Posted by: Missy Fraser
The sale of the former St. Margaret Mary Church at 7 Fairbairn Avenue is now official. The Muslim Council of Ontario became the new owners on July 20, 2023. The property will be known as “Sunnyside Mosque and Community Centre, Ottawa South” or “Jamia Masjid Farooq-e-Azam.”
The former St. Margaret Mary Church – originally built as a Calvin Presbyterian church – was closed by the Ottawa-Cornwall Archdiocese in 2019 after nearly a century of offering faith resources, social support and much-needed community space in Old Ottawa South.
On August 4th a small OOS contingent was on hand to greet Imam Syed Sohawardy and an energized group gathered for an evening event for new members of the mosque. OSCA president Richard Slowikowski warmly welcomed new neighbours and friends of the Sunnyside Mosque and Community Centre. Richard expressed his optimism for the growth, ideas and friendships that are bound to come about with this new partnership. Richard said, “We share a common purpose – and we will work together to build our community.”
Imam Syed Soharwardy offered his vision for the new mosque, “This church which now is used as a place of Muslim prayer and worship and as a community centre is intended as a place of unity, diversity, service for humanity, and interfaith dialogue and collaboration. This is a unique project in Canada where Canadians of all faiths or no faith can come together to develop an understanding of each other, and various traditions and beliefs practiced in Canada including our First Nations peoples.”
The Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA) will be a key partner in renewing the community space, restarting decades-long shared use of the former St. Margaret Mary Church. Matthew Mitchell, Managing Director for OSCA, is enthusiastic about the opportunity for adding to and diversifying programming activities. According to Matthew, OSCA will use the space for after school programming, daytime programmes for preschoolers, activities for seniors, fitness groups, evening groups for youth, local theatre productions and more. There is also an interest in one day offering the upstairs worship space to other faith groups for services, for family events like weddings and celebrations of life, concerts, lectures, adult literacy programmes and small conferences.
Also in attendance, Anna Cuylits, SWOOS (Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South) Co-chair, said she was delighted with the good news about the renewed space and new mosque. She said, “SWOOS welcomes the availability of suitable, new, local spaces for events and activities that can contribute to enhancing the lives of seniors living in our communities. The Firehall is bursting at its seams and the additional space will help enormously to facilitate our needs.”
Anna added that SWOOS looks forward to contributing an active representation on the community board of the Sunnyside Mosque and that SWOOS will contribute to “a full and active integration of this new cultural component in our community.” In closing her remarks, Anna raised a cheer, “Thank you Syed!”, in recognition of Imam Soharwardy’s tireless, friendly and inclusive efforts over the past year to establish the new mosque and community centre.
Throughout the year of arranging new ownership there has been ongoing, keen interest from members of the OOS community to restart and expand the very successful “Out of the Cold” Sunday suppers that ran for over twenty years in the former parish. The new mosque group is working to refurbish the facility for this and other purposes with investments like new appliances, cooking equipment and storage for the kitchen downstairs. If you are interested in helping with this please reach out to one of the contacts listed below.
Please note, Friday prayers for the Muslim community will start ongoing from Friday, September 1, 2023. To get involved or for more information, please contact Sajid Chishti: email@example.com or Imam Syed Soharwardy: firstname.lastname@example.org or Missy Fraser: email@example.com
Missy Fraser is an OOS based artist who was a member of both the St. Margaret Mary School and St. Margaret Mary Church communities.
Featured in the September 2023 OSCAR.