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Going to the chapel

VICTORIA MINES — The efforts of a local group might see Cape Breton get its first wedding chapel.

Cutline - Submitted married
Linda and David MacKinnon, of Whitney Pier, pose in front of  the former St. Aphonus Church, while having wedding photos taken on the property. The couple was recently married by a justice of the peace at a hall, as there isn't a wedding chapel on the island. Members of the Stone Church Restoration Society have devised a business plan in hopes of purchasing this building and seeing it opened as a non-denominational wedding chapel.

Melanie Sampson, a member of the Stone Church Restoration Society, said their society has decided if they are successful in purchasing the former St Alphonsus Church in Victoria Mines, it will be turned into a non-denominational wedding chapel.

"So many people today are getting married by a justice of the peace, whether outside or in halls,  and there is a need for a wedding chapel," she said.

"We want it to be a beautiful, peaceful, serene place for people to go, a heaven on earth."

She said there are people who might not want to get married in a church but it still means something to them to get married in a church setting.

Sampson said every weekend you can see people on the property, having their wedding photos taken.

"I think people love the look of that ancient, Gothic type of structure."

Sampson said the idea is to charge a fee so that the chapel could be rented for weddings, prayer groups, respectable inspiration concerts and so on.  

"That way it could be self-sustaining. We could have removable pews so we could add or subtract as needed for the different events."

As wel,l she said, they could get grants for summer students to have the building open for tourism.

"I think the community would like that too because during the day it could be open for people to come in and pray or reflect while visiting loved ones in the graveyard," she said.

"We are thinking of former pews outside on concrete blocks — a place where people can come and sit and reflect, look over that bell towards the water.”

The society has also been in touch with cruise lines, wanting to see this put on the tourist map.

"We're only 15 minutes outside of Sydney," Sampson said. "We could partner up with Fort Petrie and the Low Point Lighthouse Society.  Three stops in a small area for tourists."

She said expenses would be low in the summer and fall as heat wouldn't be needed.

"When she was a church it was only $6,000 a year for the diocese to operate it."

In the meantime, Sampson said diocese has given the society permission to post a sign on the property.

"It's to get motorists to look up at the church.”

The society has discovered it’s eligible for grants for the building, but has to have ownership of it first. In the meantime, funds are needed for the purchase of the building and immediate repairs.

"We want to tell them, 'Now is the time to help us, don't wait until it's too late because once it's too late, it's too late.' If we're not successful we'll be returning the funds."

In March the society wrote to the diocese, asking for an extension until at least Oct. 31 giving the society time to determine community support and a plan for the building.

The society can be contacted by phoning 862-4848 or emailing

Meanwhile, the St. Alphonsus Preservation Society is continuing  to oppose the closure of the church.  Earlier, society member Fred Milley said Bishop Brian Dunn denied their group's appeal regarding the closure of the church, so they're appealing the bishop's decision to the Holy See, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome.

The decision on the sale of the building to the Stone Church Restoration Society will be on hold pending the appeal.

Bishop Brian Dunn has repeatedly stated the building could never be reopened as an actual church again.

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