ANTIGONISH, NS - It has been a place of worship and celebration, one of joy and sorrow, and soon it will be no more.
Crews started deconstruction of the historic Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Martha Bethany Motherhouse Chapel Wednesday (Dec. 5) in Antigonish.
As a pair of backhoes crunched through the bricks, idling vehicles dotted the roadway and parking lot on the perimeter of the fenced-in site.
"It's surreal, it's sad," an employee of the Marthas for more than 33 years, who declined to be identified, said.
She and two long-time co-workers - Chuck Scott and Sylia Breen - watched the process.
"I am just thinking of all the work we did in there and now it is gone," she added, with a laugh.
Like her colleague, Breen, who has worked with the congregation for almost 24 years, described watching the process as "very sad."
"It's home," she said, from the backseat of the car from which the trio was viewing the chapter of their and the community's history.
In recent years, with an aging and declining membership, the Marthas embarked on a decision-making process, when it came to Bethany Motherhouse - a building too big, past its prime and incurring increasing maintenance costs - that they called home for more than 95 years.
Last March, after deciding the future of their ministry would include a new home base, they made the move - across a driveway and parking lot - to the newly-constructed Parkland Antigonish.
Mary’s Court includes 25 licensed long-term care beds, while Martha Place offers 19 assisted-living and 42 independent suites, including 18 suites designated to be offered to members of the congregation.
Their new home also includes a smaller-scale place of worship, one that includes stained glass windows from the former chapel.
Although they understand the move had to take place, the staff members said it didn't make witnessing the deconstruction any less emotional.
"It's progress," Scott, a Martha employee for 28 years, said, while agreeing losing the building would not erase their many memories.