizen, February 22nd 2007

Dear Editor,

Re: A downtown without churches Ron Corbett, Saturday, February 17th 2007

In his article in Saturdays Citizen, Ron Corbett has raised both a question A downtown without churches? and a cause disappearing urban congregations. I add further information to help clarify what has become, for some, a regrettably bitter and litigious matter: the closing of St. Brigids parish in Ottawa.

Firstly, the Catholic community of Ottawa has affirmed its desire to be present in the centre of the city. In the ten-year period that will end in 2009, our community will have spent nearly 20 million dollars in the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral and of St. Patricks Basilica. Notre Dame is not only our mother church which was built by both the Irish and French Catholic communities, it has become one of the iconic symbols of our Nations Capital. For generations, St. Patricks has been the principal home of our Irish Catholic family. To this day, St. Paddys Day is celebrated there with due pomp and Irish cheer. Less than 2 kilometres from St. Brigids, in addition to Notre Dame, there are three other Catholic churches that offer services in English.

Secondly, the Filipinos who worshipped at St. Brigids did not choose St. Brigids Church. They worshipped there because of the presence of one of our priests of Filipino origin who celebrated Eucharist in their native language. They remind us that our multicultural Church is, first of all, pastors and people.

Finally, much could be said about the history of St. Brigids Parish, including the fact that the Irish Catholic community decided to build their own church (St. Brigids) when the Cathedral became overcrowded. Today, both St. Brigids and Notre Dame are far from being fully used the fate of many downtown churches. It is not true to say that St. Brigids is being sacrificed for the sake of the Cathedral. As Archbishop Marcel Gervais has affirmed on a number of occasions, every Catholic is free to worship where he or she chooses. It is the Archbishops desire indeed, the desire of many Catholics that St. Brigids Roman Catholic Church find a new owner and, perhaps, a new use that will honour and restore its original beauty, now obscured by the ravages of time.

Rev. Msgr. Kevin Beach
Vicar General
Archdiocese of Ottawa