Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and the renamed Holy Canadian Martyrs Church in Combermere has seen a long list and history of devoted pastors and Curates. In the days of the French pioneers, traveling priests from Ottawa visited the Combermere settlement once a year. Eventually, the first church was the mission of Brudenell, Maynooth.

Before the church was built, the Roman Catholic families in the Combermere area had to travel to Brudenell for Mass and other religious services and activities or on occasion have Mass in a parishioner’s home.

Narcisse Zephirin Lorrain, the first Bishop of Pembroke, actually visited the area in 1906, looking for a site for a church. Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was built on land donated by Hormidas Perrier, and Combermere became a mission of Brudenell. Additional property was purchased from Victor Bouchard in 1925. Missionaries, priests, the Bishop on visits and even the first parish priest until a presbytery was built, all stayed in the home of Victor and Anna Bouchard.

On July 1,1931 the Combermere mission was made a parish by the Rt. Rev. P.T. Ryan, Bishop of Pembroke and Rev. A. P. Dwyer curate of Brudenell was appointed the first Priest. The congregation had twenty families.

On November 11, 1951 during Sunday mass, smoke and flames coming from the vestry, were suddenly noticed. The church burned down in spite of the efforts of the priest and his people to save the church they cherished so much. With no village fire-fighting equipment, a bucket brigade was formed by the members of the congregation, but to no avail. Just when it looked like as though the fire in the vestry was being contained, the fire worked its way into the roof of the church. The entire building was soon destroyed, and the nearby priest’s house was badly damaged. In trying to save some religious items, father A. P. Dwyer’s cape caught fire and his hair was singed. Church vestments, statutes, the organ, the alter, furnishings and fixtures were all destroyed as well. Even the church bell was melted apart by the intense fire, and rendered useless. Father Dwyer immediately made temporary arrangements for services to be held in the parish hall across the road from the church.

The building of a new church began early spring of 1952, and was ready for services by that November. The finished building was blessed by Bishop William J. Smith on June 21, 1953, and named Holy Canadian Martyrs Church since the church is said to be located at a site where French missionaries are said to have stopped on their journey to Huronia on Georgian Bay.

In 1948 father Dwyer had already erected a shrine on the hill behind the church in commemoration of the Jesuits. The main part of the new church was described as being 40 feet by 119 feet while the Sacred Heart church had dimensions of 27 feet by 68 feet.

The Parish Hall was built in 1944 or 1945 across the road from the church on the bank of the Madawaska River. It was used for various church social events such as dances, dinners, etc. It was taken down in 1968 by Joe Peplinskie.

The first school opened in 1931 in the same location as George Vanier School and was originally called Sacred Heart School. A new part was added in 1948. The school later became Canadian Martyr’s School in 1969.

COMBERMERE HERITAGE WALK, A PROJECT BY THE COMBERMERE HERITAGE SOCIETY INC. – 2014