For the past two years, parishioners from Edmonton’s Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples have been worshipping inside a school gym across the street.
A fire in 2020 caused by remnants of a smudging ceremony closed the more than 100-year-old building for its restoration.
But with renovations slated to be done by next week ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the Church on July 15, this is the last Sunday mass being held in his gym.
“Everybody is excited, we get to move into our church again… the fire did quite the amount of damage,” parishioner Kevin Morin said.
“Next week we get pilgrimage back to a beautiful newly renovated church after the fire to find our home again in sacred heart,” parishioner Mary Claire Stack said.
While parishioners are excited to move, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Work was originally supposed to be completed in the fall, but the announcement of the Pope’s visit forced that timeline up to July 17 – one week before the papal visit to the Edmonton church.
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“In order to move up that schedule people had to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week almost. There were people even working in here on Sundays trying to get the painting done, get flooring done when other trades are not here, so yeah it’s difficult,” Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples financial secretary Ron Martineau said.
“The construction is not going to be 100 per cent finished by the Pope’s visit, but it will be finished enough to receive him upstairs and our guests there,” Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples associate pastor Mark Blom said.
“There are things that are not needed, for instance, the kitchen downstairs is not going to be in operation, we don’t need that, we can operate the church without that,” Martineau said. “The heating system is not going to be commissioned, but I mean it’s going to be the end of July so hopefully we don’t need heat.”
Father Mark Blom said by next week, 95 per cent of the project is expected to be done.
A labour of love that will be worth it for its members who have been waiting to meet the Pope in person. And who are wanting to heal, reconcile and move past the pain caused by the Catholic church’s role in residential schools.
“This is so beautiful that he is coming. It’s a great blessing for reconciliation and forgiveness,” parishioner Theresa Yetsallie said.