Thursday 24 September 2015

Father Joseph-Marie Couture, s.j. Part One

A.L.K. Switzer  March 4, 1964

Father Joseph-Marie Couture, s.j.

Ne-endamishkang – “The One We Love To See Come”

Who was Father Couture?

How did he earn the name so full of meaning, “Ne-endamishkang” given him by his Ojibway children?

The story is an inspiring one told with sympathetic understanding by a fellow Jesuit, Father Lorenzo Cadieux, S.j. in the book “De L’Aviron a L’Avion – from paddle to plane – published in 1961, and which won the Prix Champlain – 1958.

In the next (while) I shall tell you a little about this much loved man of God with material taken from Father Cadieux’s book, supplemented by interviews with many persons living in Longlac, Geraldton and Nipigon who knew the man well.

History of the Roman Catholic Church in Longlac

As a background to my remarks on Father Couture it may be well to briefly review the earlier history of the Roman Catholic missions in this area.

White men were in Longlac at least as early as 1763 for there is in the National Archives in Ottawa, a map dated in that year which indicates the position of Long Lake.  At least as early as 1800 the Northwest Fur Company had a post on Long Lake on the clearing now owned by Mr. Verdun Gauthier and known to some as the “Old Hudson’s Bay Farm”.  In 1814 a Hudson’s Bay Post was established adjacent to them and the Hudson’s Bay Company has been here continuously since, having taken over the Northwest Fur Company in 1821.

In 1831 Father Frederic Baraga carried his mission throughout the coasts of Lake Superior.

Father Nicholas Fremiot visited the Nipigon area in 1852.

Dominique du Ranquet was in the general area in the period 1853 – 1877 and it was he who inaugurated the spreading of the Christian gospel in Longlac in 1864. Each year thereafter until Father Couture, first resident priest, took up his abode here in 1927, there was at least one visit annually by a priest.

1877-1880 Father Joseph Hebert was the missionary priest. It was he who with Father Gagnon cut the logs for the first Roman Catholic Church here.

1880- 1897 – Father Joseph Specht

1898 – 1906 – Father Napoleon Dugas

1907 – 1910 – Father Prosper Lamarche

1910 – 1912 – Father Napoleon Dugas

1912 – 1924 – Father Charles Belanger

1924 – 1949 – Father Joseph-Marie Couture ( died March 4, 1949 – buried in crypt of the Church of the Infant Jesus, Longlac)

1949 – 1963 – Father Alphonse Hamel ( Died March 14 (?) 1963 and buried in Indian Cemetery, Longlac)

1963 – Father Alexandre Rolland

The first Roman Catholic Church in Longlac was completed in 1884.  It was 28 feet by 38 feet and the foundation logs may still be seen. The floor was of whip-sawed tamarack planks and the interior was lined with sheets of birch bark as would be used in making a tepee or canoe.  This was on the shore of Long Lake not far east of the present “Mac’s Tourist Camp”. In 1888 a 104 pound bell was installed and His Excellence Monseigneur Z. Lorraine, Bishop of Pembroke was present for the ceremony of blessing.  Sometime about the turn of the century the church was moved to the Hudson’s Bay Farm.  Parts of this building were moved about 1921 to the site on which we  are gathered tonight and became the well known red-painted church30 feet by 40 feet which burned down April 1, 1948.  The tables, benches and altar railings were these used in church #1 and #2.  In the same year the present fine edifice was erected, largely due to the efforts of the late Father Hamel and with generous help from Archbishop Charbonneau of Montreal and Bishop Landry of Hearst.

So much for a little history of the area and a brief glance at the names and terms of service of the priests who were here.  Now let us take a look at the man whom we came here to-night to remember and whose memory we came to honour.

End of part one:

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