St. Margaret Mary, the modest red-brick church opposite the Firehall, is closing.
Father Pierre Champoux, the part-time pastor at St. Margaret Mary, told the OSCAR in an email that: “The parish is no longer financially or pastorally viable, due to the lack of parishioners and regular revenue.”
The decision to close the church was made by the Archdiocese of Ottawa and communicated to the congregation on March 31st following morning Masses. In a two-page March 22nd letter to Father Champoux, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. announced to the congregation that: “...The time has come to make a difficult but necessary decision to inform the parish that we are planning to close the parish and merge it with the neighbouring Parish of Blessed Sacrament.”
Blessed Sacrament is the imposing stone church at Fourth Avenue and Percy in the Glebe.
St. Margaret Mary Church, at Sunnyside and Fairbairn, was built as a Calvin Presbyterian Church in 1914, but was sold after the construction of Southminster United Church by the newly merged Calvin and Methodist congregations. The Catholic community bought the church in 1930 for $20,000, and then the neighbouring rectory on Fairbairn in 1945 for $8,000.
The closure of St. Margaret Mary will mean the end the last Catholic institution in Old Ottawa South. This is a community that apart from St. Margaret Mary Church, once included the monastery of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood on Echo Drive (now the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons) and St. Margaret Mary School at Willard St. and Bellwood Ave. (which was closed and demolished and is now the site of the Moorcroft townhouse development).
The loss of the church will affect not only the congregation, but also the wider community. The church hall, known as Mary Beattie Hall, was used in the past by OSCA for programming and by Elections Canada as a polling station. Until recently, the hall had hosted various programs and meetings including Weight Watchers, Christopher Leadership Course, a community choir, and Tai Chi lessons.
The closing of the church will also mean the end of the popular Out of the Cold-Sunday Supper Program which, from fall to spring, provides hot meals and social interaction for those in need and is supported by teams of volunteers from both the congregation and the wider community.
According to the Parish Bulletin: “The Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils have chosen June 23rd as the date for St. Margaret Mary’s final Mass and Parish celebration.” Also according to the Bulletin, the date for closure of the church is June 30th.
The future of the church building, and the adjoining rectory to the south of the church are uncertain. Both properties could demand high prices. The church is not a designated heritage building and so has no protection. If sold it would be at risk of demolition for redevelopment.
Originally published in the May 2019 OSCAR.