"A Community of People" come together for Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Simpson, NT
On Sunday, September 17th, 2017 a delegation from the Diocese of Hamilton were in Fort Simpson, NT to celebrate the dedication of a newly built church. The team consisted of Fr. David Wynen, (Rector of the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King), Monsignor Murray Kroestch (Chancellor) and Jim Long (Episcopal Director of Finance and Administration).
It's standing room only in the new Sacred Heart Parish. Nearly the whole community, a population of around 1250, is here looking around with pride and awe. The vaulted ceilings are a beautiful hardwood, shades of blue provide a cool and calming environment. Wooden carvings adorn the altar and the pulpit. The wood-relief carvings of the Stations of the Cross, have each station written beneath in French, to honour the Oblate Brothers of Mary Immaculate and to serve as one of the reminders of the history of this church.
Sacred Heart is within the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith and was built in 1923 by the Oblates. Over time however, the church had aged significantly, and was deteriorating. In October of 2009, the church closed it's doors as it now posed health and safety risks to it's parishioners. With heavy hearts, after 90 years standing, the church, a treasured part of local history was then demolished in October of 2013.
Shortly after, in December 2013, Bishop Mark Hagemoen was installed as the 6th Bishop of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. Bishop Hagemoen was quick to assess the needs of the Diocese. Some of which included repairing and restoring a number of churches throughout. Fortunately for the residents of Fort Simpson this included rebuilding a new parish. Parishioners had been attending their masses and sacraments since the closure at Bompas Elementary School and their new Bishop wanted to ensure they had their own prayer space.
Parish efforts raised $300,000, however due to the location the costs of the construction of a church in the area would still be quite high. The Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith then began to reach out for help from those around them. A number of donors heard their call. Local community members, private donors, the Catholic Missions in Canada, The Archdiocese of Edmonton under the leadership of Archbishop Richard W Smith, and our own Bishop Crosby with the Diocese of Hamilton.
In early September of 2016 foundation work began. This past weekend, on September 17th the church was dedicated and consecrated with many in attendance.The celebration was inspiring. Parishioners took turns ringing the old bell which is now standing with the original steeple outside the church, mounted on concrete. First Nations elders and chiefs attended in celebration of this new place to worship. Bishop Hagemoen was the celebrant for the Mass.
Following the consecration Mass, there was also a special service. It took place where 30 years ago Fort Simpson had a special papal visit. Saint John Paul II was scheduled to visit Fort Simpson in 1984, however weather conditions prevented his plane from landing forcing him to cancel. In 1987, on September 20th, having not forgotten that cancellation, he made a 5 hour detour during a tour to the US so he could make a special unscheduled visit to Fort Simpson.
The overall day was a powerful reminder of the large community that we as Catholics have built. The support from the various Diocese's and the surrounding communities was inspirational and moving.
It was a bittersweet day as well, as on September 12th, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Hagemoen as the new Bishop of Saskatoon. There is no doubt however, that Bishop Hagemoen will have left behind a legacy in Fort Simpson.
See below some photo highlights from our "special correspondents", Jim Long and Fr. Wynen.