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    Rising From the Ashes

    Knights in Alberta help build a new church and keep community together after a devastating fire

    By Andrew Fowler 2/15/2022
    Construction on the new Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church was completed 16 months after a fire caused irreparable damage to the original church. Courtesy of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church

    Less than two years after a fire destroyed Our Lady of Peace Church, parishioners gathered for Mass in a new church building thanks, in part, to the efforts of Innisfail (Alberta) Council 7203.

    The fire occurred December 2018, just after the roof was replaced on the original church, and is believed to have been caused by sparks from the welding. The damage was beyond repair, and the church, built in 1962, had to be demolished.

    “When we heard the news of the fire, we all accepted reality and resolved to immediately commence fundraising, believing our prayers would be answered,” said Art Gordon, a member of Council 7203. “Our parish quickly resolved to set a goal to replace our church.”

    In the meantime, parishioners met in St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School, where Knights assisted in setting up the gym for Masses. The council also prepared an adoration chapel in the school, which has since been used by the school’s students.

    The council contributed to the design process for the new building and hosted garage sales, bottle drives and firewood sales to raise funds. In total, the parish raised $150,000 and construction on the new church commenced in October 2019.

    Knights went to work in the old church, too, going through the rubble to remove salvageable materials such as cabinets, lighting fixtures and windows — helping to save the parish money.

    “The real cost-saving impact was in renovating the attached hall to bring it up to the same standard as the new church,” Gordon said. “We renovated the kitchen, bathrooms and hall, doing cabinets, plumbing, electrical lighting, painting and flooring.”

    Gregory Raber, who currently serves as grand knight, used his skills as an IT technician, helping set up the church’s sound system and Wi-Fi connectivity. Throughout the process, he was amazed by the coordination between different parish groups to keep the renovations on track at a time when the parish could have easily splintered.

    “By comparison, my mom and dad — their church was condemned — and they still are celebrating out of a school gym, and it’s been 15 years,” Raber said. “We kept our community together.”

    By April 2020, the hard work ended with the completion of a new church. According to Father Jose Liju, pastor of the Our Lady of Peace Parish and chaplain of Council 7203, the Knights played an instrumental role in the process.

    “The support and direction from parishioners is very important to rebuild a church,” said Father Liju, who celebrated the first Mass in the new building on Easter Sunday. “It was great support to have a group like the Knights of Columbus to discuss. Their meetings helped a lot.”

    Gordon said the Easter Mass felt like a homecoming. He was impressed by the spirit of his brother Knights and the parish community, who could have despaired in the aftermath of the fire, but instead resolved to rebuild.

    “This project brought us together in faith and fellowship within our church community,” Gordon said. “I am proud of our parish community coming together to build our church.”

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