Operation Basilica!

I was extremely surprised and disappointed to hear on Friday, that Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Windsor, Ontario is set to close its doors in November. This surprise announcement by Bishop Fabbro of the London Diocese came as a shock to many. After speaking with a few sources, I am beginning to wonder what is really going on here.

The reason given for the closure is that the building needs over $10 million dollars in repairs and restoration. However, a source involved with the renovation committee disclosed that the real figure for restoration is in fact closer to $7 million; the other $3 million was for the creation of a museum and a public square outside the church.

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The Interior of Assumption Church, Windsor, ON

Where will this $7 million come from? Easy- it’s already been given or pledged. According to news reports and sources, the church has already in receipt of $7.5 million in cash and commitments. And since the surprise announcement on Friday, money has been pouring in to save this church so the $10million goal may be realized within weeks. So again I ask, if the church has the money, why is this beautiful and historically important church being closed? Church attendance doesn’t seem to be the issue. This past weekend saw over 1300 parishioners attend Masses.

Of course, no parishioner ever want to see their beloved church close, however this is not an typical case of NIMBYism and this is not your ordinary church; this is the oldest church west of Montreal, steeped in 286 years of spiritual and cultural heritage. 286 years!! The Confederation of Canada isn’t even 150 years old. Also, this land was donated by the Hurons to the Jesuit missionaries directly for the purpose of a church and schools. It would be a slap in the face to the Huron people if the church closed. Not only should this church be saved and restored, but it ought to be designated a Basilica!

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The Exterior of Assumption Church

 Just so that we are clear about the significance of this church, allow me to provide a brief historical lesson.

– 1728 the Mission to Huron First Nation is established on the same stretch of land where Assumption Church now stands.
– 1767 full Parish created for both Hurons and French families
– 1782 Hurons donated large tract of land so that bigger church could be built as well as schools (the current Church as well as University of Windsor and Assumption High School are still on that land)
– 1786 parish schools started, oldest schools in southwestern Ontario
– 1787, the 3rd church built (shown in the historic painting on the parish website), from which the pulpit still remains in the “new” church, a beautiful example of 227 year old woodworking.
– 1842, cornerstone laid for current church, completed in 1845
(More detailed historical information can be found on the parish website here.)

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Gothic, Rib-Vaulted Ceiling in Assumption Church

Therefore, on behalf of all Canadians, I appeal to the Bishop Fabbro of London to please keep this church open, and let it be designated a Basilica!

Vivat Operation Basilica!

NB: If you are interested in making a donation to preserve this church, a spiritual and historical pillar of Canada, please go to http://assumption.dol.ca/restoration/donate-now/  You can denote the donation is for the restoration funs in honour of “Operation Basilica”. For more information on this project, please email operationbasilica@gmail.com