Hundreds gathered in Harbour Grace this past weekend for the last chance to worship at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 4, vehicles filled the streets as citizens from the town and the region came for the last service inside the Catholic church.
In October it was announced the cathedral, which has stood in Harbour Grace for hundreds of years, had been purchased by Craig Flynn and Brenda O’Reilly – owners of Yellowbelly Brewery and O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in St. John’s – to be used as a hotel, spa and brewery.
The cathedral has been vacant for a number of years. Sunday afternoon was a last chance for people to gather there to hear the story of the cathedral, enjoy some musical performances and simply appreciate the building for what it is, was and will be.
Bishop Anthony Daniels noted in the Sunday service the decision to sell the church was not a popular one among parishoners.
“It was not a recommendation they (church) wanted to make, but it was one they felt they needed to make,” he said. “So we come to a time when . . . as loving parents, we’re handing off to new parents this precious building.
“In doing so, we’ve come to know Craig and Brenda, and their love for this building, as well as their commitment to treasure it, restore it and to give it a new life.”
Daniels added it was the help of many people who volunteered with the church’s restoration committee that kept the building going for so many years.
He said without those efforts, a decision such as this would have been made long before now.
Don Regular, a resident of Harbour Grace, said the next step for the building was a great opportunity for the town and, if done correctly, could mean a new chapter for the town.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the people in the community, and the community itself. It’s good to see people coming into Harbour Grace who want to make something of this building,” he said. “The opportunities for a building like this are kind of limited, but when you have individuals who want to come in and develop it, then that’s great; (a) great day for the town of Harbour Grace.”
Regular added he believes this could be a turning point for the town.
“It depends on how the development goes, and the reception from the public – not only here in Harbour Grace, but people who come and visit from in the province, or even outside the country. The chance is there for this to become something very worthwhile, as long as it’s developed well.”
While there were plenty of smiling faces in the cathedral Sunday afternoon, some of the crowd admitted to having mixed feelings.
For numerous people from the region the church has been a setting for monumental events in their personal lives; weddings and christenings among them.
Angela Hammond, a resident of Riverhead, told The Compass although she sees great potential in what the building will become, she knows there are some people who may not be as excited.
“There are definitely some mixed feelings here,” she said. “But, I do think this could be really good for the town, too. I’d rather see it change and become something new instead of just being left here and forgotten about.”