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Western Quebec church hopes heritage status will help town pay for repairs

The hundred-year-old Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue church in Perkins, Que., is closing on May 1. Parishioners are hoping to raise the funds necessary to repair the old building. (Réseau du patrimoine de Gatineau et de l'Outaouais - image credit)

The more than a century-old church in the village of Perkins, Que., is closing its doors next month until it can raise the funds it needs for repairs.

Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue, which sits within the municipality of Val-des-Monts, is set to close on May 1.

President of the parish council Louise Plouffe says she doesn't know how long the building will be closed, but the parish will continue to gather in a room at the elementary school in Perkins, l'École du Sommet.

Over the years, there has been structural damage to the church, according to Plouffe, who told Radio-Canada it has now become a danger to those who use it.

The pandemic drained the parish's resources and the number of churchgoers declined sharply in the last few years, which means it will take time to raise the necessary funds, Plouffe said.

"We face huge expenses and we do not have the financial means to pay them. In this case, these are major repairs, some urgent, which will exceed a million dollars," Plouffe said in French.

Heritage designation being considered

The church is talking to the municipality of Val-des-Monts about the idea of transferring ownership of the building to it.

"It is a jewel of the town and the municipality would like to take it over and transform it into a community environment," Plouffe said, adding the costs of doing so are prohibitive to Val-des-Monts.

"But it does not want to undertake such major repair work, because its means are not enormous either, Plouffe said.

However, the town is looking at officially recognizing the building's heritage value, after which it can apply for cultural funding from the province of Quebec to help with the church's restoration.

Plouffe expects the rest of the money would come from community fundraising.

Once the project is finalized, the town would own the building and it would be used both as a gathering space for worship on Sundays and to host community activities.

"We will do our best to save the building and return it to the municipality for community use," Plouffe said.

More than a 100 years of history

Built in 1906, the Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue church was designed by Charles Brodeur, an architect from Hull, Que.

Dominating the hamlet of Perkins, the church is visible from afar with its silver steeple and tall brick structure. It replaced a chapel first erected in 1857.

When the church welcomed its first resident priest, sermons alternated between French and English, as the parish at the time had a large number of Irish miners, according to the website of the heritage network Réseau du patrimoine de Gatineau et de l'Outaouais.

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