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Friday August 29th, 2014

Posted at 1:39pm

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After 172 years and almost a decade of fundraising efforts, the owners of Assumption Church in west Windsor have made the decision to close the building.

In a letter to the parishioners of the church by Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the Diocese of London — the owners of the church building — the Bishop said two fundraising campaigns over the past seven years have been unsuccessful and that prompted the decision to close the building.

“Since 2009, two comprehensive campaigns sought to raise the funds needed to repair and restore this beautiful church,” said Fabbro. “Unfortunately, however, neither the first campaign, which ended in 2012, nor the current one, which just recently ended, were successful in generating the funds we require to proceed with the restoration.”

Parishioners and the community will be relocated to Holy Name Of Mary church on McEwan Street, behind Adie Knox arena.

Assumption Church will be closed November 3rd.

The current church is the fourth building on the site, part of a history of “Assumption” founded as “The Mission of Our Lady of the Assumption among the Hurons of Detroit,” 286 years ago in 1728. The first chapel was built in 1749.

The church successfully raised $3.5 million last fall and work was supposed to begin this spring.

The Diocese released this statement about fundraising efforts:

Scenario Research and Due Diligence

While the support to repair Assumption church was high, it did not translate into the millions needed to restore the church. Parish and diocesan leaders went through many scenarios and options, spending countless hours trying to find one that restored the church in some fashion while not subjecting the community to a debt that could never be paid off.

Some of the questions and options considered included:

What could be done with $3, $4 or $5 million? Since the restoration required is comprehensive, and so many items are tied to each other, a partial restoration would still result in a church that would need to be further restored or closed in the next 10-15 years, or sooner.

What if $7 million was raised and the parish borrowed the remaining $3 million? We ran the numbers multiple times and the result was the same: the parish would struggle to pay off a $1 million loan. A $3 million loan would take decades to pay off, if it could be paid off at all.

Why can’t the diocese cover some/all of the costs of the restoration? The Diocese of London is a charitable non-profit organization, with the majority of assets comprised of churches and the land they stand on, some additional real estate, and the PENTECOST 2000 endowment funds. We are rich in faith and in our temporal assets, but are cash poor.

Why does the church need so much work? Much of the work needed wasn’t fully known until an extensive and invasive building condition assessment was completed in 2007. The work required is very serious, and must be completed by professionals skilled in restoring historic buildings and to historical standards. A partial list includes repairing and repointing the masonry; renovation and restoration of exterior facades; reinforcing the roof structure where it bears on the masonry walls; replacing the roof, eaves and gutters; reconstruction of load bearing walls in the sacristy; plaster repair; upgraded fire separations and other life safety issues; barrier-free access; removal of asbestos; a new storm drainage system and new mechanical and electrical systems.

Why close the church now? The building is essentially on life support. Is the building unsafe? No. We have taken precautions to ensure the safety of parishioners and staff, but the deterioration will continue. A fence has been installed around the perimeter of the building to safeguard against any potential falling debris. A team of professionals examined the building and removed any loose stone, etc. that could potentially fall.

These resulted in more questions, additional scenarios and even more questions:

  • Who would support a church that was on life support?
  • Would parishioners accept being in an indefinite debt situation?
  • What ministries or programs would suffer as a result?
  • How long will the parishioners tolerate the future of their church being undecided?
  • What effect does the added stress and unknown future of the church have on the parish leadership, staff and volunteers?
  • What benefits does Holy Name of Mary church have over Assumption church, and vice versa?
  • With Pope Francis encouraging the Catholic church to get back to it’s roots, being with the people and serving the poor, does our focus need to change from the building proper to the community of people?

Where Do We Go From Here?
It has been seven years since the deteriorating condition of the building became known, four years of running two fundraising campaigns and many hours in consultation and prayer. Fundraising campaigns cannot go on indefinitely. We had to explore other options. A decision needed to be made, one that had to focus on the future viability and vitality of the parish community, and no longer on the building.

Bishop Ronald Fabbro and the Basilian Fathers envision a new way forward for Assumption parish, a future that will see the parish community located at Holy Name of Mary church with new leadership and a renewed focus on mission and ministry.

Although this was a difficult decision, it is hoped that this new focus will lead to greater stability, renewed vitality and involvement in the larger community.

Assumption church will close effective November 3, 2014 with the campaign and restoration project coming to an end. Donors will be contacted later this year. The church building will be preserved in its present condition to the extent possible, using revenues from the parking lot next to the church.

The present pastor, Fr. William Riegel came to Assumption parish as the first fundraising campaign ended. His leadership and generous service made it possible to initiate the second campaign while providing pastoral care to parishioners. Bishop Fabbro thanks Fr. William Riegel and the pastoral team he brought together for his pastoral service to the parish at this difficult time. An interim pastor has been assigned and a new, permanent pastor and associate pastor will be assigned to the parish in the near future.

Diocesan and parish personnel understand that this decision will be difficult to accept. While some people will understand and agree with the decision to move to the Holy Name of Mary church, others will not. Some people will feel that Assumption should never close and that it should be given another chance while others will feel that Assumption should have closed years ago.

Details surrounding the transition are still developing. Bishop Fabbro and Fr. George Smith are making this announcement at this time as a sign of our commitment to transparency. We will keep the Windsor community apprised of any future developments.

It’s not clear at this time what will happen to the Assumption Church building.

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