Copts plan to revive southeast Pointe Claire ‘eyesore’

Copts plan to revive southeast Pointe Claire ‘eyesore’

Youth-focused congregation buys derelict lakefront school and church

By Robert Frank

Mayor Bill McMurchie minced no words in describing the dilapidated school at 10 Sources Blvd. which has been vacant for almost a decade-and-a-half.

“It’s a public eyesore to the principal entrance to the city of Pointe Claire,” McMurchie told The Suburban. “It has long been an embarrassment to the city.”

The Coptic Orthodox church plans to change all that. It recently bought the property and the adjacent church, which belonged to the St. Jeanne de Chantal, a Roman Catholic congregation that had served parishioners in southeastern Pointe Claire and Dorval’s Strathmore district since 1922.

“With the city’s cooperation, we intend to have a facility on the site which is aesthetically pleasing that is useful to the congregation and the community as well as provide a beautiful setting that will welcome people as they enter Pointe Claire along Lakeshore boulevard,” St. Peter and St. Paul Church deacon Shahir Guindi told The Suburban in an interview.

“Precisely what we build there will depend upon what the city wants us to do, but it will not be a school nor a residential development,” he vowed.

“I welcome the demolition of that school, which is beyond a reasonable state of repair,” approved Mayor McMurchie. “It is good news for the citizens in the area and consequently for the City of Pointe Claire.”

About 150 families belong to the Coptic congregation, which has until now been worshiping at rented facilities in Lachine.

‘They’re a small snapshot of the Canadian mosaic, comprising more than 20 ethnicities,” said parish priest Fr. Peter Saad.

Although as many as 14 million of the world’s 18 million Coptic Christians live in Egypt, Fr. Saad said that his parish will be the first in Montreal to eschew the Arabic church services used in Montreal’s four other Coptic congregations.

The intent, he explained, is to permit his Pointe Claire parishioners “to speak, pray, understand and fellowship in English.”

“Canada is our new home,” agreed Fr. Saad, who was born and raised in Montreal. “We welcome and encourage Montrealers of other cultures to join us.”

“We’re trying to broaden the reach of the church,” he concluded.

Many of the Coptic Christians who have migrated to Canada since the 1960s have thrived in their new country, have intermarried, and now want to involve their families in their highly youth-oriented church, whose inclusiveness has led to steady growth.

“The average age of our congregation is low,” enthused Fr. Saad. “All our churches have a courtyard for kids’ activities, daycare and summer camps—and there are so many babies that we’ve had to open crying rooms for use during services.”

Most Canadians are unaware that the Christian church still has many adherents in the Middle East.

“When I tell people that I’m from Egypt, they think I’m Muslim,” said Fr. Saad who explained that the Coptic Church was founded by St. Mark during the 1st Century, around the same time that the Roman church was founded by St. Peter.

Guindi, who grew up in Pointe Claire, noted that that Coptic immigrants, most of whom arrived here with very little means, have since thrived in their new land.

“Almost all came from families living from hand-to-mouth,” he said. “They worked hard and hoped for opportunity for their children, who have gone on to study subjects like physics, engineering and law, as well as to become entrepreneurs.”

According to Curé Alain Roy, former St. Jeanne de Chantal parishioners in Pointe Claire have been welcomed into the St. Joachim congregation in Pointe Claire Village. The church’s Dorval parishioners have likewise been absorbed by the Présentation de la Sainte Vierge congregation in Dorval.

“Closing the parish was a great sadness for them,” Curé Roy acknowledged in a statement. “Many tears were shed.”

Mayor Bill McMurchie will “welcome the demolition” of derelict school at Lakeshore & Sources.
OVERLAY: Eyesore stands at Pointe Claire’s eastern gateway.
(Photos © Robert Frank)
St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox’ growing congregation will inhabit church at de l’Église and Lakeshore in Pointe Claire, originally established by St. Jeanne de Chantal’s Roman Catholic parishioners, 91 years ago.
(Photo © Robert Frank)

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  1. Proud to be a member of saint Peter and Saint Paul congregation thank you Ville de Pointe Claire for welcoming us We wish to serve the congregation as well as the city as much as we can. Mireille Wassef

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