The sound of drums loudly played outside of Edmonton’s Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples on Sunday as parishioners waited to go inside for the church’s grand opening.
“We waited so long for this, now today is the day,” parishioner Lena Whitfor said.
A fire in 2020 forced parishioners to temporarily worship in a school gym while repairs and renovations were undertaken.
Parishioners weren’t supposed to be back until the fall, but news that Pope Francis is coming forced that timeline up to a week before his arrival.
“When a church (interior) is destroyed, it needs to be rededicated, which means being re-consecrated once again to the worship of God,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.
After a small ceremony outside, the Archbishop led parishioners into the building where there were no empty seats for Sunday mass and the re-dedication.
Parishioners said they are overjoyed to be able to reclaim their beloved church.
“The depth of love parishioners have long held for the beloved church of Sacred Heart, that very same love has brought us to this moment,” said the Archbishop. “That love gave rise to a strong and irresistible determination to rebuild this place.”
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“We’re able to get back to our mission, and our mission is to help those in need here on the streets,” added parish council member Candida Shepherd. “Not only financially, but the ones that are homeless and those that have hearts to be healed.”
There is still more construction work to do, however, leaders say enough has been done to welcome his Holiness.
“The first day I saw it compared to what it looks like now, that it’s been dedicated is nothing short of a miracle,” said Father Cristino Bouvette, the national liturgical co-ordinator for the papal visit to Canada. “The work that’s been done in such a short amount of time is stunning and I am just so honoured to have been able to take part in the celebration, making it ready today for our visit from the holy father.”
Construction will continue at the church until September but will exclusively open for mass on Sundays and for the Pope’s visit Monday, July 25.