St. Peter Church in Peterborough razedBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
March 15. 2016 9:19PM
PETERBOROUGH — The old St. Peter Church on Vine Street owned by Divine Mercy Parish was razed Tuesday.
The Roman Catholic church was built in the 1870s, and was originally named St. Peter Church in 1876.
The demolition was recommended by Divine Mercy pastor Rev. Msgr. Gerald Belanger, along with the parish council, and was approved by Manchester Diocese Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci, said Tom Bebbington, Diocese director of communication, on Tuesday.
The parish is paying the $57,000 cost to demolish the building, Bebbington said.
St. Peter Church, later renamed Divine Mercy Church, was decommissioned last fall after the parish built a larger church off Route 101/Wilton Road in Peterborough.
The new church better suits the needs of the parish, which was created in 2006 when three Monadnock region parishes were combined, Bebbington said.
The new church seats about 320 people, which is double that of the old church.
Additionally, unlike the old church, the new church has handicap accessible bathrooms and church hall, both of which are larger.
Bebbington said no one at the diocese on Tuesday, including the director secretary for real estate, could recall the last time a decommissioned church was torn down. It’s unusual, he said, but added that — oddly enough — another church in the diocese is slated for demolition.
St. Charles in Dover is to be torn down sometime in June to make way for a housing project. The church was decommissioned because its parish had three churches.
“They didn’t need three buildings for the size of the congregation,” Bebbington said.
Additionally, St. Charles would have required millions of dollars in renovations.
St. Peter Church also would have required a great deal of refurbishment, Bebbington said. But the main reason it was razed was that after the sale of the old rectory, the parish needed a way to access the old St. Peter cemetery, which could only be accessed through the land where the church sat.
“The land that makes up what was the parish parking lot and rectory has been sold to a developer, and the parking lot is going to be turned into condominium units — cottage style, from what I understand,” Bebbington said.
“We needed the access to the cemetery. … and since the parish is no longer holding masses there, the town would have taxed the church for the building.”
The church sat right up against Vine Street, and on the other side was only six feet away from the cemetery gravestones, Bebbington said.
He added that he doesn’t know of any real interest in the church building from any developers. The church building would have required major renovations and anyone using it for a business or residence would have had people traipsing back and forth on the property to visit graves or maintain the cemetery.
The parish is obligated to care for the cemetery and needs the land to do so, Bebbington said.
After the debris is cleared the land will remain an open green space, he said.
In 2006, the parishes of St. Peter in Peterborough, St. Patrick in Bennington and the summer parish of St. Denis in Harrisville were merged by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester into one parish — Divine Mercy Parish.
In September 2009, in an effort to unify the parish under one roof, the parish stopped using the Bennington and Harrisville churches.
St. Denis and St. Patrick churches were later decommissioned, and the remaining church in the parish, St. Peter’s in Peterborough, was renamed Divine Mercy Church.