Another Nunavut church demolished

Many in Igloolik mourn the loss of a community landmark



Igloolik lost a prominent landmark last Tuesday, while a construction crew pulled down St. Stephen’s Catholic Church while a group of tearful residents watched on.

The building was abandoned years ago and fell into disrepair. Its once-sturdy stone walls began to crumble, and because children often played on its roof, it was considered a safety hazard.

But for residents such as Aime Panimera, who in the 1960s served as an altar boy inside the stone church as a child, the demolition was too painful a sight a watch. He stayed away.

“Those of us who were involved, we just couldn’t bear to be there when it was being torn down,” Panimera said.

Over the last few years, Panimera tried to organize a heritage society. “I thought we could restore it, with the government spending so much money on historical buildings,” he said.

But with little support from others, the initiative died.

Residents helped build the church during the mid-1950s, using sled dogs to haul stones to the site. The building was completed in 1957, under the supervision of Father Louis Fournier with the help of residents such as Pacome Qulaut, Mark Ijjangiaq and Louis Alianakuluk.

Many Iglulingmiut were married and baptized under the old church’s roof, including the mayor, Paul Quassa, who married there in 1979, just before the building was abandoned for a new church.

Father Tony Krotki said the decision to tear the building down is difficult for everyone.

“It’s painful for many people to see how we abandoned this for such a long time. We didn’t do anything to preserve it in any way,” Krotki said.

He said the old church should be remembered as a place of laughter and joy, and that those feelings can live on, even if the building is gone.

“It’s got to be in the heart, not in the rock.”

The church’s cornerstone has been pulled from the rubble, and will be preserved as a monument dedicated to those who built the church, Krotki said.

There’s also talk of building a new church where the old building once stood. But that will take a lot of work and planning, and right now, Krotki said the community is working on healing.

Other rubble from the building will be dropped in the ocean to reinforce the breakwater, Quassa said.

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