‘This is our Notre Dame’

The interior of Assumption Church in Windsor is seen on May 10, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Work is expected to begin later this month on one of Windsor-Essex’s symbols of faith.

A bid for the first phase for the restoration of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in west Windsor has been accepted, well under budget, and the work is expected to start by the end of May and be completed sometime this fall.

The bid was announced Friday morning in the historic church by lawyer Paul Mullins, who has been behind the effort to restore it. Pupatello and Sons Ltd., a Windsor firm, submitted the winning bid over four others at $1.35 million. The budget for the first phase of the restoration is just a shade under $2 million, and it consists of a new copper roof, a new heating system, and other work.

The Ontario Heritage Trust has also signed off on the restoration proposal so work can begin.

Mullins said they are still looking for another $2 million to complete the work, and they are offering sponsorships of the new copper shingles that will be used at $250 a shingle. Local philanthropist Al Quesnel had previously pledged to match the amount up to $5 million if the money is raised by the end of July.

The most recent regular Sunday Mass at Assumption Church took place in the fall of 2014, and parishioners have been attending services since then at nearby Holy Name of Mary. Father Maurice Restivo, the parish pastor, is hoping the original structure will be available to have Sunday Masses sometime this fall. He is hoping people in Windsor-Essex will look to Paris for inspiration.

“This is our Notre Dame, it’s Our Lady of the Assumption,” said Restivo. “This church is symbolic. It’s the beginning of Christianity in the Windsor-Essex area, in this whole part of the world.”

The roots of the Assumption parish date back to 1728 when Fr. Armand de La Richardie came to the region from Quebec to establish “The Mission of Our Lady of the Assumption” among the Hurons of Detroit.

In 1767, French families petitioned the Catholic church for a parish of their own, but instead of building a second religious centre, it was decided the Mission of the Assumption among the Hurons would become Our Lady of the Assumption Parish. It was established October 3, 1767, and remains the oldest Catholic parish in Ontario.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle