Preserving a holy history

After celebrating their 105th anniversary this August, the Notre Dame Parish is donating a DVD and booklet, outlining the congregation's extensive history in North Battleford, to the City of North Battleford Historic Archives.

Ken Holliday, chairperson of the archives, said he and the other eight volunteers on the archives board are always looking for donations such as this.

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"I'm very honoured that they would consider the archives as a repository for their history," said Holliday.

He added many features of the archives, such as security and climate control, make it an ideal place to preserve items pertaining to North Battleford's rich past.

"Where your roots are; that's important, that's who you are and it should be preserved," said Holliday.

Father Gerard Legaspi said the DVD history was the reason the parish decided to celebrate their 105th anniversary.

"For two years, we gathered everything," said Legaspi.

Parishioners brought in memorabilia and photographs and others shared their memories.

It's important to note that although the parish is celebrating 105 years, the church itself was not built until 1925, with the cornerstone being laid and blessed by Bishop Brodeur Aug. 23, 1925 and construction completed in 1926.

The parish itself has its roots in the St. Vital Parish of Battleford. In 1905 the pastor of St. Vital, Father André Bigonnese, started taking the ferry over to North Battleford, where he would preside over masses in family homes.

"The church had very humble beginnings," said Legaspi.

Between 1905 and the building of the current Notre Dame Parish Church, masses were held in a variety of locations, including the top floor of the original Notre Dame School.

In 1918, a new pastor, Father Jean-Marie Laparoux, decided a larger building was needed for the parish and began fundraising efforts. Although Laparoux was transferred in 1924 and never saw the building of the church, he was instrumental in rousing support for the project.

The succeeding pastor, Father Pierre Cozanet, saw the project to completion, selling the former rectory and several lots to fund the building of the church.

The church wasn't fully paid off until 1947, when then-pastor Father Ludovic LaRose celebrated by burning the mortgage.

In 1962, the Notre Dame Parish divided, with a new parish, St. André Parish, being created to cater to French-Canadian Catholics who were concerned the increase in English families would result in masses no longer being offered in their language.

The DVD gives a full and rich account of the many events that transpired in the more than 100 years of Notre Dame Parish.

Father Legaspi explained a book was made to cater to the needs of older parishioners who would be more comfortable with the format.

"It's more handy for them," said Legaspi.

Father Legaspi added exploring the history of Notre Dame Parish has given him a greater insight into the connections the church has to a number of institutions and events in the history of the Battlefords.

"Everything is tied up together," he said.

Booklets and DVDs are available for purchase at the Notre Dame Church and will be available for viewing at the City's archives by appointment.

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