Long-time Lethbridge parishioners stepped foot inside St. Patrick’s Church for the first time in 12 years Thursday afternoon.
More than a century old, the Catholic church at 917 Fourth Avenue South last hosted a service in 2011, when it was closed by Calgary’s then-Bishop Frederick Henry.
“For me, it’s overwhelming. I was going there for 40 years,” said Joe Kelenc.
“Three, four days after I came to Canada, my uncle brought me (to St. Patrick’s) and I never left. Well, I left when they shut it.”
Two years ago, the Vatican’s highest court found the decision to close the church invalid.
The Diocese of Calgary has been advised that mass be held on St. Patrick’s Day and the anniversary of the church’s dedication on Sept. 24.
The church will also open for private prayer on occasion.
But a local advocacy group called Save Our Churches Association (SOCA) wants the building returned to it’s full-time use.
“At the time of closure, it was a vibrant, beautiful church, fully-packed,” said SOCA member Prisca Baptista.
“It had everything going for it.”
Earlier this year, Diocese of Calgary Bishop William McGrattan released the East Lethbridge Catholic Parish Assessment Project.
It’s gathering feedback from parishioners to determine the future of church buildings and is expected to finish in January.
“Everything is on the table,” McGrattan said. “The process is really to help assess the current needs, but also the future needs for All Saints Parish and the use of either the current buildings, possibly a new building or modifications to some of them.”
According to McGrattan, SOCA members have been invited to participate in the consultation.
“At this point, they have indicated to me they are not open or willing to participate in that formal process and to be part of the committee,” McGrattan said.
“That invitation still extends to them.”
But the organization says given the history of what it calls empty promises, they aren’t buying into the project and SOCA is planning its own public discussion this Sunday.
Calgary Diocese members are welcome, says Kelenc, who serves as SOCA’s chairman. McGrattan told Global News he isn’t attending.
The church was built in 1903.
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