Sacred Heart Church is a much photographed icon in the QuAppelle Valley sitting prominently in the village of Lebret on Mission Lake. Established in 1869 by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) it had a pivotal role in southern Saskatchewan’s history and that 150 years of service was celebrated the weekend of October 16-18 with visitors from across Canada and a few from the U.S.
The celebration included social gatherings, a pancake breakfast, a Latin mass celebrated by Father Louis Abello Saturday afternoon and Sunday mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel Bohan with Winnipeg Emeritus Archbishop James Weisgerber and several priests followed by a banquet in the church hall. One hundred and fifty red and white balloons were released after the Sunday mass and floated off in a gentle breeze into a clear blue sky.
The Qu’Appelle Valley was long a gathering place for plains First Nations people and it was to them the first OMI missionaries brought the Word of God. They also advocated on behalf of the First Nations when Treaty Four was being negotiated but their concerns were largely ignored. They also diffused a potentially dangerous situation when the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull tried to settle his people in the Valley after the Battle of the Little Big Horn in the U.S. Descendents of that group still live in the valley.
Several displays that told the storied history of the area arranged by Allan Hustak, a former resident of nearby Fort Qu’Appelle and sometime parishioner of Sacred Heart, were featured throughout the church.
Archbishop Bohan alluded to its history early in his homily. “We celebrate because we know that over the past 150 years, people have continued to gather here to call out to God seeking help in times of trouble.” When God protected the people “like the great eagle that spreads its wings to protect its young,” the people gathered and thanked God for His protection.
Pope Francis sent a special blessing which was read out by Parish Council Chair Don Jewitt before the Sunday mass began. The framed proclamation had been displayed prominently at the church’s entrance.
The 2006 Census reported Lebret’s population at 203. It is a mission church of Our Lady of Sorrows in neasrby Fort Qu’Appelle.
Lois Blondeau who chaired the celebration committee credited the committee and the many volunteers who helped with planning the celebration for the success of the weekend. “It’s wonderful to see all the people and how they are enthused about this parish, they come here, they love it, and we have visitors all year long.”
Weisgerber is a former pastor of Sacred Heart. He and two OMI priests were among the special guests; Reverend Kenneth Forster, Provincial of the OMI Lacombe province who came from Ontario and Reverend Glenn Zimmer from Saskatoon.