NNSL Photo/Graphic

business pages

Subscriber pages
buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Demo pages
Here's a sample of what only subscribers see

Subscribe now
Subscribe to both hardcopy or internet editions of NNSL publications

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

NNSL photo/graphic

A special mass was delivered on Dec. 5 in celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic church's 50th anniversary in its current location. From left, Father Daniel Perreault, Deacon Francois Picotte, Bishop Reynauld Rouleau and catechist Celestin Erkidjuk. - photo courtesy of Greg Cayen

Iqaluit Catholic church turns 50

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 20, 2010

IQALUIT - On Dec. 2, 1960, Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Mission celebrated its first mass in its new church.

Priests at the Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish in Iqaluit
  • Robert Paradis: 1960-1963
  • Georges Lorson: 1961-1962
  • Roberge: 1962-1963
  • Jean Dufour: 1962-1968
  • Roland Courtemanche: 1968-1972
  • Bernard Fransen: 1972
  • Joseph Meeus: 1972-1975
  • Joseph Choque: 1974-1979
  • Ernest Trinel: 1980-1982
  • Patrick Lorand: 1982-1988
  • Andrew Macbeth: 1988-1991
  • Jean Dufour: 1991-1995
  • Robert Sprott: 1996-1997
  • Frederick Homann: 1997-2000
  • Frank Kuczera: 2001-2002
  • Greg Oszust: 2003-2008
  • Daniel Perreault, 2008-present

On Dec. 5, the parish's current 70 members, down from 500 at its inception, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the church with a special mass, coffee hour and community dinner.

"We are not a big church but it is very much alive with a lot of activity and people are involved," said Bishop Reynauld Rouleau, who has overseen the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay for the last 23 years.

In the summer of 1960, 114 tons of building materials arrived and construction of the building was completed in November. The opening was delayed to December due to a fire in the furnace room.

The first mass was actually delivered on Aug. 30, 1959 by Father Robert Paradis. At that time, there was no church and mass was celebrated in a room paid for by The Federal Electric Corporation. Three masses were offered to parishioners in English and French, Perreault said.

Rouleau said at the inception of the church in Iqaluit many parishioners were members of the Canadian or American militaries or employees of the Bell Telephone Company.

"Bell sold to Northwest Telephone Company, there was a religious crisis in Quebec, people stopped coming to church and participation started decreasing," said Father Daniel Perreault who has been delivering mass at the church for the last two years.

Mass is offered once a week on Sundays at 10 a.m. in English, Inuktitut and French.

"We have a significant Inuit, French and Filipino congregation," said Greg Cayen, president of the parish council.

As similar with other organizations in Iqaluit, people come and go but most who are members of the church get involved with the parish.

Cayen said those who do leave tell him it is not as easy to get involved in a larger parish.

Some members of the parish visit the Baffin Correctional Centre or the hospital to offer prayers, are involved in a group that meets to study the word of God or volunteer their time in other ways.

"It is a personal commitment people took upon themselves in the name of their faith and Jesus Christ," Perreault said.

Francois Picotte is a permanent deacon at the church and 80-year-old Celestin Erkidjuk serves as a catechist.

As one of the longest serving members of the Roman Catholic community in Nunavut, Erkidjuk stands on the altar with the priest during mass, does the readings and prayers in Inuktitut and delivers his own homily.

"He is such a fundamental part of our celebration," said Cayen.

Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Mission is one of 17 churches in Nunavut which is part of The Diocese of Churchill - Hudson Bay. There are 11 priests, most of whom are members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Rouleau said he tries to have a priest visit many of the communities for Christmas and Easter and most see a priest two Sundays out of five. Priests are shared between churches. When priests are not present in the communities, parishioners step in to deliver mass.

Perreault said a good time was had by all in attendance at the 50th anniversary celebrations.

"It is significant in more than one way: to celebrate our history but, also to have a look at our future," said Perreault.

And as for the future of the church, he said: "We are full of hope."

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.