Lunch was served as well as a special cake marking the 150th anniversary of the Grouard Mission Cemetery. Left-right are: Gerard Pettipas, Archbishop of the Diocese of Grouard- McLennan; Vicky Barsalou, chair of the Grouard Cemetery Committee; and Pearl Sandor, president of the Grouard Seniors Club.

A strong desire to replace the historic St. Bernard Church at Grouard was the message recently received by Archbishop of the Diocese of Grouard- McLennan Gerard Pettipas.

“The loss of the church has been devastating,” said Pettipas, who was attending the 150th anniversary of the Grouard Cemetery, which was held during the annual cleanup June 10.

News of the historic church being burned May 22 was news across Canada, he told people gathering for the cleanup. Pettipas added he received phone calls, emails and texts expressing sympathy.

“I am sorry for the people of Grouard,” he said.

“This is your church,” he added, referring to people attending Mass, weddings and funerals.

“It’s a shame. It was here for all of us.”

Pettipas added damage was so extensive it will be torn down, shortly after church officials meet with the insurance company to determine value.

The people attending quickly told Pettipas they wanted to rebuild. He agreed.

“I’d like to build another church but we have to care for it. It’s important for all of us. If we have a church we have to watch over it. We have to care for it.”

Not everything was lost in the fire. Some material in the east side was saved and now stored in a garage on site.

Kenneth Ferguson, 56, and Gerald Capot, 50, both of High Prairie, face charges of arson regarding the burning the 121-year-old church, as well as break and enter and commit theft.

Mission Cemetery project ongoing

Manny Chalifoux rakes grass and leaves as part of the Grouard Mission Cemetery cleanup June 10.

Donations are still being accepted for the Grouard Mission Cemetery project.

Records indicate the cemetery has over 1,300 people buried including about 300 identifiable graves.

The committee would like to honour those in unmarked graves by placing their names on a monument at the cemetery. Currently, fundraising is ongoing.

The committee is also working on a list of people buried at the site since 1873. The list is available on

The objective now is to identify as many of the marked graves as possible using the living memory of people who have family and friends buried at the site. The committee is holding periodic gatherings where people can identify the location of the resting place of their loved ones. They are also free to contact the research coordinator, Therese Morris, at (403) 507-5559.

The committee’s goal is to finalize the list of names of people in unmarked graves in the fall of 2023 so a monument can be ordered this fall and placed at the cemetery in the spring 2024.

So far, about $60,000 has been raised. Any donation is appreciated; however, a suggestion is to donate about $40-50 per name. Contact Morris on several ways to make a donation.

by Chris Clegg

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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