PETIT DE GRAT: With this community’s parish hall now re-opened following upgrades that occurred during a two-month closure period, the pastoral unit overseeing the Roman Catholic Church’s Isle Madame operations and assets is hoping to reach an agreement regarding the use of two nearby athletic fields.

St. Joseph’s Parish Hall re-opened on April 24, after Stella Maris Pastoral Unit (SMPU) got the green light from the insurance company contracted by the Diocese of Antigonish. The diocesan insurers had abruptly shut down the hall on February 23, after the company informed the Catholic organization’s insurance broker of the need to address safety concerns at the hall, particularly in regards to entrances and exits.

Contributed photo
Alderney Point contractor Hubert David (pictured) and an army of volunteers from Petit de Grat and the surrounding communities addressed issues with St. Joseph’s Hall in Petit de Grat over the past two months.

With Alderney Point contractor Hubert David and an army of volunteers from Petit de Grat and the surrounding communities addressing these issues over the following two months, SMPU priest Fr. Doug MacDonald was pleased to see the hall re-open last week and is now hoping similar success will emerge from negotiations regarding the two Petit de Grat baseball fields under the pastoral unit’s operation.

The pastoral unit is attempting to address an early-February directive from its insurance broker that “only parish-organized events” are permitted on the unit’s two Petit de Grat ball fields, which have hosted everything including Richmond Amateur Baseball Association (RABA) games, Atlantic and provincial baseball tournaments, a popular annual softball tournament, and Les Jeux de l’Acadie over a period of several decades. At the time, the insurance broker advised that sports-related activities were not covered under the pastoral unit’s ecclesiastical insurance policy.

Speaking to The Reporter in late April, Fr. MacDonald confirmed that negotiations between solicitors for the diocese and the RABA’s Petit de Grat Red Caps were “still underway” and added that the diocese is still willing to work out yearly lease agreements at an annual cost of $1.

“With the proposed lease, the church continues to get nothing out of this arrangement, other than the important value of sport which benefits our people,” said Fr. MacDonald, who noted that the diocese has paid property insurance “for many decades” on the Petit de Grat ball fields.

“The proposed lease automatically renews every year, thus each year flows automatically into the next without paperwork. Every effort is being made to ensure the continuation of uninterrupted baseball and related recreational activities on church lands for years to come.”

Photo by by Jake Boudrot
The Petit de Grat Red Caps clubhouse (left) and a canteen and washroom facility are two of the structures on the property containing the large ballfield in Petit de Grat.

At the same time, Fr. MacDonald defended a diocesan proposal that would prevent activities from occurring on the fields before 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings, noting that “Sunday is the Lord’s day,” and confirmed that another clause has been added to the proposed insurance agreement regarding the closeness of St. Joseph’s Parish Cemetery to one of the fields in question.

“A clause has been proposed to ensure respect for the dead and their families,” the veteran priest explained.

“But to my knowledge, no proposed clause would interfere with the continuation of past use or the composition of teams, including ball tournaments, annual [events], etc.“

Despite the outstanding issues, Fr. MacDonald struck an upbeat tone regarding the discussions with the athletic fields’ various stakeholders.

“I am confident that a fair solution will be reached that is satisfactory to all parties,” he concluded.