PETIT DE GRAT: Although it looks much different these days, those overseeing the renovation project at a local church are very pleased with the results.
Earlier this month, HBJ Contractors removed the steeple, cross and bell from St. Joseph’s Church in Petit de Grat.
Project lead Robert Fougere said the need for repairs was identified in the early 2000s.
“The main building was alright but the steeple area, we noticed some years ago, we had issues there,” Fougere recalled.
After a storm displaced siding from the steeple more than a decade ago, Fougere said parishioners noticed “quite a bit of rot” in that section.
“We tried to find the leak… we had a couple of projects trying to correct the problem, we had new flashing installed around the louver part of the steeples,” Fougere explained. “We thought we had the problem solved, but in short order, we found out that it didn’t fix anything.”
After twice trying unsuccessfully to make repairs, Fougere said parishioners decided during a public meeting in 2015 that something had to be done to finally solve the problem. At a subsequent public meeting, Fougere said parishioners decided to remove the steeple.
“Having spoken to different contractors, they were all in agreement that if the steeple was taken down, and the roof of the church was finished, or the steeple part was finished to meet the existing roof line of the church, that would solve the problem,” Fougere said.
Fougere said those supporting the removal of the steeple had financial considerations.
“As an aging community, and as less people participate in church, there was always the financial question,” Fougere noted. “I don’t think the community now can afford to build a steeple or to maintain a steeple.”
Fougere said a crane was rented for two days to remove the cross, then the dome was moved in one piece, next the four sides of the steeple were taken down one at a time. The next morning, the bell came down. Other than the crane, Fougere said the Zoom Boom proved invaluable and efficient.
“I’m very happy with the work, extremely happy with how it went,” Fougere said. “The weather was favourable, that’s always a concern when you’re dealing with a structure of that magnitude and height.
“Everything went like clockwork.”
HBJ Contractors planned the steeple removal for most of the summer, he noted.
“We had a good group of workers there, very dedicated to what they’re doing,” Fougere stated.
“From what I could see, it was a very well planned project.”
Other than a $5,000 donation from St. Joseph’s Credit Union, Fougere said St. Joseph’s Church was also promised approximately $11,000 from Isle Madame’s municipal councillors prior to the 2016 municipal election.
With this phase complete, the next phase of the project involves replacing the section of the interior around the steeple by doing painting and putting up trim. There are also plans to expand the entrance area by removing pews at the rear.
In responding to some of the negative reaction at the change in the appearance of the church, Fougere noted that the louvers on some Richmond County churches are currently being covered as other buildings deal with similar leakage issues. He also noted that the bells within the steeples no longer serve the same purposes they once did.
“It changes the look yes, the building doesn’t look the same but when I walk inside, it’s the very same building,” Fougere added.