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Anglicans and Catholics to share one church for Christmas after structural issues force one to close

'It is beautiful when people live the Gospel, and that is what is going on here'

In true Christmas spirit, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Callander will welcome its  Anglican neighbours to share its church, after structural issues made the Anglican church unsafe.

Not having a home to celebrate Christmas was a worry for Rev. Kevin McAllister, incumbent at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Callander, after the 131-year old building faced a number of safety concerns.

St. Peter’s is looking for a new home and had its eye on the funeral chapel on 87 Lansdowne Street, but that has fallen through according to Archdeacon Jay Koyle.

See: Will Callander become a town 'absent of hope?'

St. Peter’s Church, built in 1890, was temporarily closed by the Diocese of Algoma, to review current issues with the church building.

Some floor joists and beams have come under scrutiny.

"The concern was that if too many people were in the building, would the beams underneath the floor be safe," explained Koyle.

"A structural engineer was brought in to examine the present loading, make a site visit, and prepare a report," he told BayToday. "The conclusion reached by the engineer was that the joists and beam are significantly undersized and would not meet the requirements of the current Ontario Building Code."
His opinion was supported by the observations he made when he visited the church and noticed significant ‘checking’ in the main beam, as well as a ‘sag/bounce’ when walking along the main floor.

"Archbishop Anne Germond was very grateful for the diligence shown by parish leadership in undertaking the study. With the information provided, she determined it was prudent to take immediate action. Therefore, effective December 15, the space was no longer to be used for worship or any other gathering."

She wrote to the congregation, “Please know that I did not make this decision lightly but in the interests of the health and safety of the congregation. As your Bishop, I do not want to take the chance in allowing you to continue worshipping/gathering in a space that is this unsafe, and I hope you will receive my decision in the spirit in which it is intended. It comes from a place of deep love and care for your wellbeing.”  

So, with Christmas celebrations up in the air, the Anglican congregation turned to their Catholic neighbours at St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church, located across the same street in Callander.

“I knew we had to do something to help,” said Fr. Daniele Muscolino, Pastor of St. Alphonsus Liguori since 2018, “so we’ve opened our home to our neighbours in time for Christmas.”

Both Fr. McAllister and Fr. Muscolino have been working together to arrange a seamless transition for both communities.

“The Catholic community has shown incredible grace and hospitality in our time of need by giving us a home,” said Fr. McAllister, who only recently arrived at St. Peter’s Church in October.  “Our community being without a home brings to mind the struggle of Mary and Joseph who had no place to go, appropriate for this time of year.”

“Our community of Callander is strengthened when we work together, and so is the faith we share in Jesus Christ,” said Fr. Muscolino, “as we anticipate the birth of Jesus that brings joy into our lives, we’re happy to share that joy with our brothers and sisters at St. Peter’s.”

Both Bishop Thomas Dowd, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, and Archbishop Anne Germond, of the Anglican Diocese of Algoma, have expressed their approval and delight of the new arrangement.

“It is beautiful when people live the Gospel, and that is what is going on here” added Fr. McAllister.

Two sides have established a good rapport and relationship according to Archdeacon Koyle.

"So it didn't come as a surprise to me that this happened, but we were quite delighted that they showed this type of hospitality to our people given that we had to close down the church pretty quickly because of serious concerns around safety issues in the building."

The lights at St. Alphonsus will be shining bright on Christmas Eve, as St. Peter’s will offer an Anglican service at 5 p.m., while St. Alphonsus will celebrate Catholic Mass the same evening at 8 p.m.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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