Martin C. Barry
More than four decades after the tragic loss of one of Park Extension’s treasured Greek Orthodox houses of worship, members of St. Sophie’s Church have announced that a new church building at the corner of Wiseman Ave. and Saint Roch St. will open and be ready for religious observances by Easter next year.
Loss and renewal
The history of the loss and reconstruction of the church is a fairly long one, but attests to the courage and determination of the church members. The original building was destroyed by fire in the early 1970s, following which the burned out shell stood vacant.
In 2001, what remained of the church was demolished and efforts began by the congregation to rebuild on the site alongside a future public park to be developed on former church land purchased by the City of Montreal.
Agreement with city
As part of the agreement with the City of Montreal, the church congregation was paid $780,000 by the city for the lot. As a result, 4,000 square feet was left for occupation by the church, while the remaining 10,000 square feet are being used to create the park.
According to George Sarbanis, a prominent member of the church community, the exterior of the church is 99 per cent finished, while the interior is nearly 70 per cent completed. Asked when the church will officially be opening, he replied, “We hope, God willing, next Pascha in 2020. We hope to have a Greek Orthodox liturgy here then. That’s our goal.”
‘Good people helping’
Sarbanis agreed that the members of the congregation, motivated largely by their faith, managed to accomplish a lot with relatively limited resources. “There’s no doubt we’ve had good people helping,” he said, while also noting that “it’s been a steady uphill battle” to complete the church. “But we’re getting there.”
Construction of the new church has cost $1.4 million to date, he said, with a budget balance of $500,000 remaining. He said a list of the work left to be done includes some electrical wiring, some plumbing, some drywall installation, interior railings, stone flooring and ecclesiastical decor.
Iconography coming later
While detailed iconography will also eventually be painted onto the church’s interior ceiling and walls, this stage will take place more gradually. “This will come with time,” said Sarbanis. “We can open even though the iconography is not there right away.”
According to Sarbanis, the St. Sophie’s congregation currently has around 200 members in all. While the price of painting the icononography will be in addition to construction, in keeping with tradition church members will make donations to shoulder the cost.
Equipped with elevator
Among the amenities the new church will have is an elevator being installed at a $100,000 cost. As Sarbanis noted, an element like this has become almost indispensable when such a large percentage of the population today consists of senior citizens.
The building is being equipped with a state-of-the-art Carrier heating and air conditioning system, that is certain to keep church members feeling comfortable year around regardless of the outside weather. As well, there will be a fully-equipped kitchen and meeting rooms in the basement for gatherings of various sorts.