Posted by: Missy Fraser
On November 21, 2022, Imam Syed Soharwardy, President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, representing a Sufi Muslim collective of 25 combined worship and community centres across Canada, shared the news of the recent purchase of the former St. Margaret Mary Church to a grassroots gathering of interested partners and supporters at the former church site. The new owners have been reaching out to engage community partners to collaborate in reopening the space for all walks, ages and traditions. Their goal is to be inclusive, of service and open to all. Ideas for renewal include community recreation and after school programming, health support, activities and housing for seniors, education, food security, music, theatre and visual art.
Imam Soharwardy thanked the renewal group for meeting with him to share a first look at the facility together and also thanked those who had taken the time to write or call the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall in support of the project. He explained that the Archdiocese was very supportive and had taken extra time and effort to make the purchase work for the new owner and the Old Ottawa South community.
Community Renewal Group Energized
Anna Cuytlis and Terrance Huntsley co-chairs of OCSA’s SWOOS (Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South) expressed excitement and optimism about this potential home for services for seniors. Ms. Cuytlis said, “I feel inspired by Syed’s information and inclusive approach, that this property is now a space and opportunity for our whole community to develop as we see fit. Whether this would be additional space for Firehall programming or in the not-too-distant future as a location for seniors housing.”
Angela Davis, one of the organizers of the “Out of the Cold” Sunday suppers held for many years at the former church said, “This is wonderful – our world needs multicultural, multi-religion approaches. We have to come together for each other.”
According to Ms. Davis, needs for hot meals and community have not diminished and continue to increase. She said that she welcomed the opportunity to get community-based “Out of the Cold” suppers going again at the former church site.
Educator Katy Lenoir is opening a new Montessori School for children aged 6-12 years in the fall of 2023. Ms. Lenoir said she felt happy to be connecting with positive neighbours and partners and that she would love to open her new school at this “ideal” location. She remarked on what an excellent location this could be for a Montessori school in the heart of the community so close to parks, the public library, public transit and the canal.
OOS neighbour and artist Ada Brzeski joined with board colleagues Jadzia Romaniec and Anna Frian from the non-profit artist group Studio Space Ottawa (SSO) to view the former rectory for potential studio spaces. Ms. Frian commented, “The rectory building has the potential to become a wonderful place for creating art, much needed in Ottawa which is in dire need of affordable studios for visual artists”. Since 2019, SSO has created working spaces for 43 visual artists on Kaladar Avenue with an additional waitlist for 50 plus artists seeking working space.
On hearing of the new ownership and grassroots collaboration, City Councillor Shawn Menard welcomed the new owners, saying “This is great news for the community. I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds.”
The renewal group welcomes you to join in! To get involved and/or receive updates about this exciting community project please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Missy Fraser is an OOS based artist who was a member the St. Margaret Mary Church community.
Featured in the December 2022 OSCAR.