Congregation celebrates long-awaited return to their pews

Tyler Clarke
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Holy Thursday was a special day for the Sacred Heart Cathedral congregation -- not only because of its place in Holy Week, but because they returned to their sanctuary.


“Words cannot explain how happy we are at this point,” Father Matthew Nguyen said this week. “We worked together, and we now have the church back.”

After seven months out of the cathedral’s sanctuary, worshipping in the basement and at Rivier Academy, the congregation has been happy to return to the pews.

“I was under stress and tension -- frustration because you have to deal with the renovation process delay,” Nguyen said.

“I thank God I went through all of it and learned a lot. As rector of the cathedral I learned a lot about my position, here, and I grew a lot in my spiritual life -- more trusting in God and more trusting in people and recognizing the powerful things of collaboration.”

Much was stacked against the congregation’s effort to renovate the building in recognition of its 100th anniversary.  

The building’s front steps were completely re-built in 2012 at a cost of about $100,000 -- the same amount that it took to build the entire cathedral 100 years ago.

However, the bulk of the building’s renovation began in October of last year.

“A part of the roof was cracking and leaking, so we fixed that,” Nguyen said.

“For the (stained glass) windows, we sealed in the inside and the outside so the heat isn’t going out and moisture’s not getting in.”

The entire interior of the building has been re-painted -- a massive undertaking given the height of the ceiling -- and a new carpet has been installed throughout the building.

Everything appeared on track -- albeit, with some delays -- until the boiler system died.

“We had to have it changed completely, and that added onto our renovation process costs,” Nguyen said.

Initially expected to cost about $700,000, the renovation cost ballooned to about $1 million.

Despite the significant cost overrun, everything worked out thanks to a dedicated congregation and diocese.

Members sponsored windows, purchased cookbooks, made donations and assisted with various fundraisers to raise a significant chunk of change.

The cookbook alone raised about $10,000, Nguyen noted.

“Our fundraising is going really good in the sense that we could have met our initial renovation,” Nguyen said.

The Diocese of Prince Albert loaned the parish the $300,000 balance -- an amount they plan on paying back through the sale of raffle tickets and a handful of other efforts over the next couple of years.

Words cannot explain how happy we are at this point. Matthew Nguyen

Divided among 83 parishes, Nguyen said that their goal is to sell 3,500 tickets at $50 a pop this summer, with the top prize a brand new vehicle.

“We believe that if all the parishes join in, the 3,500 tickets will be sold quickly,” Nguyen said.

Although the congregation moved back into their sanctuary last week, renovations remain ongoing, Nguyen said.

Walking through the building this week he pointed out a handful of things that still need to be completed -- small odds and ends that will cap things off.

Absolutely everything will be done in time for a 100th anniversary celebration on June 20, Nguyen said -- a “big day” for the diocese, the details of which the Daily Herald will report on closer to the event.

After all the stress of a large-scale renovation pretty much over with, Nguyen said that he and the congregation have come out the other end for the better.

“I learned to put my trust in God, put my trust in people and together we can overcome our fear -- our worry.” 

Organizations: Rivier Academy, Daily Herald

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