Joe Clark

Holy Family redesign

Holy Family is a Catholic church on King St. West in Toronto. It offers Latin low and high masses and a so-called reverent Novus Ordo. Holy Family runs its own seminary, which is actually defined by provincial statute. The overarching corporation and religious order, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, furthermore operates a second church, St. Vincent de Paul on Roncesvalles.

I was verbally authorized by the Oratory’s provost, Fr. Paul Pearson, and his second-in-command, Fr. Martin Hilbert, to assemble and provide deficiency lists concerning physical plant and graphic communication. (The sole venue considered was Holy Family itself, not the seminary or St. Vincent’s.)

Why? Because the building had all sorts of avoidable defects, and basically every aspect of type and copy has been mismanaged, to the point that parishioners actually miss special events because they aren’t announced in a manner they will actually notice.

Start with a video

This project has rather soured

I had not one but two approvals to carry out this project. But when I tried to get basic fact-checking questions answered by Fr. Hilbert, I was basically told he was scotching the project.

Of course I took this up with Fr. Pearson, who runs the place. I told him I am not willing to tolerate not one but two Catholic priests who reneg on deals. I further told Fr. Pearson that Fr. Hilbert had failed in his duty to be a good shephered. “You’re my church! You have to be the one place on God’s green earth where I’m not treated as a problem,” I wrote Fr. Pearson.

These two priests, in charge as they are of Holy Family and the Oratory, have ignored me completely. They’ve caused a great schism and have done precisely nothing to remedy same even after being invited to do so.

“Surely you have nothing to learn and need nobody’s help. Guess again: Come fall, costed, typeset proposals will be ready for presentation at an all-hands meeting,” I further wrote.

Not quite yet, actually.

The fate of this project is up to Holy Family –
and its parishioners

Holy Family has to decide if it wants my expert help or not. If so, Holy Family has a great deal of work to do to regain my trust. Frs. Pearson and Hilbert have to go the extra mile to welcome this lost sheep back to their fold.

If you attend Holy Family and have any sense at all of the apparent decrepitude and amateurism at work, and if you want that actually fixed, you can tell Fr. Pearson that directly.

Note that the genesis of this project was an alleged $57,000 deficit – something we were told about by a printed insert in the already abominable church bulletin handed out precisely one Sunday last February. (You weren’t there? You missed it.) But in fact the Oratory of St. Philip Neri is a registered charity with some $3.1 million in assets and about $1.2 million in revenues. As its charitable returns (spreadsheet ¶ PDF) detail, it has shown retained earnings (“profits”) every year for which returns are available. It can afford to spend a bit of money. (Besides, I include a plan to increase revenues.)

So then: If you want all this fixed, tell them that. My church has frozen me out completely.

And just to recap, “I think this church is great,” “I don’t see what needs fixing,” and “We’re lucky to have this place as it is” are restatements of the problem, not objections to this solution.

Available documents

I have not produced full deficiency lists yet because Holy Family attempted to scupper the project halfway through. (I have the raw lists, of course – just not finished versions.) Nor have I costed everything out yet. And I’m not going to publish more than a handful of the hundred-plus photographs I have.

Still, you can read what I’ve produced so far. (Simplified typography. Everything prints fine.)

  1. Mindset

  2. Graphic presentation

  3. “I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks –
    let’s make lots of money

Is any of this actually gonna work?

Heavens, no. Holy Family will continue to freeze me out (“Well. Joe. Perhaps we aren’t the right church for you”), barely anyone will read what I have produced, and fewer still will agitate for improvements.

Further: No one, at all, to whom I have described this project has taken my side, up to and including close personal friends. Indeed, I have been warned that “making [myself] a public enemy of a religious order” is “kind of dumb.” Do your worst, padres. Or do your best. (They’ll do neither. I will remain persona non grata at Holy Family until they are begrudgingly obliged to hold my funeral service in their nave.)

Posted: 2023.10.13 ¶ Updated: 2023.10.16