A unique monument with a rich spiritual, social and architectural legacy.
A group of Irish Catholic residents of Westmount, who had been worshipping at a local French parish, appeal to the Archbishop of Montreal, the Most Reverend Paul Bruchési, for authorization to establish their own parish church. Their request is turned down by the archbishop, but the dauntless group of citizens set their sights on the Vatican, where, in time, they obtain Papal permission and return home triumphantly to build their new house of worship.
Laying of cornerstone, 1927
A church is built.
Having found and purchased a sizeable tract of land from the Grey Nuns on Sherbrooke Street between Clarke and Kitchener Avenues, the trustees raise the more than $325,000 required to construct the stately 13,500 sq.ft. Ascension of Our Lord parish church. The cornerstone is laid in October 1927, and the first Mass is celebrated in an almost-completed church on Christmas in 1928.
Longitudinal profile, 1927 (Westmount Archives)
The Campaign Coordinating Committee is born.
John Peacock and Barbara Cefis graciously agree to join the wardens as Campaign co‑chairs. Janet and Dick Macklem, whose generosity to Ascension Parish has known no limits, are invited to join the committee.
CAMPAIGN COORDINATING COMMITTEE
Donat Taddeo, Committee Chair
Pino Di Ioia
Louise Mac Lellan
With the support of Father Mac Eachen, the wardens set the Campaign objective at one million dollars.
Opus 1344 is one of a few Casavant (organs) of this period still in existence in the world, and is truly unique in Montreal. Such an instrument restored will be a great asset in the city.
— Jacquelin Rochette, Artistic Director, Casavant Frères
In December 2018, the Committee sought counsel from Professor John Grew, FRCCO, C.M., Professor Emeritus and former Dean of McGill’s Schulich School of Music, and founder of the International Organ Competition (CIOC). Professor Grew heartily recommended proceeding with the phased work plan proposed by Casavant. He also encouraged the wardens to submit a request for funding to the Comité des orgues of the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec.
The next and very important step was to conduct the research required to reach the Campaign objective.
Who were the potential donors? How much could the Campaign Coordinating Committee reasonably ask each of them to contribute? Who was best positioned to approach these individuals? How would the Committee inform the parishioners and prospective campaign donors in a compelling and convincing manner?
Reaching out to the community.
With the help of David Boucher, the Campaign Coordinating Committee prepare a prospective donor list. It confirms that the million‑dollar objective is indeed attainable. Aware that committed donors are the best campaign solicitors, the wardens make their personal pledges towards the Campaign.
A communications plan is developed.
A Case for Support is commissioned, and it provides the basis for the Campaign brochure. Sara Morley of Design Postimage is hired to develop the visual identity and print materials for the Campaign. Photographer Christian Fleury takes dramatic photos of the parish for the Campaign materials.
On April 30, an article is printed in the Westmount Independent, “Ascension of Our Lord sets $1‑million fundraising target.”
Campaign materials are created.
A handsome booklet detailing the Campaign goals and pledge forms was printed.
Posters were placed at the church entrance every two weeks to inform parishioners about the objectives of the Capital Campaign. The first three covered the interior of the Bell Tower and the church’s exterior, the next three described the organ project, and the final three explained the work that was needed on the interior of the church.
Campaign is launched.
May 26, 2019
After Sunday Mass, the Capital Campaign is launched with a goal of raising $1,000,000.
On June 11, an article is printed in the Westmount Independent, “Ascension of Our Lord Church kicks off fundraising campaign.”
Campaign goal is stretched.
The Campaign was given an incredible boost in July 2019 when a parishioner who wished to reman anonymous donated $375,000 to the Campaign effort. By the end of September, barely four months after the Campaign launch, the donations pledged exceeded $900,000.
In early October 2019, co-chairs John Peacock and Barbara Cefis addressed the parishioners at the weekend Masses.
Given the extraordinary gift that we received, the Campaign Coordinating Committee has decided to stretch the Campaign goal to 1.3 million dollars. Not to do so would be to take the easy way out and fail to honour properly the outstanding generosity of this donor.
In addition to being a wonderful example of selfless giving for us all, this exceptional donation is motivation for all of us to do more, not less. That is why we have set a new goal for the Campaign and are committed to reaching it. By raising the Campaign goal to 1.3 million dollars, we will provide the parish with a contingency fund to address unforeseen repairs and renovations.
— Campaign Co-Chairs
Campaign objective is surpassed.
The Campaign Coordinating Committee announces that the stretch objective of $1,300,000 has been achieved, and indeed surpassed. A letter of thanks and an interim Campaign Report are distributed to parishioners. The report is also featured on the newly revamped Ascension website and includes a breakdown of the funds raised to date, and an outline of the ongoing restoration projects and incurred expenses.
The Campaign in Numbers
At the close of the Capital Campaign, the donations received totalled $1,388,930, clearly surpassing the stretch objective of $1,300,000. Equally important, the parishioner participation rate was at almost 50%.
These donations were augmented by grants from the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec totalling $409,852. All told, $1,798,782 was amassed for the capital projects of Ascension of Our Lord Church. These funds will not only help Ascension continue to serve its parishioners, they will also help Ascension welcome local and international visitors to appreciate its architectural, musical and acoustic magnificence.
Thanks to the generosity and support of its parishioners, and with the important participation and contributions of the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec, the projects put forward in the Case for Support have been successfully completed, and paid.
The Bell Tower
Before repairs to the Bell Tower could begin, a way to safely enter the tower from inside the church needed to be developed. Accessed from a ceiling panel in the choir loft, a permanent catwalk is built between the inner and outer roofs of the church, from above the organ to above the sanctuary. A specialized ladder, ordered from Europe, is installed where the catwalk ends, so the masons can descend into the tower to do their work. This provides safe access to the Bell Tower, once and for all, for the current project and ongoing maintenance.
Masonry repair on the Bell Tower is successfully completed, and all the exterior walls of the church are repointed.
In fall 2019, the church pews are refurbished, and in 2020, all the linoleum tiling under the pews is removed and new flooring is laid down. At the same time, repairs are made to the kneelers to soften and muffle their impact when lowered to the church floor. The caulking around all the stained glass windows is inspected and repaired where necessary.
The Casavant Organ
The work on the Casavant Opus 1344 organ spans two years, from June 2020 to April 2022. First, the instrument is completely dismantled and transported to the Casavant Frères’ workshop in Saint‑Hyacinthe. A new state-of-the-art console is installed, and the keyboards, stops and foot pedals are completely restored. A new blower and bellows are installed in the storage room next to the church’s main entrance, replacing the original equipment that had been set in the church’s sub‑basement.
The grant received from the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec in June 2021 is supplemented by the parish, thus facilitating the completion of all five phases of the Casavant proposal for the instrument’s restoration, which includes a new Pedal Contra Trombone 32’.
Marco Laferrière, craftsman, has been working at Casavant Frères since 1994.
Joel Peters joins the parish as Director of Music and Organist.
Joel creates a video detailing the breadth of the organ restoration that can be viewed on Ascension’s YouTube channel. In September, Ascension of Our Lord Parish participates in the annual Religious Heritage Days event, and Joel Peters gives two recitals on the newly restored organ. These concerts are presented in collaboration with the Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC).
Another grant is awarded.
The Comité des orgues of the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec grants the parish $176,000 for the overall restoration of its Casavant Opus 1344 organ.
The Campaign Coordinating Committee would like to express its sincerest thanks to all those who helped prepare and execute this Campaign, and in particular:
To all the donors, for their generous and expeditious donations;
To the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec, and in particular to Jocelyn Grou and Johanne Picard, for its collaboration and financial support;
To Louis Brillant, project architect, and to Construction Adrien Charbonneau and its collaborators for the efficiency and respectfulness of their work on site;
To Jacquelin Rochette and Dany Wiseman of Casavant Frères, for their oversight of the management and execution of the restoration of our Opus 1344 organ;
To Dr. David Szanto, Director of Music and Organist of Ascension Parish from 2003 to 2021, for his outstanding contribution to the parish’s music program and his critical role in the preparation and submission of the funding proposals to the Comité des orgues, Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec;
To Peter Keller, for drafting the Case for Support;
To David Boucher, for overseeing the research and composition of the donor prospect list;
To Sara Morley, Design Postimage, for her outstanding production of all Campaign communications;
To Edmund Nash, warden, for his generosity and technical expertise in hosting and maintaining the parish website, which facilitated online donations during the Campaign;