WIIKWEMKOONG – The Holy Cross Church in Wiikwemkoong, founded and still run by Jesuits, was vandalized between Saturday, June 13 and the early hours of Sunday, June 14.
The perpetrator(s) broke windows and set fires inside the church, causing significant damage. The damage is substantial to the point of forcing the temporary closure of the building, the oldest Catholic church in Northern Ontario.
As soon as Father Paul Robson, SJ, pastor of the church, discovered what had happened, he called Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service (WTPS). The local fire department was also contacted, and members of chief and council came to the church. The insurance company was also contacted. A police investigation is underway.
“We are grateful that flames did not consume the building,” stated Fr Gerry McDougall, SJ, superior of the region and former pastor in Wiikwemkoong. “We pray for the people of Wiikwemkoong, who cherish their church of Holy Cross, and also for the unknown perpetrator(s) and for the restoration of the church building.”
Please contact WTPS Constable Joseph Naokwegijig or Detective Sergeant Todd Fox at 705-859-3141 should you possess any information regarding this crime or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-222-8477 should you choose to remain anonymous.
Despite this violent episode and the temporary closure, Fr Robson said he is hopeful and feels consoled by the reaction of many in the community: “I was feeling quite shocked for the first day or so. The next few days, I was encouraged by many expressions of concern and support, and by a meeting with some Parish Council Elders whereby it was determined that we wanted to to carry on and to begin gathering again (after the pandemic-related church closures) as much as possible, as soon as possible. We will not be able to use the Holy Cross Church for a while, but are blessed with having three other churches here on the Wiikwemkoong Territory where we can gather and pray.”