A group in southern Saskatchewan says a church bell gifted over a century ago was stolen this week.
Souris Valley Memorial Club president Paul Cherpin said the theft occurred sometime overnight on Monday.
“I come here (Tuesday) morning … to clean up the bell because I had people come and help me lift it and when I went to opened the church, I noticed that the lock had been pried off and so I immediately went to the back to look for the bell was and it was gone,” he said.
“The bell came from France in 1909 … there was a general out of France that had a son here that opened up a store in the (Souris Valley) village and he donated the bell to the parish.
“We don’t use this church anymore except for special occasions and one of the neighbours is getting married here on June 12 so we’ve been working at it to get it all cleaned up and ready to go and then we made an arbour to hang this bell on just for this wedding and it was stolen.”
Cherpin said they never had the bell appraised but said similar ones have sold for roughly $7,500.
“But to the community, it’s worth thousands to us. I mean, this is … we’ve been looking after this place since well between us and our ancestors since 1907 so it means everything to us,” Cherpin said.
“I sure hope we can get it back because it means everything to this community.”
Weyburn RCMP Sgt. Brian Neilmeyer told Global News that in his 22-year career, he’s never had a case like this.
“It’s a first in my career, certainly,” Neilmeyer said.
“I thought it’s the one place criminals kind of leave alone — churches. Like, Jesus … some reverence given to the fact that it’s a church.”
Souris Valley Church, also known as St. Germaine Roman Catholic Church, is a municipal heritage property built in 1907 in the rural municipality (RM) of Laurier, approximately 12 km southeast of the Town of Radville.
“It was a Catholic parish and it quit being a church in 1970 so the archdiocese gave us the grounds and the building to look after … we’re just doing this all for nothing. It’s always volunteer work. We don’t have any income of any sort coming and then this happened,” Cherpin said.
“If they could just bring it back. I’m not going to say bring it back with no charges because … whoever took this has to be charged.
“We’ve been looking after this building since 1970 and that is the first time that anything ever been stolen out of here.”
Neilmeyer said RCMP are following up on a lead but don’t have much to go on at this point in their investigation.
“Realistically, we don’t have a lot to go on,” Neilmeyer said.
“Certainly we would implore anybody if they hear anything, see anything with respect to a bell with some French writing on it.
“We’ve contacted metal places that take scrap metal for sale and things like that. Again, it’s one of those things, don’t exactly know what the reason would be unless it was just for the medal value.”
Cherpin estimated the bell weighs between 150 and 200 pounds.
“It was too heavy they couldn’t lift it alone. They needed two people to lift it,” Cherpin said.
“I’m sure it was all brass … I don’t know if they took it for scrap value or if they plan on reselling it. I don’t have a clue.
“We never really worried about it because we didn’t think that would be something that somebody would steal. But obviously, we weren’t thinking right.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact RCMP or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Radville is approximately 120 km south of Regina.