Oblate presence: 1921-1988. Geographical Location: Northeastern Ontario, Canada.
The municipality of Kapuskasing can be dated back to the First Great War when J. A. Stewart, later mayor of the city, was asked to find a place for a detention camp for German and Austrian prisoners of war. The prisoners cleared the land where the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company’s sulphite mill is now located.
The erection of the Immaculate Conception parish on June 5, 1921, followed soon after the incorporation of the city of Kapuskasing. The Oblates, who took charge of the parish, were not strangers there. They arrived in Hearst in June 1917, after leaving Mattawa to settle in Northern Ontario, and ministered over a wide area. They continued the same work when they were transferred to Moonbeam. Father Ovila Paquette wrote to Father Guillaume Charlebois, Provincial, on April 16, 1918, that from Hearst he was going to Fauquier, Moonbeam, Cochrane and Grant. Father Léon Carrière baptized the first child in Kapuskasing on March 5, 1920. When Father Ovila Paquette, parish priest, officially took possession of the parish on June 5, 1921, he stated that, since arriving in Hearst, he had been visiting Kapuskasing on the second Sunday of the month to serve the soldiers, prisoners and the few settlers.
The increase in the number of Catholics prompted Bishop Joseph Hallé, Apostolic Prefect of Northern Ontario, to ask the Oblates in 1920 to take charge of the new parish. The provincial accepted, but it was not entrusted to the Oblates in perpetuity until May 20, 1923. They did not wait until that date to begin work there.
On October 4, 1921, Father Dozois was in Kapuskasing and left some “Notes on the proposed settlement.” In the interest of the parish and the Oblates, he wrote, the interests of the two parties must be clearly separated. The Oblates’ house must be built on land that belongs to them and with their money. Let them buy the land and pay for it. One must be the indisputable owner of the presbytery, because one often needs a larger house than the diocesan priests.
Services were first held in a lumber camp, then in the Chamandy store, set up for this purpose. After the village fire, it was necessary to build a real church which was completed in 1924 and blessed by Bishop Hallé on December 8 of the same year. It was used for the entire city until 1954.
The Oblates officially left Kapuskasing on April 14, 1988
Eugène Lapointe OMI