Everything Is Illuminated

Published in the Annex Gleaner(Toronto)

     St Mary Magdalene church in little Italy is getting a chance at a second life with the renovations it has undergone since June. The church once dimly lit with boarded up windows is now filled with light and a new vibrancy. This light illuminates impressive works of art dating back to the 1920s such as The Rood Cross which hangs over the main altar. This cross painted by one of the Group of Seven will be lighted and visible from the street with the addition of windows to the front doors.

     “The purpose [of the renovations]is to open the building to its original architecture and to the community,” said Rob Castle, the church warden. Parishioners and staff hope that the renovations will increase the “curb appeal” of the building attracting many new visitors.

     “At first I was negative [about the changes] but it will be positive. I can feel it in my bones,” said Grace Cromwell a St. Mary Magdelene parishioner. The hundred year old floor has also been removed and will be replaced with a new hardwood floor. There will also be a brightly lit sign and a new wrought iron fence outside of the church to welcome parishioners.

     The church’s new sign and the fence will block the public right of way partially and so the project had to be considered by the Community Council of Toronto. Rob Castle said “It was accepted without questions.” Angie Antoniou of the Community Council said, “We encourage improvements on properties as long as they don’t have negative impacts on pedestrians and traffic.”

     The church anticipates that the improvements will be finished for the October 19th dedication. There will be a new composition introduced by the choir in celebration of the renovations and there will be a procession around the church area.

     “There is great music to be heard here for free,” said Stephanie Martin the director of music at the church and an assistant professor of music at York University. Visitors can hear three different choirs at the church including a Gregorian chant choir that sings on Sundays. The church’s choir just recently won the title of “Best Canadian Choir” in a CBC competition. The choirs also sing works from Healey Willan, a well known Canadian composer, who worked as the church’s music director for 40 years.

     The church’s building committee has raised most of the money needed to complete the renovations. The church’s staff welcomes any people interested in looking at the work in progress at the church from Tuesday – Friday from 10-3pm. If someone wants to make donations to the building fund they can contact Colleen O’Reilley at (416)531-7955 or at office@stmarymagdalene.ca.

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