Building St. Jean de Brébeuf Church
St. Jean de Brebeuf Church Construction FM1000

St. Jean de Brébeuf Church during construction in 1956 as the funeral of its parish priest Monsignor Coallier took place. Greater Sudbury Public Library FM1000

In the late 1920s it became clear that French Canadian families in Sudbury who lived in the Flour Mill area needed a church of their own. Ste. Anne’s, on Beech Street couldn’t accommodate the growing number of families and it was a far walk for some.

In June of 1930, Bishop Scollard, first bishop of the diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie, announced the building of a new church and named the first parish priest,  Monsignor Joseph Henri Coallier. He had been the parish priest of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Coniston from 1918 to 1930. Monsignor Coallier wished to build the biggest and tallest church in Sudbury with a spire rising to heaven as the Gothic cathedrals in Europe were built. He knew that the parishioners in the area were not rich and that building such a church would take time and have to be built in stages. Land for the church, on the corner of Notre Dame Ave. and Kathleen Street, was donated by the Jesuits who had built Collège Sacré-Coeur and construction proceeded on building the large stone basement of the church that would become known as St. Jean de Brébeuf.

Six months later the first mass was held in the basement on December 7, 1930. Mass and community events and celebrations were held in the basement for over 25 years until 1956 when construction began again when the funds (at the time it cost $325,000) to complete the church were raised through numerous bake sales, bingos and donations. Noront Steel, which has built many of the our city’s landmarks including Marymount College, Lockerby High School and numerous buildings downtown, was hired to complete construction on the church.

St. Jean de Brebeuf Church Fire

An arsonist set the church on fire in 1979 causing over $1 million in damages. Photo Fern Bourque Collection.

Construction of the church was finished on September 21, 1958 and the first mass was celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve in 1957.

Monsignor Coallier, who had passed away Oct. 11, 1956 never lived to see St. Jean de Brébeuf completed. In the photo above it was his funeral that was being celebrated. Unfortunately the church was almost destroyed in 1979 when an arsonist entered the church on the evening of October 15th and lit the church on fire. Though 25 fire fighters fought the fire for over 12 hours and the stone structure was saved, the damage still totalled over $1 million. It took only a year, this time, to rebuild the church, just in time for its 50th anniversary.

“I used to think an ocean of soda existed, but it was just a Fanta sea.” Bec Hill
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