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January 23. 2013 10:57PM

Peterborough parish launches $1 million capital campaign

PETERBOROUGH - Roman Catholic Divine Mercy Parish has been given permission to start a million-dollar campaign to fund construction of a new church.

On Sunday, the church's pastor, Rev. Gerald Belanger, told parishioners that Bishop Peter A. Libasci had OK'd the start of a capital campaign to raise $1.1 million dollars for the project.

The Peterborough-based parish has a purchase agreement to buy about seven acres of land on Route 101 in Peterborough, just west of Lobacki Drive.

Belanger said that before the deal is finalized, the church would go before the town zoning board sometime in March. None of the town's zoning districts allows for churches, so a special exception is required, he said.

Along with town approval, Divine Mercy Parish needs to demonstrate that it can raise the money to build the church before the Bishop will allow the land purchase to be finalized, Belanger said.

In 2006, the Diocese of Manchester consolidated the parishes of St. Patrick in Bennington, St. Peter in Peterborough and the summer parish St. Denis of Harrisville into one new parish, Divine Mercy Parish.

The goal since the 2006 consolidation has been to build a new church to accommodate the 800 families that make up the new parish.

On Sunday, Belanger said for now he is looking to parishioners for prayers, but in the days to come he will be asking parishioners to step forward and support the capital campaign as did the communities that built the churches that eventually became Divine Mercy Parish, he said.

Divine Mercy Church, originally St Peter Church, was built by a community of mill workers about 120 years ago, Belanger said.

"It's been six years since we've been working up to this point," Lauren Martin, Chairwoman of the Pastoral Counsel, said on Wednesday. "It was really exciting to be in the congregation and be a part of everyone getting that news."

Since starting a land search, the church steering committee has looked at more than 70 properties in the area, Belanger said on Sunday.

"Everything seems to be pointing us in this direction, and the Holy Spirit seems to be guiding us this way," Martin said.

In September 2009, in an effort to unify the parish under one roof, Divine Mercy Parish stopped using St. Patrick and St. Denis churches for services. Both churches were later decommissioned.

In order to handle the overflow of people attending mass on Christmas and Easter, for the past several years the parish has rented out the Peterborough Community Center to hold an extra Mass on those holidays.

Martin said the church currently holds about 195 people. The new church would accommodate about 320.

Plans for the new church also include a church hall. The current one is located in the Divine Mercy Church basement and is only accessible by stairs, excluding those who cannot walk up and down from church activities and celebrations.

Because of this, Martin said, "I think it's been really hard to come together as one family."

Martin said the new church would incorporate elements from the old churches - stained glass, statues, perhaps an altar.

"We want to respect the history of everyone coming into the new church," Martin said.


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