‘[A]Will we remain complacent or act and stand up for what is right? »
I had been a member of the local Catholic church group for almost three decades. It was there, through the church choir and the community of worshipers, that I made my home away from home. At the time, Catholic masses were held at Myrtle Philip Elementary School and choir rehearsals were held in our homes. It was not until 1996 that, in a joint effort of many, the Notre-Dame des Montagnes Catholic Church was born.
The church has become a space not only to share faith, but also to share meals and friendships. It was a haven for thousands of visitors each year. I have countless memories of singing at weddings, funerals, celebrations of life, piano recitals, baptisms and other events. Our church has always been a welcoming and inclusive space; there was room for everyone.
It was all the more shocking to myself and others when, in 2018, the then newly appointed priest said the church “was not sacred enough” for him to serve masses there. This cynical and disconnected comment marked the beginning of what can easily be described as a return to the dark ages for our parish.
In response to previous reports of the controversial expansion of the Catholic Church in Whistler, Whistlerites should not remain oblivious or complacent to the politics behind this seemingly innocent and generous contribution. With a possible North American counterpart in Santiago de Compostela in mind, it is clear that the Napa Institute is ready to conquer new territories. Not by conversation or invitation, but by sheer force of financial and political bravado. Boasting formidable associates and donors to Trump and the American Republicans within its ranks, an entrenched presence of the ultra-conservative institute is a concern not just for Whistler, but for the entire Sea to Sky corridor.
Part of a larger action plan for the region, the project is not just about improving existing religious spaces or building a pilgrimage destination for the faithful, but about attracting a specific type of Christian. Father Andrew L’Heureux’s heartbreaking and absurd rambling on the allegedly imminent threat of identity politics and Napa’s refusal to comment on exactly how their values align with those of the community should be enough to keep us vigilant about what is to come (see prickJuly 14: “Whistler Catholic Church seeks to expand its footprint and presence, but not all are on board”).
Judging by prick, and GD Maxwell’s opinion column last week, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in dialogue, or in addressing the needs and values of the local congregation. Who bono? Once domesticated, what influence will Napa and his associates have on local Whistler politics? What kind of vision do they bring to the community? Presenting themselves as enemies of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQI causes, the vision is that of those who recently brought down Roe v. Wade and weakened access to reproductive health care for millions of women and girls across the United States.
The whip of conservative backlash against equality and human rights is turning north and toward Whistler.
Let’s also not forget where we are in the story here. As BC Catholic’s letter to the editor pointed out, the flamboyant spending schedule for this unnecessary church building is deeply disconnected from the current problems of the Catholic Church, not only in British Columbia, but in nationwide, such as the unmarked graves of residential school children and child sex abuse scandals. How will the presence of a conservative, exclusive, archaic church and its US-based Christian-conservative organization nurture and advance this community?
So my question is, are we going to stay complacent, or take action and stand up for what is right? If we don’t start paying attention now, tomorrow may already be too late.
I must say that I had hoped that the attention drawn to the whole matter over the previous weeks would elicit some degree of self-examination; instead, Heather Durfeld, who had the courage to speak out, was very recently fired from the financial council of Our Lady of the Mountains. Not because of nearly 26 years of incredible service, but because she was the only one against the project.