Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 2, 2009
Lay carpenter played vital role in building the Church
Gratien Ouellet helped build schools, churches for Oblate missions
BY GLEN ARGAN
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
In 1923, Gratien and Rose-Alma and their young daughter Josephine returned to the North where Gratien built St. Alphonsus Church at Fort Smith.
The next year, he returned to Fort Resolution where he built St. Joseph Church. Their second daughter Thérèse was born there in 1926. The family soon moved to Fort Rae where Gratien helped to build St. Michael Church.
By the spring of 1928, they were at Fort Resolution to renovate the mission’s sawmill. Gratien and two other men retrieved a boiler from the wreckage of a boat that had been wrecked the previous winter and installed it in the sawmill.
“Superb job!” wrote the Oblate superior, Father Mansoz. “A new sawmill we have and it will run most effectively.”
From Fort Resolution, the growing family moved on to Fort Providence where Gratien built a large residential school and several secondary buildings.
The carpenter then went back to Fort Simpson to build another hospital, St. Margaret’s.
In 1932, he was called to Aklavik to erect the first residential school in the Mackenzie Delta. Two years later, Gratien, Rose-Alma and their five surviving children went to Fort Smith to erect an extension to St. Ann Hospital.
When that project was completed, it was on to Fort Chipewyan, Alta., to help build an ice house.
A first-class craftsman and blacksmith, Gratien often made his own tools as well as fixing numerous guns, especially for the residents of Fort Resolution.
In 1936, he retired from his work with the Church and moved to Lac La Biche so that their children would have access to schooling beyond the Grade 5 level. Gratien and Rose-Alma eventually settled in Edmonton and they both died in the early 1960s.
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