History of the Saint-Éloi Chapel
In the beginning, the Comeau Ridge was known as the Mission of Saint-Éloi. Only a bishop could give permission to build a church. At the beginning of the 20th century, our Bishop, Msgr. Barry, lived in Chatham, but his general vicar, Abbot Louis-Napoléon Dugal, resided in Saint-Basile. The Reverend Father Félix Verret, parish priest of Saint-André from 1925 to 1940, had in his pastor's heart the possibility to build a Chapel at the Mission Saint-Éloi at Comeau Ridge to accommodate the people of the area. He died suddenly in the confessional after the celebration of the Mass at the age of 43 years old..
In the spring of 1938, the construction of the Saint-Éloi Chapel made its debut in Comeau Ridge. The Reverend Father Félix Verret was the instigator of this beautiful project. He found that the people had to travel over a long distance to the parish church, and that the means of transportation were difficult, especially during the winter with horses and the condition of the road not being cleared as we have nowadays. Having received the authority of Monsignor Patrice A. Chiasson C.J.M. to begin the construction of the Chapel, the Reverend Father Verret, with all his entrepreneurial energy, gave himself ardently to realize this beautiful project which was very dear to him,
to serve the Mission's religious community.
When the decision to build a chapel was authorized, Alfred Pirie donated a parcel of land. The wood required for the construction came from Crown lands, and a mill was erected in the Chapel's yard in order to saw the boards on the spot. A few years later, Jim Cyr gave another piece of land to the chapel for the cemetery. These gifts were greatly appreciated by all.
In 2015, Marcel Michaud and Louise Desilets gave another piece of land to the diocese for the cemetery; another great donation. The generosity of all these people is remarkable.
In a burst of generosity, the people of the region joined hands to participate in the construction of their chapel. Every morning, Arsène Poitras took care of transporting all the volunteers who were ready to work. While some cut the wood, others were busy preparing the foundation.
The chapel was soon built and ready to welcome its proud parishioners.
All the people were happy to contribute to this beautiful project, in some way or another.
Many people contributed according to their means.
Following the completion of the construction's first stage, it was necessary to make this little sanctuary more beautiful, by decorating it. Paul Vaillancourt, who found the chapel so beautiful, offered a beautiful statue of the Christ King of the Universe to the parishioners. The Way of the Cross was paid by several generous parishioners toward a small fee for each canvas done by Luigi Morgari, an Italian painter who made the oil paintings of the Way of the Cross, as we see it today;
a piece of art that blends perfectly into the decor of the Chapel.
Luigi Morgari 4th station
The bell comes from St. Gédéon's Mission, established in 1890, under the direction of
Cardinal Taschereau and the Reverend Father Jos Rouleau,
parish priest of St. Gédéon since October 1, 1899.
Syndics Honoré Veilleux and Joseph Quirion.
The bell was made and melted on August 24, 1900 for Reverend Father Jos Rouleau,
by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, MD.
At first, the bell was on the steps of the Chapel. Later on, it was elevated to the bell tower by cables and pulleys pulled by the Reverend Father Verret’s personal car which was quite a feat.
of the Universe
The original organ, which is still in the chapel's jube, was put in place by cables and pulleys just in the middle aisle in front of the jube. It was another extraordinary feat, given the size and weight of the organ in question. A person was responsible to pump the air into the drums to make the sound. Another small electric organ was subsequently bought by the parishioners which was damaged by water and humidity during the 14 years of closure. Albert Godbout donated his electric Hammond organ and an amplifier worth close to $4,000 to the Foundation. He had the Foundation's project at heart, having himself played the organ as well as other instruments. He had also sung in the chapel during his youth.
Every spring, the women took care of cleaning the chapel. Since there was no running water on site, they had to bring water from a neighbour and heat it on the wood stove, which was in the basement. Everyone volunteered by bringing a pail, some rags and some cleaning supplies to do the work, etc.
The cleaning was done in no time and everyone was happy with the work done as a team.
In order to defray the cost of the chapel, the parishioners organized bazaars and suppers that were held in the basement. Although the basement was not finished, meals were served there. Bazaars were very popular at the time and many parishioners attended these events to raise money, which always garnered good results. There are many anecdotes about those encounters; stories that will make people laugh, those who were there and who remember. Before placing the benches, a great dance was organized in the chapel, and it was a great success.
No debt was incurred by the chapel's construction.
The generous contributions of all the parishioners and other generous people in the area led to this beautiful and spectacular project which is a source of pride for all and with no debts.
The organization of the bazaars was quite a chore, ex: meals, kiosks with different objects to sell, surprise fishing for the youngsters with a small gift at the end of the fishing line, knitting and other handmade crafts, homemade pastry, the horse pulls, as well as the strongest bell strike
which gave the winner a cigar.
The persons responsible for preparing the meals for the occasion were great traditional cooking experts.
The main menu would include baked beans, chicken stew and fresh bread, pies and assorted sweets.
The whole event would take place on the grounds of the chapel or inside the structure.
The blessing of the chapel
The blessing took place in May 1939. There was a great crowd attending this ceremony.
At that time, the bell was still on the steps of the chapel.
A few weeks later, it was elevated and installed in the bell tower.
The people of Comeau Ridge chose to name their chapel Saint-Éloi, in honour of the Reverend Father Éloi Martin, second parish priest (from 1907 to 1925).
Born in St-Basile, NB on May 8, 1871, he was ordained priest at St. Basile on August 26, 1900. He was Vicar in Bathurst from 1900 to 1907, and priest in St-André de Madawaska from 1907 to 1925.
He died suddenly during a trip to Rome on May 21, 1925. He was buried in Rome on May 28, 1925, in the vault of the Basilica Seminary, Canadian in Campo Santo de San Lorenzo in Verano.
Rev. Father Éloi Martin
Second Priest of
Rev. Father Félix Verret
First Vicar 1923-1924
Third Priest 1925-1940
The Parishioners' Warmest Welcome
The parishioners' welcome for their parish priest or the celebrant priest was always warm at Jim and Rose Cyr's home. Every Sunday after the mass, the priest was always welcome at the Cyr home for a glass of milk, juice or coffee with sandwiches before he returned to the village. For many years, the parish priest did not return to the village until he had eaten his lunch, which was a wonderful initiative for sharing
and for such a warm welcome to their priest.
The first caretaker was Claude Roberge for over 35 years and the last caretaker was Edgar Michaud for over 25 years. In those 25 years, Jean-Guy Levesque was the caretaker for a short term. For many years, Jocelyn Cyr took care of mowing the lawn at the cemetery and the Chapel yard and continued to do so after its closure. During the winter months, Mr. Cyr would clear a way to be able to access the chapel in case of fire. Mr. Cyr gave his time and expenses in donations to keep the Chapel in good condition.
The Last Mass
The last mass was celebrated at midnight of the year 2000, by the Reverend Father Lucien Levesque, the priest in charge of the Parish of Saint-André at the time.
"It is very sad to see the chapel closed," said the parishioners. A lot of memories are brought forth when the subject arises, and the conversations come alive. What is comforting is that all of us have such good memories to keep in our hearts as parishioners.
At the Chapel, one mass was celebrated each Sunday, at 9 a.m. In the winter, during the first years, the priest or vicar of Saint-André had to travel by horse-drawn sleigh to the Mission to celebrate the Mass which attracted people from the region and surroundings.
Always filled, at the midnight mass, parishioners had to add chairs to accommodate the crowd
and still there were people standing; so many beautiful memories.
The guests were always numerous, and it is even said that many times
they exceeded those of the Church of Saint-André.
The Saint-Éloi Chapel witnessed several weddings, funerals
and masses during those 61 years of service to the Montagne à Comeau Ridge community.
The Glorious Cross
The installation of the Glorious Cross took place in July 2004, at which time Reverend Father Frédéric Poitras celebrated a final mass in the chapel. A great devotee of the Chapel, he died on June 16, 2017 on the eve of his 80th birthday, following surgical complications. The Glorious Cross was donated and installed by Jocelyn and Rita Cyr. It was kept lit for over 10 years with the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Cyr, since the parish of Saint-André did not have electrical power at the Chapel after the closing of the building. So Mr. and Mrs. Cyr took the responsibility to keep the cross lit for all those years.
Benefactor and instigator of the project
In 2011, Mario Cormier, a native of Saint-André, had lived in Vancouver for over 30 years. When he came to visit the area and saw the chapel abandoned and completely closed to visitors, he was very upset and saddened about the situation. For him, the chapel was an exceptional place for recollection and meditation. He found that there was certainly an opportunity and possibility to revive this little chapel that had been frequented assiduously for 61 years. He had many memories of
his childhood having himself participated many times at the Sunday masses. Following several discussions with Msgr. Claude Champagne, the Apostolic Nuncio in Ottawa and other bishops in the region, he made his first request to the parish committees in December 2011, but at that time, his request was refused. However, with his great trust in God and a great urging in his heart to revive the Saint-Éloi Chapel, he continued to persevere with confidence and faith that the Lord would answer his request. He was convinced of it. In July 2014, following the authorization received from the Reverend Father Pierre Thibodeau, parish moderator at the time, he could go ahead to renovate the chapel. Work began on July 3, 2014 and ended on November 5, 2014.
In four months, the Chapel was completely renovated while keeping to the original structure
to safeguard the heritage and the history of this small chapel.
Mario was a person dedicated to the welfare of his community and was always ready to help the most needy. During a trip to Albania to help build a hospital, he stayed there for almost two years, travelling back and forth from Surrey, British Columbia to Albania to work on this big project.
Unfortunately, when rebels took possession of the territory, everything fell in ruin and the project was completely destroyed. At that time, he had his life saved thanks to help provided by Mother Teresa who was on a mission in Albania during that period. Mario had a great devotion towards Mother Teresa in many respects.
"Do not wait for what others will do. It is up to you to act. It is from your actions that beautiful projects come alive and are realized" was an expression Mario often repeated.
The project started with running water in the chapel, a septic tank, roof insulation, completely refurbished electrical services, deck, steps and ramp redone, painting inside the Chapel, painting of the roof, while keeping the structure of the chapel intact and the special cachet quite unique in its kind, new doors for the entrance, construction of two bathrooms and re-installation of the original lampposts in the central aisle of the Chapel. The basement was completely finished to welcome people following activities or ceremonies, a place of social meeting. Mario added today's digital technology by introducing a sound system, a 15-foot screen and a television in the basement to give people the opportunity to do meditation with appropriate videos and spiritual music for their needs. Seeing the project that was so dear to him coming to fruition was a great joy for Mario
whose life was cut short when he died accidentally on May 11, 2015.
His passing was a great loss for the enthusiastic and fervent people of the Chapel.