Our History

History of St. Charles Parish

by Irene Ternier Gordon

In the early 1850s, between 40 and 60 families of Métis buffalo hunters formed the original Catholic community west of Sturgeon Creek. About 1851 a mission was begun at the junction of Sturgeon Creek and the Assiniboine River, but it was soon moved to the present location at St. Charles. Bishop Tache asked Father Louis Francois Richer - La Fleche – a relative of the LaFleche family who still live in St. Charles – to construct a small log chapel. The priest did not reside there. He traveled from St. Boniface in the winter and followed his parishioners on their buffalo hunts in the summer.

In 1855, the Hudson Bay Company granted land to the Catholic Church for the mission, which was to become St. Charles Church. Finally, in 1866, a new frame church was built near the original LaFleche chapel. St. Charles began its development into a parish at this time; however it was not canonically (officially) erected as a parish until 1876.

Father Damase Dandurand, who served at St. Charles from 1876 to 1900, was the first Canadian to become an Oblate. A windstorm on August 27, 1884, demolished the church. Father Dandurand, who retired in 1900, lived to the age of 102.

The area may have originally been known as St. Charles after Charles Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Oblates, or because the explorer La Verendrye called the Assiniboine River the St. Charles River. In any case, St. Charles Borromeo became the patron saint of the parish. Charles Borromeo (1538- 1584), was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. Ordained when he was 25, Charles was consecrated Archbishop of Milan shortly afterwards.

On Christmas Eve, 1905, a beautiful new Gothic-style St. Charles Church was blessed. The previous year, the Archbishop of St. Boniface, had founded the Missionary Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate to provide for Catholic education. In September 1906, the Sisters began their first school in St. Charles Parish with 41 students.  In the 1915 annual report for St. Charles Parish, the pastor Joseph Therien reported the population at 313 individuals and 61 families. The majority, (206) were French speaking, and 15 were Flemish. Total income received during the year was $1343.35 while expenses amounted to $520.74.
 
In 1917, the parish was transferred from the Archdiocese of St. Boniface to the newly formed Archdiocese of Winnipeg. New Years Eve, 1928, the church was destroyed by fire. The church was quickly rebuilt. On June 19, 1988, Archbishop Adam Exner rededicated the building that has served St. Charles for more than 50 years to mark its official opening after an addition more than doubled its size.
 
About the Author:  Irene Ternier Gordon is a St. Charles Parishioner and a noted author with a number of published books on the subject of Western Canadian History.
 
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St. Charles Catholic Parish
320 St. Charles Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  R3K 1T7 (Map)
Tel: (204) 889-3248   Fax: (204) 885-1997  Email: stcharls@mts.net
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