Let the bells ring! There is good news for parishioners at St-Jean-Baptiste Catholic Church in L’Orignal.
Damage to the church’s bell tower is much less serious than originally thought, and according to Eric Drouin, who was one of the key parishioners who had stepped forward to spearhead fundraising, a new membrane will be needed in the tower and some boards will be replaced which were damaged due to some water infiltration.
He says that a tender will be issued shortly to invite contractors to bid on the project.
A building permit will be required, he said, and the heavy bells will have to be removed to effect the repairs.
Three alternatives were presented at a parish meeting last week. One alternative was to effect repairs, a second plan was to install speakers in the bell tower to reproduce the sound of bells and a third alternative was to create a mini bell tower in front of the church itself.
At the meeting, Drouin said that there were testimonies from those present about the meaning and importance of the bells to the community. Evidence of this, in addition to the testimonies, was the 30 or so volunteers who said they were willing to raise funds for the bell tower project, Drouin said. Retaining the bells in the existing tower was also the choice of the diocese, Drouin said. The parish needed the approval of the diocese, which is the official owner of the church building and property.
“We have to pull together to keep our church vital, Drouin said, referring to St-Isidore having lost its church to fire and the Fournier parish fighting to keep its church open.
“We will know more in a week or so,” said Drouin, referring to the expected tender bids. Drouin says he stepped forward to get involved as a member of the parish because he felt that his job as purchasing agent with a local school board made him a good volunteer candidate. He deals with tenders and contracts all the time.
“I had a friend who is an engineer take a look and the damage at this point, does not look too serious. Of course, we never know with older buildings,” he said, adding that the steeple is beautifully built of big timber-frame construction, tongue-and-groove and dowels.
“You just don’t see things built like that any more,” Drouin said.
From her book called,”:Souvenirs et perles patrimoniales,” by Louise Bédard, written in 2004 comes a short history of the bells. Bédard is a parishioner and well-known for her interest in local history.
Here is an excerpt from her book (translated from French into English by The Review).
On June 18, 1906, the blessing of the two bells, by Monseigneur Duhamel, Archbishop of Ottawa, took place.
Created in 1905 by Crouzet Hildebrand, the first bell, SOL, weighs 1,600 lbs and was presented to the church by the farmers of the parish. It bears the name “St-Jean-Baptiste baptisant Notre-Seigneur” and bears the inscription: “Pie X, Pape et Joseph-Thomas Duhamel, évêque d’Ottawa, depuis le 1er septembre 1874.”
The godparents were Mr. and Mrs, Pierre Landriault, parents of Mrs. Estelle Cyr of this parish.
The second bell, LA, weighs 1,100 lbs. and was presented to the parish by the Corporation de L’Orignal. It was named “La Sainte-Famille” and bears the inscription, “Le Révérend Octave Bérubé, curé de L’Orignal depuis le 15 août 1880 et le Révérend Cyriac Bérubé, ancien curé.”
A celebratory mass took place on the same day and the total collection from the blessing of the bells was $602.25.