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    Dear Readers, Finally we can it seems that spring is almost in the air.  Weather wise it’s not that cold anymore and it looks like Mr. Winter is going to say goodbye. Soon you have to start cleaning up the yard and the flower beds.  And the trees in the backyard will start to have leaves [...]

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Page added on June 25, 2017

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The Door Again

By: Tigs Tidalgo

When I wrote something about doors in the past, I meant it as metaphoric figure of speech to emphasize something of a gateway towards a direction. This time is entirely different for the door I am talking about is simply an ordinary structure where people get in or out the building.

What I am referring to is about the congested exit condition of parishioners at the Sunday noon mass of the St. Mark Catholic Parish Church in northeast Calgary. We were concerned that if panic exit may occur, a tragedy of hurt and even loss of lives to parishioners that are about all Filipinos. Written request were sent to institute remedial measures.

We were informed through pulpit announcement by the assistant pastor at noon mass that they will widen the ‘one-man at a time’ door at the east wall of the church. This door does not bring anyone out yet. It is still inside to the rectory and washrooms. There is however a long narrow alley of about a hundred feet to a little doorway out at the end. It has also a way to the corridor that goes out to the main door. This adds more congestion of people at the main exit. They will also make some improvement to the north exit door that goes directly out the building. These of course were just announcement. It is not done.

The main concern is at the furrier or the reception area. This will only occupy under a hundred people standing. The three exit doorways from the main hall of about 500 people and the two narrow stairways of seventeen steps high from the balcony of 200 hundred all going into the furrier makes the place very crowded at exit time.

There is massive crowd of people tightly jam-packed to each other and walking slowly breast to back from the reception area and into a twelve feet wide corridor of about 40 feet in distance to the main door. The corridor is a bottleneck of people going to the main exit. There are also people standing on rungs of the stairs from the balcony waiting to have room in the furrier.

These people are mostly members of families. There are mothers with babies, children, senior citizens; handicapped people some with canes, walkers, crutches and on wheel chairs. They are in the church for over an hour every Sunday starting at noon.

Attendance at special occasion masses as Christmas, Easter Sunday and New Year are quite challenging. People occupied offices and rooms in the rectory. There were old people sitting on the floor and some were leaning on the wall at the alley going to the washrooms. It was not a comfortable place to be and neither was a pretty picture to look at.

It is not mostly the comfort of people that the we are concerned at this time. Yes, its good to have it, but this can wait. The priority is about the danger on safety to kababayans and others if panic exit for whatever causes may come about. It could result into tragedy when wild stampede of panicky people rushes to get out. This too will cause harm on those that are inside the main hall and at the balcony, where exits are only through two narrow stairways into the furrier.

This can not be taken for granted and neither can we remain idle. This is a horrific scenario to contemplate and the reason why we are persistently pushing for safety measures. It suffices to assume that this is not just a problem of St. Mark Parish Church, but also of the Filipino community as well. About eighty five  percent of parishioners are Filipinos and attendance at noon Sunday mass is about all.

It does not take rocket science to address the problem. What it needs is to restore the sothwest main door. This will release the congestion at the furrier area and also the two stairways from the balcony. There were two doors at the furrier before the renovation of the church. One was replaced by the present main bottleneck corridor and the other is now a glass panel wall.

The Filipino community should not just demand, but also to work in partnership with the parish to resolve this problem together. Basically, this is our responsibility too. We are dealing here with the safety and well being of many Filipinos. It is only fitting for us to take our share. I know that our community members will understand.

We sent two written request for a meeting. It was all ignored.  I incidentally met the pastor at the church lobby and we talked about the exit congestion of the church. He was concerned about the situation and even added that the balcony was a “death trap.”  He added that I can talk to him anytime about it.

He further explained that the door we asked was a part of the church expansion with the construction of the adoration chapel. He can’t start it then because St. Mark still owed the dioceses about nine hundred thousand dollars. It has to go down to around seven hundred thousand before he could file a loan.

I asked him as to how long should we wait to have the door. He replied,“ Give me three years.” I was not happy. To be worrying every Sunday for three years is not a good feeling to keep.

About two years did come to pass now and nothing is done about the safety of parishioners. The only thing that took place was that our parish priest was recently transferred to another parish.  His replacement is nice and receptive. Maybe we could revive our concern again.


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