The Lady of Lourdes Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary at its present site, along with the 100th anniversary of its cemetery, with the festivities wrapping up there this weekend.
While the current church has been standing for 50 years, three other churches, built on or near the present site, have held the name “Our Lady of Lourdes” for 100 years.
The first church dated back to 1898, and was built under the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. It served as a chapel for the St. Marguerite’s Indian Residential School, open from 1905-1960, that stood just a few hundred feet from the current church.
“You can’t begin to talk about Our Lady of Lourdes without talking about mentioning the residential school,” noted Glenn Jourdain, who headed the project to trace the church’s history for the anniversary celebration.
When a larger church began construction in 1914 on the exact foundation where the other two future churches would stand, the original church was used as a community hall.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church was used for six years, until it mysteriously burned down in 1920, forcing the congregation to go back to the original church. Construction on a new church was completed by 1926, and served the community until 1947 when it burned down as well.
“I remember watching the church burn from my parents window,” Jourdain noted.
The present church was officially blessed on Aug. 22, 1948. . The church under went significant renovations in 1985-1991, which included the addition of an entire vestibule, stairs and railings, as well as a new altar, sacristy, and congregation area.
These renovations were funded by Ominis Inc., the Couchiching community service group who raised money through bingos until 1993.
Jourdain cites Ominis Inc. as one of the most important parts of the church’s history. Besides the renovations, they were responsible for maintaining Our Lady of Lourdes cemetery as well.
“When Ominis supported the church, their big project was taking care of the cemetery,” mentioned Jourdain. “We don’t have anybody to take care of it anymore. The community used to come out and plant all the flowers [Ominis] bought every year in late May or early June.”
Another important part of the church’s history that Jourdain stressed was the Catholic Women’s League.
“They were often referred to as the ‘right arm’ of the pastor,” he noted.
The sheer number of photos on display of the CWL were indicative of their role in the church from 1962 to the present.
As for the original church, it was demolished in 1946. All that remains are a few photos and the Lady of Lourdes statue standing at the “new” church today.
As part of the celebration, a commemorative photo display detailing the rich history of the church and the people associated with it is set up at the church.
Festivities continue Saturday, with a pancake breakfast from 8:30-10 a.m. in the church basement, activities for the children, a dedication of the anniversary plaque, and a dance that evening.
The celebration wraps up Sunday with an outdoor mass at 3 p.m., followed by a fish fry.