Friday, July 01, 2005


I am just asking the question? Lighting hit this Church a few days ago. The story is inside this blog!! Just for the record? I am not blaming God!!! I am just asking the question????

saint anne

NB Telegraph-Journal | Provincial News
As published on page A3 on July 1, 2005

Village mourns province's "Sistine Chapel"
Parish priest not sure if edifice in Kent County village destroyed by lightning will be rebuilt

Click to zoom (Ron Ward/Canadaeast News Service)
Flames destroy Sainte-Anne Roman Catholic Church in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent Wednesday.

Some stared silently in disbelief while others chatted quietly with friends, but all were there for the same reason: To pay respect to a church affectionately known as "the Sistine Chapel of New Brunswick."

Sainte-Anne Roman Catholic Church, the heart and soul of the tiny village of Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, had been home to both happy and sad occasions over its rich 119-year history. But it lay in ruins Thursday following a lightning strike the previous day.

"We lost our community," local resident Geraldine LeBlanc said while holding her four-year-old son, Jake, and surveying the blackened heap of rubble now protected by yellow tape.

"It's sad, very sad. As soon as you'd get off the highway ramp, you'd see the church bell and now it's gone."

Helen Surette was baptized in the church, which also was home to her first communion, confirmation and sister Laudia Bourque's wedding. Her father is buried in the neighbouring cemetery.

"It was part of my heart," she explained, her voice breaking.

"It's a big, big loss. I called my sister and she started to cry. Our youth revolved around this church. It was the centre.

Click to zoom (Submitted photo)
Above, is how the church interior looked before the fire.
"There was so much spirituality. They're never going to be able to replace what was lost."

A scattering of religious symbols and artifacts, including one unfinished painting by renowned Acadian artist Édouard Gautreau, were rescued from the burning building and placed in the gymnasium of École Calixte-F-Savoie, which will hold weekend masses for parishioners while a wedding scheduled for Saturday has been moved to Bouctouche about 10 minutes away.

"I had just left the school when I got a call about the fire," said Esmond Comeau, a school maintenance worker, who was also one of nearly 70 volunteer and full-time firefighters battling the blaze. "When I arrived, I could see the top of the church was on fire."

Click to zoom (Andrew Philips/Telegraph-Journal)
École Calixte-F-Savoie maintenance worker and volunteer firefighter Esmond Comeau stands in front of a large painting by artist Édouard Gautreau, which volunteers managed to rescue from the burning church.
School custodian Marcel LeBlanc, who was married in the church in 1992, said the community really came together to try to help salvage whatever they could.

"No one was thinking about the danger," Mr. LeBlanc said, noting people driving by were stopping and running to the church to help out. "Anybody with a heartbeat was moving items out of the church."

But while a few items were salvaged, many of the church's famous fresco-style paintings, including many by Mr. Gautreau, and a rare Italian chandelier, one of only handful in existence, are gone.

Insurance investigators are assessing the damage.

Mr. LeBlanc said losing the church leaves a deep hole in the community.

"For this small area, we were very proud of what we had," Mr. LeBlanc said, noting tourists from across Canada and other countries would often stop to view the church's spectacular interior and admire the artworks.

"For visitors and us, it was worth a thousand pictures."

But while discussions will undoubtedly ensue about how to rebuild the gothic revival-style church, parish priest Father Yvon LeBlanc said it's still too early to say what will be done.

Click to zoom (Ron Ward/Canadaeast News Service)
Flames burn Sainte-Anne Roman Catholic Church behind a statue of the Virgin Mary Wednesday.
"We'll work on it, but it may be smaller," Father LeBlanc said. "But I can't say we're definitely going to build again."

He said the church's value in the eyes of its parishioners can't be quantified.

"It's a piece of their identity that's really gone in different ways.

"They always like saying it put Sainte-Anne on the map. It was the Sistine Chapel of New Brunswick."

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Vatican, the Pope's palace and official residence, featuring frescoes by renowned artist Michelangelo and other painters.

Church caretaker Rhéal Mallet spent much of Thursday after sweeping black dust with a heavy broom.

"It was beautiful inside," Mr. Mallet said. "The paintings and the chandelier were priceless. Now, they're all gone."

Moncton resident Lise Guerrette-Daigle stopped by on her way to her cottage north of Sainte-Anne.

Click to zoom (Andrew Philips/Telegraph-Journal)
Thursday, there is nothing but debris behind the statue Thursday as Sainte-Anne-de-Kent resident Geraldine LeBlanc stands with her son, Jake, in front of the ruins of the village's historic church. 'We lost our community,' as a result of the church's destruction, Ms. LeBlanc said.
"It's very sad for the village," she said. "It's their reunion place. A lot of happy and sad occasions happened here. A lot of babies were baptized in this church."

In the provincial legislature, Liberal Leader and Kent MLA Shawn Graham outlined the church's importance in the region and commended Father LeBlanc's bravery as he faced difficult circumstances.

"This church was not only used for religious purposes, it was also a meeting place and a place for artistic display for fresco paintings that were admired by many," Mr. Graham said.

"I am confident that our community, being a community that has overcome many challenges in the past, will be able to come together to overcome this period of great sadness," the Liberal leader said.

Montreal resident Jean-Marc Landry, who has family in the area, said he hopes the church is rebuilt.

"It's sad for a small community like this," he said.