Monsignor Dennis Noon was 12 years old when he first set foot in Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate. Now, approaching retirement age of 75, Noon says he is still awed by its beauty every time he steps inside.
Noon has served for 25 years in Guelph — nine years at St. Joseph’s Church and the last 16 at Our Lady.
“Over the years I didn’t expect I would end up here — I was in Burlington and Oakville and back and forth,” said Noon. “When I got the call to come to Guelph it was due to the death of Father Lambertus at St. Joseph’s, so I came here in 1994 and I have been here ever since."
Noon was moved to Our Lady in 2003 with a mandate to oversee the restoration of the church, arguably the most iconic building in Guelph.
“People identify the church with Guelph,” said Noon.
Work on the exterior began in 2006 when the towers were repaired and a new roof was put on the church. External lighting was added and stone work was repaired.
In 2014, the focus of the restoration work shifted to the interior of the church.
“We totally repainted the inside of the church, put in new lighting, new flooring and new pews. We kept the ends of the old pews and restored them. We have a new altar and baptismal font and pulpit,” said Noon. “We did complete a renovation of the hall downstairs. We took off the plaster and found this beautiful stone that we didn’t know was there.”
“It came to just over $10 million restoration of the place. We’re still paying it off, of course,” he said. “To be able to have worked through the restoration of the church is a real privelege. I had a wonderful committee and the parishioners responded very positively to the work that we did. That will always be a good memory for me.”
The hard work paid off in 2014, with the Our Lady having its status elevated to a basilica by the Pope.
“One of the reasons being its significance in Guelph, it’s architecture and the beauty of the building and what it means to the diocese as well,” said Noon. “It’s something I felt this place always deserved.”
Noon remembers the first time he set foot in Our Lady.
“I was about 12 years old and I remember being awed by the majesty of the church,” he said. “Every once and a while something in here still strikes me. Sometimes when the sun comes up in the early morning and it comes through these windows, it’s beautiful to see the richness of the colours in this place.”
Noon began his career 44 years ago at the age of 30.
“I worked in the hospital as an operating room technician. When I finally decided to pursue this, I gave up that career and began my studies,” he said.
“I started off in Sacred Heart Parish in Walkerton and I was teaching high school up there,” said Noon.
That early experience served him well when he would eventually go on to serve 16 years on the Wellington Catholic District School Board.
Noon said he is especially proud of the creation of St. John Bosco Catholic School, which is directly adjacent to the basilica.
“The building was sitting there and we were trying to determine how we would use that,” said Noon. Being on the school board, I knew some of the needs in the community, so we offered to open up St. John Bosco school on the property for students who have difficulty in a regular high school setting. It provides them with some one-on-one teaching.”
“It’s nice for them to see that the church cares about them,” he said.
In 2018, Pope Francis named Noon a Chaplain of His Holiness, which entitles him to be called 'Monsignor'.
“To me it’s an honour to the parish that it is recognized as being a significant place, because they don’t name a lot of monsignors anymore. To me, it was a gift to the parish,” said Noon.
In his time in the parish, Noon said he has seen an increase in young families joining to meet their spiritual needs.
“There are now younger families coming here and there’s just a vibrant spirit. I think it’s a lively parish and people are quite involved, which is nice to see,” said Noon. “I think people are looking for a sense of community where they are comfortable, where they feel they belong and they can participate.”
After 16 years leading the parish, Noon said it is time for him to step down. He will retire in June.
“I felt this was the time for me to go. I feel like I have done what I wanted to do and I think it’s good for the parish to have a change — 16 years is a long time to be in one place,” said Noon.
“I recognize the great work that the priests before me have done. I just hope I have left a positive legacy for the people here and I am really grateful to all of them. It’s a wonderful parish and they have been very supportive,” he said.