Community Population: 2011 Census - 850 First Nation Population: 480 - Mainly the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation Catholic Population: Unknown Regular Church attendees: 15 Mailing Address: PO Box 5314, Haines Junction, YT Y0B 1L0 Rectory: Mile 1016 Alaska Highway
History of the Mission: The church and rectory was built by Frs. E. Morisset, OMI, and F. VanRooy, OMI, to answer the need of the growing population when the Federal Department of Agriculture’s experimental farm and asphalt plant were starting up. Before this, Haines Junction parish had been a mission from Burwash Landing. In 1943, Father Morisset, OMI, travelled north to serve as a missionary and auxiliary chaplain with the American Army. They converted an American army “Quonset Hut”, into this unique and beautiful church.
Quonset Huts were constructed in 1942 for the United States Navy at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island and became a common sight at military camps during World War II. The former Quonset Hut was cut in half straight down the length. Between these halves were added an insert of windows that gave light and height to the building. Behind the church was added a small living quarters consisting of 3 small rooms. The building is heated with oil heat. In 1993, the oil furnace needed replacing. A loan was received from the Diocese. Over the following years this loan was repaid by donations from the parishioners and by a group of 4 ladies raising funds by cleaning a section of the local highway. The present pews came from 2 sources. The heavy brown solid oak ones were donated to Fr. Marcel Vogel from the parish in Haines, Alaska and the small light coloured pews came from the closed mining town of Elsa. The original bell was stolen in the 1960’s. The present bell came from St. Henri’s Mission, Elsa. It is an old steam locomotive bell that was donated by the engineer that drove the engine across Canada on its last trip.
The original rectory was built with lumber and electrical supplies from the old road camps. It was a very cold and inadequate building by the time it was replaced. The new rectory, constructed in 1993, was placed on the old full basement foundation. The house is roomy and airy. In the basement is a small chapel that could be used for daily Mass. It has ample room for meeting space which is presently being used by the Rotary Club in town. The new rectory was constructed by a local contractor, Big Bud Construction. Funds were made available by the diocese. In 1995, a garage was added so that father’s truck could be cared for and stored away during the extreme cold periods. It was in this town while working for the parks department that diocesan priest Fr. Dave Daws found his call to the priesthood. Because there was no priest available to be in residence, Dave rented the rectory. When Bishop O’Connor came to say Mass, Dave was always very inviting and assisting. Bishop O’Connor gave him the challenge to think and pray to see what is in store for him for the future. God does call.
After Fr. Marcel Vogel left in the fall of 1993, Sr. Pat Moran, CSJ, took his place. She made the rectory a very homey place for all to come after Sunday liturgy and at any other time. Her stay for one year was a great blessing to the church and the people of the town. She was followed by Fr. P. Rigaud, OMI. Other priests who have served here were: Frs. E. Morisset, OMI, F. VanRooy, OMI, R. Boeker, OMI, I. McCormack, OMI (?), E. Engel, H. Huybers, OMI, M. Cropley, OMI, J. McAllister, OMI, F. Parent, M. Vogel, D. Daws, R. Kelly, OMI, J. Plaine, OMI The gardens are always well flowered and the grass well cared for and trimmed. The parishioners of Haines Junction are very proud of their unique church.
RESOURCE: Official websites of local First Nation and the Town; “As Time Goes On” by H. Spruyt, OMI; Questionnaire Survey; Interview with active church members
St. Kateri Pastoral Centre Roman Catholic Diocese of Whitehorse 5119 – 5th Avenue Whitehorse, YT Y1A 1L5 Phone: (867) 667-2052 Fax: (867) 667-4713