We are saddened to learn of today’s fire at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in downtown Edmonton but grateful that no one has been hurt.
We understand that the fire broke out early in the afternoon, sometime after the conclusion of a 1 p.m. baptism ceremony. The parish priest, Father Susai Jesu, said he got a call from the Edmonton Fire Service at 2 p.m.and arrived a short time later to find the back of the church engulfed. No one was in the building at the time. Fire officials advise that firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control, but there will likely be substantial smoke and water damage. Sacred Heart is a treasure in the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, and we are grateful for the firefighters’ quick response.
The iconic red brick church, located at 108th Avenue and 96th Street, was built in 1913, making it among the oldest Catholic churches in the city. In 1991 Archbishop Joseph MacNeil designated it as a national parish for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, meaning that anyone with Indigenous ancestry is considered a parishioner. It was the first of its kind in Canada. Today Sacred Heart serves residents in and around the inner-city neighbourhood of McCauley, with a special focus on the the poor and marginalized.
The parish is a unique community where the Catholic faith is expressed in the context of Indigenous culture. The church houses many unique pieces of a sacred art created by Indigenous artisans, and recently underwent extensive repairs and renovation.
“Thanks be to God there’s nobody hurt,” Archbishop Richard Smith said after visiting the scene. “What we have is damage to a building, and buildings can be repaired. This building in particular symbolically is associated with First Nations people, and many hearts will be crushed to see this and hear about it.
“But we as a community, we as an Archdiocese, we’re going to walk with the parish every step of the way, whatever that means and whatever it takes just to make sure this is eventually restored.”