By Marcia Love
The steeple on the white clapboard church towers over the prairie landscape.
It’s a place that holds a century’s worth of memories and emotions – from the cheerful brides and grooms who have made their way hand-in-hand down the steps to the mourning families who have buried loved ones in its cemetery.
Most days it stands quietly against the outstretched Prairies, but Saints Peter and Paul Church at Blumenfeld was filled with life on June 28 as up to 500 people descended on the historic building to mark its 100th anniversary.
It was a hot day, but there was plenty of time to catch up with old friends under the shade of tents in the church yard before mass that afternoon.
MP David Anderson and MLA Wayne Elhard brought greetings and congratulations on behalf of the federal and provincial governments.
“A century ago, our ancestors came to this country, to this area, because they saw it as a land of freedom and opportunity, and one of the freedoms they had was… freedom of religion,” stated Anderson. “Many people came here to be free to worship as they chose… and here we are, 100 years later, celebrating the formation of that community and the history that has come with it.”
Elhard asked the parishioners what they believed the first building to be constructed in a new settlement today would be.
“The pioneers made it very clear that their first choice was a church that would represent their search for freedoms… and faith in every day application,” he stated.
As mass began in the grotto, Bishop Donald Bolen, presider and homilist, emphasized the special place the century-old church holds in everyone’s hearts as the original church in the district of Leader, a symbol of the faith which settlers brought with them to start a new life in Canada.
The church held weekly mass in its first 50 years, and for the last 50 has held its annual pilgrimage. While it is no longer open regularly for the Eucharist, the Bishop noted the church can be seen as a symbol of the Resurrection.
“It’s a sign of something that is not closed, and will never close; is not dead, and will not die; a sign of life, goodness, and blessing,” he said.
For George Hoffart, who grew up two miles north of the church on his family farm, the church at Blumenfeld runs deep in his family’s heritage. His grandparents, Carl and Chrisenzia Hoffart, were involved in building the church when they came to Canada from Romania. Saints Peter and Paul Church was also very special to George’s parents, Peter and Irene Hoffart. Peter was the church’s organist for 30 years.
The church was built for a total cost of $10,676, with a lot of the work done by volunteers.
While the Prairies are dotted with old churches, many closed down years ago – their windows boarded up and paint peeling – Saints Peter and Paul shows few signs of deterioration.
Parishioners went to a great deal of work to ensure the building’s heritage was preserved. The roof is still comprised of the original shingles.
“Back in 1936, the roof started leaking,” explained George. “So they managed to take all these shingles off, salvage whatever they could, dip them in used engine oil, and put them back up. And they are still up today.”
Several years ago, the windows on the north side of the building were replaced.
Now, more attention is needed, as windows on the south side need to be replaced and the shingles are deteriorating.
The upkeep is dependent on donations and volunteer work, but with the deep meaning the church at Blumenfeld has to the community, parishioners are happy to give the historic building the care and attention it deserves.