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New chapter begins for Our Lady of Grace

June 25, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Catholics across many parts of Ontario celebrated a return to Mass on Sunday morning after restrictions due to COVID-19 led to more than two months of closed doors at many places of worship.

But, for members of Aurora’s Our Lady of Grace parish, the return to Mass was extra special as they were welcomed into a brand-new spiritual home.

After extensive renovations, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church re-opened their doors in a limited way on June 21. For many members of the church community, it was their first glimpse inside in nearly two years.

Work on the new church space began in November of 2018.

From the start of the project until emergency orders were handed down by the Province this past March, Mass has been taking place in the Our Lady of Grace Church Hall located, until its recent demolition as part of the overall renovation project, just north of the church building.

“I am so grateful to our parishioners for their patience and generosity to support this project,” said Fr. Frank McDevitt, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace, noting it was “providential” that the church was able to open in time for the Province’s sanctioned return to formal worship. “I am overjoyed to welcome them back to both Mass and to their restored church.

“Everyone has been doing their best over the last three months, but we have all been missing some pretty essential things and one of them is participating in the life of the church for many people. It is a nice thing to see that although we have limits on numbers and there are all kinds of expectations, people are finally coming back together as a church community and I think that is a great thing.”

It was a welcome return to a new normal for the Parish, which required members to book their places for the service in advance to comply with remaining social and physical distancing requirements.

Once current restrictions are fully lifted, the new worship space will accommodate 700 people.

Due to social distancing requirements, Sunday’s opening was fully booked with parishioners spaced out on chairs, the pews still to come.

A highlight of the new church, says Fr. Frank, are the large dormer windows that allow natural light to flood through the space – along with a few other aesthetic changes.

“This church was built in the 1980s when orange carpet seemed like a good idea,” he laughed.

Elsewhere in Aurora, several other churches remained quiet – including Trinity Anglican Church which is not only home to the Trinity community but, since the devastating fire in April of 2014, has also served as a spiritual home for the Aurora United Church (AUC) community.

Although the Province has loosened restrictions surrounding places of worship, the Anglican Church has taken a different approach to re-opening.

Trinity pastor Rev. Karen Hatch says the Victoria Street church will remain closed until September, at the earliest, as per direction from the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church.

“I think the College of Bishops felt lay leaders and clergy needed some sabbath time or rest going into the summer,” she says. “We’re still uploading our sermons on Sunday as if we are still preaching to the congregation. Trinity is looking more towards September where we can have a hybrid of worship where we have some people in the building and some people can watch online.”

As the Aurora United Church relies on Trinity for space, they are following suit and, in the meantime, continuing their online outreach.

“There are so many steps to put in place before you should open your building back for worship and you need to plan that well for everyone’s safety,” says AUC’s Rev. Andy Comar. “You don’t want to be the place where someone contracts COVID-19 because they have attended a worship service. We’re going to take it slow.”

Adds Rev. Lorraine Newton-Comar: “We miss everyone like crazy and Zoom really does not take the place of being with your people, for sure. We kind of just moved church life online. The church is not the building; the church is in the wider world and we are in the world, so nothing has stopped.

“We have come to know we’re adaptable in our communities. What is really wonderful to know ultimately is our people are so on board. They get it and from day one. That has been amazing. We can hardly wait to get back, but not until we’re safe.”

By Brock Weir



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