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1. Dates: The Mission

La Loche RC Church in 2011

The Grey Nun's Convent in 2011                      

  • 1845     Father Thibault comes to the area  and preaches at the Portage through an interpreter.
  • 1847     A large number of people from the Portage go to Ile-a-la-Crosse to see and hear the priests that had just arrived.
  • 1860     The mission of  "Notre Dame de la Visitation"  is established in La Loche but the priest lives in Ile a la Crosse.
  • 1875     A location for the future Mission is picked in the village of La Loche. (see "The Mission" page) 
  • 1877     The residents build a chapel on the point across from the island. (Penard)
  • 1878     Ile a la Crosse residential school opens.  
  • 1883      The Portage loses its importance as a trade route.
  • 1889      Father Penard is given charge of the Mission but was unable to come till 1895.
  • 1893      Monsignor Pascal says mass in La Loche. There is no chapel or rectory yet in the village.

La Loche Mission villages 1895

*interactive map, zoom in, click on symbols. 

The green tents are winter hunting camps. The yellow houses represents villages. The blue line is the estimated hunting territory of the La Loche Mission villages of 1895.

       Father Penard
  • 1895      Beauval residential school opens (closes in 1983)
  • 1895      Father Jean-Marie Penard is the first resident priest of La Loche and serves  from 1895 until 1917. (b.1864-d.1939)

      Father Ducharme

  • 1916      Father Ducharme  serves  from 1916 to 1949 and retires to The   Pas.
  • 1920      Father Ducharme builds a larger church
  • 1927      On  Sept. 20  the residential school in Beauval burns down, 19 boys  from age 7 to 12 and 1 nun perish.
  • 1927      The rectory burns down in La Loche.
  • 1933      Father Bourbonnais comes to La Loche to learn Dene.
  • 1938      A small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes is built in Turnor Lake.                         
  • 1942      The Grey Nuns convent is built.
  • 1943      The Grey Nuns arrive.
  • 1946       Brother Vachon arrives
  • 1947      The Mission builds a sawmill on the lake shore. (La Loche Community School yearbook 1979-80)
  • 1949      A new ten bed hospital was constructed served by two nurses and Dr. Lavoie of Ile a la Crosse.  
  •                 Father Ducharme retires after 33 years of service 
  •               " The old four bed hospital with teacherage attatched is now used as a convent by the Grey Nuns of Montreal." 
  •                  from "The Manitoba Ensign " of July 2, 1949 The Pas.
  • 1949      The two room white school has 80 students taught by two Grey Nuns with teaching certificates. 
  • 1949      Father Bourbonnais and Brother Vachon are serving at the Mission.(Brother Vachon was still here in 1975)
  •                 Father Bragaglia and Brother Dionne also serve at the Mission.

        Father Bertrand Mathieu     
  • 1950      Father Bertrand Mathieu (ordained in 1949) arrived in 1950 and served in La Loche until 1986. 
  • He was born in Drummondville, Quebec January 5, 1923 and died in North Battleford July 15, 2011.
  • 1953      The new church is built and still stands today.
  • 1954      The rock shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes built.  It stands today in front of the old convent. The statues were a gift from  Father Mathieu's parents .          
  • about Father Mathieu's dog team of 1955      more about Father Mathieu                                                                  

Dene Speaking Priests

Father Jean-Marie Penard, Father Pioget, Father Ducharme, Father Bourbonnais  and  Father Bertrand Mathieu all spoke Dene.
Their sermons were in the Dene language. 
In 1975 a minor mistake in pronunciation or inflection by Father Matthieu in his sermon brought chuckles to the 
congregation and was talked about for days in the village.
Father Mathieu 1954

This rectory built by Father Ducharme in 1928 was demolished in 2005.
The top floor had low ceilings with a few bedrooms and a tiny bathroom. There was a room in the attic.
The bottom floor had the kitchen and a large room used for meetings, catechism classes etc. 
It also had low ceilings. 
The dark basement was used for storage.
Hop vines covered the balcony in the summer.
A modern rectory now stands on this site.
 (photo from omilacombe 2009)