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Gilles Grandmont  
Established in 1883
Bishop Richard Alphonse O'Connoro (Peterborough)
Pastor Jesuit Priests
Feast Day Friday, 3rd Week after Pentecost

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Bishop vacant
Parish Priest Jacques Fortin
Population (2000) 2051
   
 

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  •  P.P.C. : Vacant
  •  P.F.C.: M. Conrad Tremblay
 
 

Chapleau: the Jesuits and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish

To place the beginning of the history of the Chapleau Sacred Heart Parish, whose centenary was celebrated in 1987, one must refer to the work of the Society of Jesus in Northern Ontario, those Jesuits who have followed the construction gangs building the Canadian Pacific Railway at the end of the last century. Many have dedicated themselves to opening new parishes and missions among the Native People. Once these parishes were established, the Jesuits would hand them over to the local Bishop and his clergy. This is what happened to Chapleau. The Jesuit Fathers had been in charge of it from 1883 to 1911.

At this time those new parishes were situated in the Diocese of Peterborough under Bishop Richard Alphonsus O'Connor. After one of his diocesan visits, he wrote a pastoral letter on November 9th, 1893. In it he draws a striking picture of the life of priests and laity of that time. After evoking their great zeal towards souls, their rough nomadic life filled with dangers and privations of all sorts he writes: «When we consider the earnestness and fidelity with which these sons of St. Ignatius devote their lives to the salvation of souls, and that their labours are greatly blessed by Heaven, we have great reason to thank Almighty God for having so zealous a body of Missionaries spreading the faith throughout the Western part of the Diocese.»

Chapleau was able to profit from this body of zealous missionaries; for it was on September 12, 1883, that the first Baptism, administered by Jesuit Father Louis Côté, was registered in Chapleau. From that time on the number of Jesuits who took turns in working in the parish numbered about eighteen. Those who have remained a little longer are Fathers Hormidas Caron, V. Hudon, E. Rottot, Joseph Grenier, Peter Hamel and the last one Edward Proulx.

The first church was built in 1885, on the site of what is today Collins Hardware. This church had become too small, and a larger one was built in 1891 with its final touch in 1898 on the site of the present church, unfortunately it was destroyed by fire on December 18, 1918 just before Christmas. The church was built by Mgr Roméo Gascon, Pastor at that time. The first Mass was Midnight Mass December 24, 1919.

Here is what Gemma Gagnon wrote in 1944 in a document entitled «Chapleau» published by the Historical Society of New Ontario on the occasion of the departure of the Jesuit Fathers from Chapleau. «Many still remember the kind Father Edward Proulx. His memory is still quite alive in the heart of the parishioners who have known him. Active, enthusiastic, jolly, he was loved by everybody. He endowed the Church with an excellent heating system, then built a separate school and a rectory... It was in 1911 that Father Proulx left this lovely parish where he had spent his life, soul and body, for the welfare of his flock. Catholics as well as Protestants regretted this holy, joyful man who continuously repeated «God is so good!». The Jesuit Fathers on October 19th 1911, transferred the parish to a zealous priest, who had been two years pastor of Cochrane, Father Roméo Gascon, the present pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.» (p. 44)

Mgr Gascon was pastor 47 years in Chapleau. He died on January 25th 1958. Much more space would be needed to cover the long prosperous period of his stay in Chapleau. My aim was to restrict myself to the Jesuit period in Chapleau; more information should be published on the work performed by the Jesuits in Northern Ontario and in particular in Chapleau.

Prepared by
Father Albert Burns, Jesuit, retired priest
Sacred Heart Parish, Chapleau, Ontario
First published in
Inter-Par: 1996 - 05 - 26

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