LACONIA — REM Real Estate, LLC purchased St. Helena Mission Church at the Weirs from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester in a transaction that closed yesterday.
The church, which has been on the market for about a year, sold for $185,000, well below the listed price of $349,000. Proceeds from the sale will be applied to the operating fund of St. Andre Bessette Parish in Laconia.
Peter Morrissette of Gilford, one of the partners of REM Real Estate, LLC said that there are no specific plans for the property, but the partners intend to explore the potential for the residential development of the property. He said that the zoning ordinance would all for six single family homes or 20 condominium units to be built on the 3.38-acre lot. Any development and construction on the site will be undertaken by N.W. Morrissette & Sons, whose president is Kevin Morrissette, a well known and respected local builder.
The church on Endicott Street South (Rte. 11-B) was constructed as a mission church of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Lakeport on land donated for the purpose by Ralph and Helene Poudrier, the owners of The Weirs Hotel, and dedicated in July, 1955. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s mass was held at St. Helena four or five times in the course of a weekend as vacationing families and seasonal residents filled its pews. In those days, Reverend Marc Drouin said, there were between seven and nine priests spread among the three parishes in the city and they were assisted in the summer months by the Benedictines from St. Anselm's College in Manchester.
Drouin said that regular attendance began falling in the 1990s, particularly at St. Helena, as the conversion of motels and cottages to condominiums slowed the turnover of summer visitors and increased the number of seasonal residents, many of whom worshiped at the larger churches in the city. As the number of parishioners dwindled in 2010 the three parishes ultimately became on, which today is served by two priests, and a year later the Our Lady of the Lakes church building was offered for sale.
Drouin explained that in 2012 the pastoral and finance council undertook a study of St. Helena and found it in need of repairs estimated to cost about $200,000. He said that the council concluded that what he called "a 24-hour church," where mass was held on Saturdays and Sundays for 12 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, did not warrant the investment. The parish petitioned the bishop to sell the property.
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