Twenty local parishioners have banded together under the banner Save Star of the Sea in a bid to keep a Catholic presence in the heart of White Rock.
Alicia Hagerman said the group is talking strategy to prevent the sale of the Star of the Sea Parish in the Five Corners neighbourhood.
“These are people who are totally flabbergasted by this plan to sell the property,” Hagerman, a longtime parishioner and group organizer, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
A parish master plan calls for the sale of the property, along with the Holy Cross Church site in Crescent Beach, to generate funds to centralize the parish at an expanded Good Shepherd complex in South Surrey.
Hagerman said the parish hall has been a fixture in the community for many years, noting fundraisers, weddings, political meetings, recovery meetings, Scouts and daycares have all made use of the space. And while she wishes the presence of the Catholic church remains, she doesn’t expect the buildings – which are in need of costly seismic upgrades – to stay.
“I think there is a thought out there that we just don’t want to see anything change, (that) we want to see it all stay the same. That’s not the case. We understand there are other options available.”
The option favoured by the group – posted on sosknights.ca – involves the property being redeveloped to include subsidized or seniors’ housing and possible retail space, along with a new church and parish centre, said Hagerman.
But in a letter to parishioners posted on the Star of the Sea Parish website, Father Glenn Dion said redeveloping the property would require millions of dollars, and the parish “is not in the developing business to make money in the construction of condos or businesses.”
“This idea of everyone coming to the same church at Good Shepherd is not favoured by some, nor is the building of the centre supported by others. Let me assure you that this is the best plan to serve well the Parish’s needs as we move forward into the next major era for this faith community,” wrote Dion in the June 15 letter.
In July, Dion told PAN he inherited the mandate when he took over as pastor of the parish two years ago and that consideration of the cost to seismically upgrade the White Rock buildings weighed heavily in the decision.
The parish master plan calls for the listing of the White Rock site for sale next spring.
In the meantime, Save Star of the Sea will be meeting every two weeks, with the next meeting scheduled for Aug. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. Call Hagerman at 604-536-5634 for more information.