When a Catholic priest reached out with a pressing need for 48 pews — some as long as 11 feet — for a parish in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, he found them nearly 2,300 kilometres away at a former church in Toronto.
The Archdiocese of Toronto was willing to donate the pews but that still left the Rankin Inlet priest perplexed about how to cover the cost of disassembling them in Toronto, customizing them to fit and then shipping them to their new home in the north.
Raising the money locally was not an option.
"It is a very poor Inuit community," says Father David Reilander, president of Catholic Missions In Canada.
Reilander turned to Ucal Powell, who sits on the board of directors for Catholic Missions In Canada, for assistance.
Powell, the former executive director of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, called on members of Carpenters’ Local 27 to donate their time to disassemble the heavy oak pews at the former church, known as St. Catherine of Siena, on Danforth Avenue in Toronto.
"We have good people (carpenters) willing to help out," says Powell.
The endeavour was co-ordinated by the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT) and included a team of four Local 27 carpenters who disassembled the pews and trucked them 40 kilometres northwest to the CCAT’s training centre in Woodbridge, Ont. where they are being sized to fit their new home in Rankin Inlet.
Powell, who hopes to raise enough money to ship the pews to their destination, had received $12,500 towards that goal at press time from donations by the Carpenters’ Union and industry partners.
The pews will be shipped to Churchill, Man. and then transported by barge to Rankin Inlet this spring.
"It’s not only the goodwill of the carpenters, it is their generosity and the generosity of industry partners" to donate money that is helping make the project happen, says Reilander.
Powell says he will provide the Rankin Inlet priest and his parishioners with reassembly instructions.
The oak pews will replace metal folding chairs at the northern church called the Church of Mary our Mother.