To The Daily Sun,

Remember the horror last month as we watched Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris catch fire and burn? Billowing smoke poured into the French sky as onlookers stood on the streets, faces raised as their tears streamed from their eyes at such a sight of destruction. Remember seeing the spire pitch forward into splintering matchsticks of a scorched erector set? The devastation of Notre Dame was beyond the scope of saving by the parishioners, citizens of Paris and all of France (and, the world), lovers of history and architecture.

And yet, Notre Dame is in the process of being restored. Thus far, $1 billion has been raised to accomplish this. Donations have poured in from the most famous companies, the middle class and those on fixed incomes, worldwide. Why?

And, here’s another question: Why do Americans and other nations travel to historically relevant sites? It’s that key word: historic. Now, the Colosseum in Rome hasn’t been used to torture folks for centuries. Yet, many have this destination on their “Bucket List.” It’s the same with the Great Wall and the Forbidden City of China, the historic sites of Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Israel, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK and so many more. Non-Catholics, including this daughter of a Knights Templar, traveled to Vatican City and it wasn’t for tea with the Pope, although that would have been delightful.

Speaking of the Pope, two years ago I served as chairman of the Laconia Heritage Commission. During that time, I penned a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis beseeching him to intercede on behalf of St. Joseph’s Church of Laconia. This was at the time of the first inkling that the destruction of St. Joseph’s was a possibility based on news reports from the New Hampshire Diocese. The letter was hand-delivered to the Vatican City by the current chair of the Heritage Commission, Jane Whitehead. And, no. I haven’t heard back from the Pope yet. But I thought it was worth a try.

One 80-plus-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph’s said, “A part of me is being taken away. I hope I die before my church is taken down.” Another elder parishioner stated, “My whole life has been in that church. I was baptized and married there, my husband’s funeral was held there, my children were married there, my grandchildren were baptized there.” Hearts are breaking here.

Rumors are swirling as to the buyer. Some say s/he wants to repurpose the church but that the bishop has denied that request. Seems to me a precedent has been established already. A few years ago, that same Diocese sold Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church on Washington Street in Lakeport to the Evangelical Baptist Church where the love of God and teachings of Jesus are being shared. Why can’t St. Joseph’s be repurposed? The destruction of St. Joseph’s is a crying shame and I shudder to think that a longtime worshiper would rather die than watch her church engulfed in a nightmare of rubble.

I know and can appreciate the circumstances that are causing the Diocese to move forward with the sale of the St. Joseph’s Church, Rectory (Busiel house) and the Holy Trinity School, as I have the privilege of serving my own church on the Property and Finance Committee. Please consider finding a home church to enhance your life.

A gentleman from England once told me that Laconia could be the Venice of New England. His vision was inspiring and I could imagine a vibrant City on the Lakes filled with grateful taxpayers and tourists. Our beloved Laconia is faced with more devastation if St. Joseph’s is destroyed. We are losing our very character with each window shattered, each brick crumbled, each pew and mantel splintered. Please join the chorus of those of us who are desperately striving to save this 1929 historic and lovely church, even if it becomes a high-end condominium, a museum, a coffee house, a sanctuary for healing, a historic travel destination. Thank you.

Catherine M. Tokarz

Laconia

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