EDMONTON – Francophone Catholics in the west end find themselves homeless again after losing the chapel they have been leasing since their own church went up in flames 45 years ago.
Since Oct. 19, the 150 families of Ste-Anne Parish have been worshipping in the gym of Ecole Notre-Dame, 15425-91 Ave. They will remain there until they find a church willing to house them.
The parish's lease of the Grey Nuns chapel came to an end in October.
It was not renewed because the Innovative Housing Society that bought the Grey Nuns Centre five years ago wants to demolish the chapel to build affordable housing for people in need. However, a small chapel for the Grey Nuns will be kept on the premises.
Father Felix Kusamba, pastor of both St. Joachim and Ste-Anne parishes, said there is no will among parishioners to build a new church and the parish council is looking for a new location to lease.
"Parishioners say we cannot afford a new building so we are looking for another place because in the gym of the school we cannot celebrate marriages or funerals," Kusamba said.
Currently the parish is looking at the possibility of moving into Dormition Ukrainian Catholic Church, 15608-104 Ave., or St. John the Evangelist Church, 9830-148 St.
Longtime parishioner Maurice Gosselin, who is in charge of finances at Ste-Anne, said the parish will not build "because it costs a lot of money to build these days."
But he said parishioners are committed to keep Ste-Anne going. "We don't have a big parish but it's a French Catholic parish in the west end and we like that," Gosselin said. "We just need to find a location that we can call home."
The parish traces its origins to 1952 when Archbishop John Hugh MacDonald granted permission for St. Anne's Church to be built at 102nd Avenue and 153rd Street as a temporary mission of St. Joachim's Parish.
The church was primarily to accommodate francophone families living in west Edmonton but St. Anne served both francophone and anglophone Catholics with separate Masses for each.
The first Mass in the new St. Anne Church was held Nov. 9, 1952. Within a year, the parish of 110 families was granted its independence from St. Joachim.
In 1966 a fire destroyed St. Anne's Church and the French and English communities decided to go their separate ways. The anglophone parishioners became part of Holy Spirit Parish.
The francophone parishioners again became a mission of St. Joachim's Parish. They leased the chapel of the Grey Nuns Centre every Sunday morning – a temporary arrangement that soon became permanent.
In September 1973, the mission again regained its independence and became responsible for its own administration and finances.