The following article was written by Kathleen Hay of the Standard-Freeholder on April 18, 1999.
Out of the ashes of St. Raphael’s Church has risen a flourishing, community-minded group. The Friends of the Ruins was organized in 1995 following a public outcry that the historic site possibly faced demolition. Dedicated and committed to opening the locked gates to the gutted interior of Upper Canada’s first Roman Catholic parish, the group is well on their way to achieving their goal. “We’ve raised $200,000 since we began our project,” said Colleen Kennedy, committee chairperson. “We’ve been fortunate to have some very generous donors from across Canada and the United States who have really helped our cause. Many people who no longer reside in the area are deeply-rooted to Glengarry, or have ancestors who are buried here.” It is hard not to recall that fateful evening of August 10, 1970 when flames engulfed the church. Built in 1821, by a group of Scottish settlers, under the direction of Bishop Alexander Macdonell, what remains of St Raphael’s Church has recently been declared a national historic site. This will certainly help the Friends of the Ruins in attaining their goal said Kennedy. “It’s given us legitimacy in our cause,” she said. “We’re not just saying that we think it is an important structure, we have proof now. “One of the best things we ever did was having it declared a national, historic site.”
She is hopeful that the official designation will help the committee achieve their objective of raising the necessary $500,000 for reopening of the site. “We have made applications for Millennium and Trillium funding, as well as from the Historic Sites and Monuments boards,” said Kennedy. “Fundraising has been done on a regular basis through initiatives like sporting tournaments, clothing sales, and sales of donated paintings done by local artists, Stuart McCormick and Ted Sonne. “The Brigadoons have been great friends to the Ruins, too, and have recorded a wonderful CD for us.”Friends of the Ruins are already planning for the future. They realize that even if the half-million dollars are raised to make the structure sound, there will be ongoing maintenance costs. “We’ve put aside 10 per cent of all funds we’ve raised towards perpetual care for maintenance,” said Kennedy. “When we started this project, we didn’t know if we could do it. It was a lot of money for a small community to, raise. But it looks as if things are finally coming together.”