The Diocese of Worcester will take the necessary steps to ensure that the closed Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is not a hazard to the public, according to a diocesan spokesman Friday.
The church was closed May 1 after engineering reports said that its integrity and safety could not be guaranteed.
Efforts to quickly take down the crumbling church rather than spend the money to repair it were thwarted by a decision of the Worcester Historical Commission Thursday. Since the church is considered to have historical significance, a city ordinance requires a one-year waiting period before demolition. The diocese sought a waiver to that timetable. But an appeal by a group of parishioners calling themselves the Mount Carmel Preservation Society was successful in convincing the commission not to grant the waiver. The group is hoping to raise enough money to repair and reopen the church.
In the interest of public safety and “given that the request for a waiver to demolish Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was denied on June 9 by the Historical Commission, the parish will have to proceed with the ‘makesafe’ plan,” according to Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the Diocese.
The ‘makesafe’ plan was developed by structural engineers at Gorman Richardson Lewis Architects. “Overall, this will involve fabricating and installing bands to secure the cupola along with completing the waterproofing of the exposed brick behind the façade. It will also involve securing the façade to the supporting wall at an estimated additional cost of $120,000,” Mr. Delisle said.
According to Mr. Delisle, the diocese will assist with loans to get this done “promptly.”
All Masses will continue to take place at Our Lady of Loreto Church, 37 Massasoit Road, he noted.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church has deteriorated over the years since Interstate 290 was constructed. The highway is separated from the church by the width of Mulberry Street and some people have blamed the original construction work and continual vibrations from traffic, especially truck traffic, on the highway for causing the damage.
The parish had been trying to come up with a solution to the structural problems of the church. Initial estimates indicated that about $1.3 million would be needed to fix the building. But more problems were discovered once they started to do preliminary work on its facade.
The front inner wall of the church was found to be pulling away from the frame and roof of the building, exposing roof beams. This problem was discovered this past winter after the top part of the facade was torn down and the cap stones were removed. That part of the facade was leaning away from the front of the church and the bell tower supports were eroding, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, pastor, said. The front door of the church had been closed earlier because of the potential danger that debris might fall on people entering the church. Parishioners had to use the side entrance.
The architects had come up with a plan to stabilize the inner front wall but it was deemed too dangerous for the workers, Msgr. Pedone said. They suggested that a tie-back system that would cost $120,000 might stabilize the building but there was no guarantee that it would be the only repair necessary, he said.
The pastor said it became apparent that the costly repairs would be “throwing good money after bad.” Money that the parish doesn’t have, he said.