St. Anthony’s Parish closes
By Peggy Looby
BJORKDALE, Sask. — On Sunday, Oct. 7, Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr. concelebrated the closing mass and de-commissioning ceremony for St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church in Bjorkdale with Revs. Tuyen Vu, Jim Kaptein and George Canto.
The first mass held in district near Bjorkdale was celebrated by Rev. Dubois at the home of Joe Desrosiers. Throughout the next few years the faithful gathered at different homes to attend mass whenever a missionary priest was available. He would travel from Star City by train as far as Crooked River, 12 miles from the settlement, and from there by oxen and sleigh or wagon.
After the Barrierville School was built in 1916, religious celebrations were held there. In 1924, Benoit organized the building of a church, and the project was taken over later by Rev. LeConte. Everyone in the district helped in some way and the work was completed in 1926. The Church Extension Society donated $500 toward the construction of the new church, consecrated as St. Antoine. The first baby baptized was named Antoine Mahussier and the first marriage was Mr. and Mrs. Merle Tremblay.
Picnics, fowl suppers and sports days were held to help support the church. Being built of rough lumber lined by paper, it was cold during winter. In 1942, under Rev. Sharkey’s leadership, community members worked together to move the church onto a foundation.
For many years catechism classes were taught for a two-week period during the summer by the Sisters of Charity from Tisdale. By 1960, the church was in need of extensive repairs and didn’t have adequate space for the congregation, so Rev. Charles Charest took a lower salary and began the fundraiser for a new church to be built in the village of Bjorkdale.
The first baptism in the new church in Bjorkdale was Raymond Majewski and the first marriage Randy Hoffus and Irene Rottenbucher. Following the amalgamation of the rural schools, catechism classes were taught in individual homes in the village, and later held in the new church.
As time went on family members grew up and left home. As a result, attendance in the small parish dwindled. When faced with the probability of closing the church, a committee met with Thévenot and the decision was made to wait one more year. Since there was no change in attendance and duties, the decision was made at the annual meeting in July, 2012 to close the church.
A time of fellowship with refreshments, visiting and a great deal of reminiscing took place after the closing mass. Although the need to close was understood and supported, the finality of the celebration was highly emotional for all those gathered.