The presence of a Roman Catholic mission church in this location begins in 1884 with construction of the original 28' x 38' structure. This church burned down on April 1, 1948.
Largely as the result of work by Father Hamel, Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau, and Bishop Georges-Leon Landy, the current church was built and opened by the following year. As a Jesuit mission, it served the residents of Longlac as well as the First Nations communities nearby. In 1957, the people of Longlac chose to open their own parish, and in 1959 opened St. John the Baptist church.
I had first heard about this church from a coworker about a year ago. Another coworker passed here a month ago and took a look inside. The pictures he showed me suggested that it might not last another winter. That set the wheels in motion.
I packed up the truck with clothes, camera gear, drone and dog and set out for the distant community of Longlac, some nine hours away. I spent the night in a rather nice motel and then drove out to the church the following morning high on expectation.
The church was closed on May 7, 1997 as the result of serious deterioration of its structure. As of 2011, the Long Lake #58 First Nation was still attempting to acquire funding to restore the church.
The church's basement also serves as tomb of Father Joseph M. Couture, nicknamed the "Flying Priest" of Longlac. He serviced as many as 36 missions in the north by canoe and by dog-sled until arthritis in his knee set in. At that point, with permission of the Jesuit Order, Father Couture acquired a plane and learned to fly so he could continue his work. He received his pilot's license on January 27, 1936.
Near the time of his death, having been reduced to nine missions along the railway, it still took five priests to fulfill his duties. During his tenure in this area, he earned the respect of the English, French and Ojibway populations, and was named by the natives Ne'Endamishkang, "The One We Love to See Come".
It was raining almost non-stop that day, making it impossible to put up the drone for the aerial photos I wanted. Further, the deep gloom inside the church made all the shots completely unsatisfactory. The exteriors were ok. The dog and I spent much of the rest of the day looking around Longlac when suddenly the rain stopped. We quickly made our way back out to the church site and put the drone up. Three pictures later, the rain started again. This was not to be our day.
I decided that we would come back the next morning before the lengthy drive home.
When I woke up the next morning, I was correct in my hopes. No rain. Instead, there was wall of driving, wet, snow. So much for that idea.
We still went back to the church site. I was able to get interior photos that I was at least marginally happier with. With that, the dog and I began our trip home satisfied that we'd captured this beautiful old building before it disappears forever.
Update May 23, 2018: The church has been destroyed by fire. Article attached.