Following extensive restoration work after a fire in 2020, the church and its parishioners are ready to come together and welcome Pope Francis to Edmonton.
After an Indigenous delegation from Canada travelled to Rome to invite the Holy Father to visit the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, the church and its parishioners are looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis during this pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation across the country.
Built in 1913, the church has undergone extensive restoration work after a devastating fire damaged the parish two years ago. Renovations not only restored what was lost in the fire but also better incorporated Indigenous culture, values, and symbolism–paving a path forward of forgiveness and respect. The church now incorporates Indigenous spiritual symbols, a teepee at the altar area, tables for smudge pots, and art portraying the Stations of the Cross by a local Métis artist.
“The sanctuary of the church showcases a tabernacle shaped as a teepee. We wanted this sacred container to reflect and honour traditional Indigenous dwellings,” said Father Mark Blom, Priest and Associate Pastor at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. “The strong maple wood used to create the tabernacle was salvaged from handrails that withstood the fire, bringing old elements from the church into this renovated space.”
The Sacred Heart Church was designated as a national Indigenous church more than 30 years ago, becoming the first of its kind in Canada.
The parish reopened its doors for the first time in two years on Sunday, July 17, holding a rededication ceremony and its first mass since the fire.
“I love what they’ve done with the renovations–it now feels homier. The papal visit is a tremendous opportunity for the healing of our nation,” expressed Fernie Marty, Elder with Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. “This visit opens a new chapter for the relationships between Catholicism and Indigenous peoples.”
In addition to blending Indigenous culture and Catholic tradition, the church’s renovations are making the parish more accessible by adding accessible washrooms and a lift, which will be ready for the papal visit.
“This work is unique for our company, and we are honoured to have been given this opportunity. With Pope Francis visiting this church, we are excited that our talents and effort here at Clark Builders will be showcased on a world stage,” said Jason Clooney, Site Superintendent with Clark Builders.
An invitation-only event for Indigenous peoples and members of the Sacred Heart Church’s community will take place on July 25 when the Pope visits Edmonton. The dedication ceremony, holy mass, and the liturgy will be livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page.
Renovations restored what was lost in the fire while also incorporating Indigenous culture, values, and symbolism – paving a path forward of forgiveness and respect.