Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Town's restored church celebrates 100 years

  • Print

Somewhat miraculously, the tiniest of congregations, living in the tiniest of tumbledown villages, once ambitiously described as "une fleur de France," will celebrate the centennial and recent restoration of its beloved church on Sunday, Oct. 21.

"It's a small parish and we're 20 regular parishioners," says Rachelle Nadeau, renovation/fundraiser co-ordinator for Sacré-Coeur de Jésus Roman Catholic Church in Fannystelle, Man. Nadeau estimates the current population of Fannystelle, a 45-minute drive southwest of Winnipeg along Highway 2, to be about 85 people.

Despite the shrinking congregation, one thing becomes apparent: "This church has a lot of meaning and that became evident when we did our first fundraiser," says Nadeau.

"The church was in really bad shape. The paint was peeling and it would probably have been demolished," she says.

They asked themselves, "Do we fix it? We're not a lot of people."

They decided to give it a try and let the people speak, and the small group held a steak supper. "That night, in one night, we raised $50,000 -- so that spoke to what we wanted to do. We had to save the church.

"It is a very important spiritual building for the area -- not just for Fannystelle but for Elie, Starbuck, Elm Creek," says Nadeau. Many people come to the church for different occasions.

The small but devoted group ran a "name a window campaign," along with the supper, where church windows were sold for $5,000 a piece.

"Eight windows were sold right away," Nadeau says.

"They're (the donors) getting a bronze plaque with their name on it, and the unveiling of the plaques will take place on Oct. 21."

Sacré-Coeur, which was designated a historical site by the province, also received substantial grants from the Sir Thomas Cropo Foundation Inc., the province and the Thomas Sill Foundation.

The congregation hoped to raise $100,000 for repairs.

"We exceeded our goal and were able to restore more parts of the church," Nadeau says.

The renovations included insulating the basement, painting the entire church, repairing the windows and restoring the bell towers.

Though the community never reached the soaring heights hoped for in the prosperous early 1900s, Fannystelle has an enchanting history.

Founded in 1889 by a Parisian countess, Marthe d'Albuféra, along with Sen. T.A. Bernier, who encouraged the immigration of settlers from Quebec and wealthy families from France, it was named in honour of d'Albuféra's deceased friend, Fanny Rives.

Rives devoted her life to helping the poor of France, according to the Manitoba Free Press of 1890, and died in 1883. A life-size marble bust of her, described then as "a magnificent specimen of sculpturing," was shipped from France and can still be seen outside the church in Fannystelle. Fannystelle translates to Fanny's star or étoile de Fanny.

Bernier's son, Noël Bernier, wrote a history of Fannystelle in 1934, describing Fannystelle then as "a flower of France blooming in the Manitoba soil." The first settlers arrived from France, Quebec and later Great Britain and other European countries.

Construction of a small chapel took place in 1889 and when it became too small, a larger church was built in 1911. The church soon burned down.

Parishioners began to build the current church in October 1912 following the plans of the previous one.

Two bell towers of uneven height dominate the front of the church today and surround a huge circular rose window that is considered an increasingly rare architectural sight.

Inside, three huge murals fill the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary. These scenes from the Resurrection were painted by Arthur Godin in 1935, says former parishioner Irene Painchaud.

Statues were purchased about the same time, says Painchaud, and included the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, the Infant Jesus, Saint Anne and others, many of which can still be seen in the church. The Stations of the Cross were installed in 1913.

 

If you'd like to see a place of worship featured here, email girard.cheryl@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 J13

History

Updated on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1:05 PM CDT: adds fact box

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Police speak out on Red River search

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Down the Hatch- A pelican swallows a fresh fish that it caught on the Red River near Lockport, Manitoba. Wednesday morning- May 01, 2013   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(  Standup photo)-    A butterfly looks for nector on a lily Tuesday afternoon in Wolseley-JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- June 22, 2010

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google