Community Population: 95 (includes Kluane First Nation members) First Nation Population: 85 Catholic Population: Unknown Regular Church attendees: 3-6 Mailing Address: PO Box 14, Burwash Landing, YT Y0B 1V0 Rectory: 1 Sedata, Burwash Landing, YT Y0B 1V0
History of the Mission:
Fr Eusebe Morisset, OMI, had travelled north in 1943 to serve as an auxiliary chaplain with the American Army. He was responsible for the area from Whitehorse to the Alaska border. He built the main church at Burwash Landing in 1944 with the help of the Jacquot brothers and the First Nation congregation. The materials for the building came from an abandoned army mess hall at Duke Meadows and the Jacquots donated the land. The church building was not just a church but attached was the living quarters for the clergy and attached to that was the first organized school in the district. This mission was opened for Christmas Eve Mass, December 24, 1944. It was the first mission west of Whitehorse on the new highway to Alaska. Fr. Morisset, said that Mass with great pride and satisfaction. In honour of the occasion, Fr. Marcel Bobillier, OMI came from Ft. Selkirk to play the organ to add solemnity to the feast and this new church for God.
Fr Morisset lived and worked in this area until 1964. He visited his missions in Champagne, Snag and Aishihik every month for two or three days. He taught all the children of the area in the church during the 1940s and ‘50s. In 1963, Fr. Morisset was s replaced by Fr Henk Huijbers, OMI. Fr Henk was born in Holland and came to the Yukon in 1947. He built the present rectory for Our Lady of the Rosary Church in 1963. This is a far more comfortable building with running water and indoor plumbing. The house has a rather peaceful chapel off the living room. Fr. Huijbers raised funds in Holland among his army veteran comrades to pay for this building and for the water wells. Eventually, 2 wells needed to be drilled in order to have sufficient water. He was assisted by the people to have a light bulb in each house. He had a generator that was able to give light to each house. Eventually, his system was replaced by electricity coming from Destruction Bay.
In 1974 the First Nation congregation built the Kluane Museum of Natural History. Konrad Domes and his class at Yukon College originally designed this building as a Catholic Church. The church was considered too large for the community but the design was so unique that Fr Huijbers asked the museum society if they would be interested in using it for their planned museum structure. In 1990, this church and rectory received a major change. Fred and Margaret o’Brien, volunteered to come to the Yukon as volunteers. Bishop Lobsinger asked them to take responsibility for Burwash Landing. Through grants and assistances they, with others, totally restored Fr. Morisset’s old church, rectory, and school. They placed the buildings on new cement foundations, replaced rotten logs, re-wired the buildings, put on a new wood shingle roof, insulated the attic of the church, repainted the total complex, replaced the old wood stove in the church with a hearty propane heater, collected artifacts and collectables for the school,
Fred and Margaret gave themselves to the people in the local village but also to all the others in the district. In the summer of 1994, the O’Briens had to make plans to leave their Burwash. Fred became ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and needed treatment. Over 120 people came to say good bye and to wish them best wishes and express an insurmountable gratitude. In the summer of 1995, Iowna and Bernie Mason, formerly of lower Post, came to Burwash for the summer months. Again they gave of their talents and personalities. Bishop Lobsinger was very pleased that this came about. If Fred and Margaret could have visited that summer, they would have totally approved of the improvements that the Masons added to their contributions.
St. Kateri Pastoral Centre Roman Catholic Diocese of Whitehorse 5119 – 5th Avenue Whitehorse, YT Y1A 1L5 Phone: (867) 667-2052 Fax: (867) 667-4713