Sacred Heart Mission: Fire, Ruins and Hope

Sacred Heart Mission: Fire, Ruins and Hope

Lord, You have been our dwelling place

It was the last thing I was expecting to hear on a Monday morning: “Sacred Heart Church is burning.” I jumped into my car and off I went. The Church is gone. All I could see were ashes, ruins, rubbles. How could that be? What happened? What can I do now? I felt helpless and powerless. All I took with me were my Rosary and Holy Water. I started going round the ruins to see if there’s anything that can be saved, but there was nothing. I stopped and began to pray; it was hard to even go beyond the phrase ‘Our Father’. The Lord’s Prayer meant a lot more to me at that moment. Here, Abba had answered the prayers of his people, blessings had come to Penticton from this sacred ground…… Our Father….. Our Father….

As I looked at the wood (now burnt), I couldn’t help but think: maybe that’s the altar where we offered bread and wine to the Father, maybe that’s the lectern from where the Word of God was proclaimed, maybe that’s the pews where people sat and prayed from the depths of their hearts: a place where friendship with God began. I saw the tabernacle buried beneath the ruins. I tried to pull it out but I couldn’t. The fireman came and reminded me that I shouldn’t remove anything. I knew that but I just wanted to…. I just was hoping I could touch the tabernacle again or even take it with me…. Here Jesus dwelt among us…..

As I walked around again, I saw water gushing forth like a fountain. It was one of the pipes. It was such an image of hope to me. From this place of ruins and ashes, maybe a new springtime will come someday. Isaiah came to my mind:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

The work of Fr. Pandosy will never die. Though the building is gone, but the seed of faith that he planted in that land and in our city will endure forever.

Bless the Lord O my soul, all that is within me bless his holy name, bless the Lord O my soul and never forget all His blessings.

Psalm 103:1

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church

Fr. Pandosy first called on Catholics during a visit to the Indians in Penticton in 1857. The Penticton Mission was established and regularly visited by Fr. Pandosy. He died of pneumonia at the Penticton Indian Reserve. In 1911, Fr. Conan built Sacred Heart Church.

I received many phone calls from people asking how we are doing. One of the calls was from Fr. Pat Monette who was once here as a pastor. He wanted to know how our parishioners are doing. Interviews took place and I had been in contact with the police who are still investigating. I also spoke with Adam Eneas – one of the hereditary chiefs. He, Sandy, their family and all our Indigenous brothers and sisters are all safe.

As the day drew to a close, at about 11:30, I heard a call in my heart to take the blessed Sacrament to Sacred Heart and bless the land and God’s people there. “Lord, are you really asking me to do this? It’s almost midnight, you know.” I heard it again: go…. go….

I got my car key, put on my alb and stole, put the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, placed it on the passenger’s seat and off I went. I arrived there shortly after midnight. After blessing the land, I was also moved to go round St. Ann’s and St. John Vianney with the Blessed Sacrament asking for his protection on our people, our Churches, school and our city.

I’ve always looked at the three Churches as three sisters: Sacred Heart (oldest), St. Ann’s (middle), St. John Vianney (youngest). The oldest sister collapsed. She didn’t die. Faith ….. Faith of our fathers and mothers will live on.

The Scripture the Lord gave me that night was:

You have been our dwelling place; before the mountains were born, You were. You have been our refuge from one generation to the next. Satisfy us in the morning with your love so that we may be glad and rejoice.

Psalm 90

Jesus, You are our dwelling place. You are alive. You are our shelter and our refuge!

Your brother, ~Fr. Obi