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Catholic parish aims to build new church in Peterborough

  • Rev. Gerald Belanger, Divine Mercy Parish<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Rev. Gerald Belanger, Divine Mercy Parish<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

PETERBOROUGH — With a congregation of about 830 families, the Divine Mercy Parish long ago outgrew its church building on Vine Street. Ever since the parish was formed in 2006, when St. Peter Parish of Peterborough, St. Patrick Parish in Bennington and the summer parish of St. Denis in Harrisville were merged in a reorganization by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, church members have been searching for a good location for a new home. Now they have found one, according to the Rev. Gerald Belanger, and they are hoping to raise $1.1 million to build a church that could seat 300 people and a hall to hold 125 people for meals and gatherings.

“The land is called the old Wilson farm,” Belanger said on Friday. “It’s off Route 101, just west of Lobacki Drive. I understand there used to be an egg farm there.”

Belanger said the church has a purchase agreement on about seven acres of land. He said there would be room for buildings, which would include office space, as well as parking and future expansion.

Belanger said that Bishop Peter Libasci had given the church permission to start a capital campaign, and the fundraising drive was announced to parishioners on Jan. 24.

“The response has been quite positive,” Belanger said. “Our finance council and the pastoral council both gave a strong consensus in support.”

He said the parish will also use some of the money that has been deposited over the years with the Catholic diocese’s central fund, which he said acts like a bank for local parishes.

Other funds could come from the sale of parish buildings.

“We have St. Patrick’s Church in Bennington up for sale, but it’s a slow market,” Belanger said. The current church on Vine Street and neighboring buildings would also go on the market if the capital campaign is successful.

Many parishioners have asked why a new church couldn’t be built on the Vine Street property, Belanger said. The issue there would be parking, which is already limited and would become more scarce if a new building were to be put up.

Belanger said the parish will be hiring a fundraising company to work on the campaign.

“You need professional expertise to raise that kind of money,” he said.

Now that the approval for a capital campaign has been given, the next step will be to go to the Peterborough Zoning Board of Adjustment to get a special exception to allow a church on the Route 101 property.

“We’re hoping it won’t be hard to get,” Belanger said. “It would then allow us to put a construction document together and approach the Planning Board. We are hoping to meet with the ZBA in March. We need some preliminary sketches, so it may bleed over into April.”

In 2008, the church owned about 50 acres on High Street next to the St. Peter cemetery and had plans to build there. But neighbors on High Street, including the MacDowell Colony, were not in favor of the project at that location.

“We were not successful in getting the special exception,” Belanger said. The church eventually sold most of the land to a member of the MacDowell Colony’s Board of Directors, keeping about seven acres for future cemetery expansion. The church then looked at building on land along Route 202 north of Peterborough, but that didn’t materialize, according to Belanger.

“We’ve looked at more than 70 different parcels of land over the last several years,” Belanger said. “We didn’t limit our search to Peterborough. I’ve become quite familiar with real estate in this area.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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