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Catholic church in Canmore celebrates opening with dedication service

"[I feel] a tremendous amount of relief, a sense of peace that we've come to this point and gratitude, gratitude to everyone who has been part of the building project and now a lot of excitement for everyone that is going to come visit."

CANMORE – After 15 years of planning, two years of construction and a price tag of approximately $16 million and the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies is ready to open – gradually.

The original spring dedication service was set to welcome up to 425 individuals – the maximum seating available in the church section. But as a result of the soft opening taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Father Nathan Siray said the Saturday (May 30) dedication ceremony will keep at a humble 50 in attendance max with live-streaming services available.

"[I feel] a tremendous amount of relief, a sense of peace that we've come to this point and gratitude, gratitude to everyone who has been part of the building project and now a lot of excitement for everyone that is going to come visit," Siray said when showing off the newly built 18,319-square-foot church.

When the project was first unveiled in 2015, the original price tag sat at about $9.2 million with a plan to build in stages. But due to construction issues, like a geotechnical report showed the cost of the foundation to be higher than expected, the pricetag was estimated to be closer to $14 million.

Siray estimated the cost of the new church at $16 million as the of end of May, which includes several marble statues that were rescued and restored from a couple of closed down churches in Buffalo, New York and outside of Chicago.

He said the local congregation is still looking to raise $7 million to help pay for the new church. 

Filled with marble statues, marble art pieces on the wall taken from an old alter and a marble baptismal fountain at the entrance, the new church is a mix of old, borrowed and new. Siray said they also used reclaimed wood from the former Sacred Heart Church and also tried to keep most of the contractors local, or within the province.

Modco Structures Ltd., Bow Kor Excavating, Banff Fire Safety, Can-Sign Inc., Canmore Woodcrafters Ltd., Jano Construction and Ken's Iron Works are just some of the local work that can be seen displayed in the new church.

The province recently announced places of worship have lifted restrictions as stage one of the relaunch was rolled out on May 14, the restriction on gatherings was also increased from 15 to 50 individuals.

"For relaunch, all businesses, facilities and places of worship, must identify actions to reduce the risk of transmission on-site," Alberta's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during the relaunch announcement. 

"Within seven days of opening, they must fill out a short template and post it online ... each place of worship is subject to restrictions like no group singing and physical distancing."

While the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies is deciding whether or not to live-stream services, Siray said they are hopeful to have services up and running by next week.

"Hopefully by next weekend we will have church services on a very small basis of 50 people allowed and people can sign up on our website to attend," he said.

"And in a couple weeks we are hoping to have small tours, a couple times a day about half an hour in length – giving people a chance to see everything that is there

"Hopefully as there are less and less restrictions in place, we can have more people enter into the building ... we really look forward to welcoming people coming this way."  

While the construction indoors is only estimated to take another week or two, Siray said the landscaping is expected to take another couple of months.

The new church is located at 2 Silvertip Trail.

Visit rockiesparish.com for more information. 



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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