Radio-Canada called me up for information on the Longlac church that burned down yesterday. I was able, in the short time available, to put together this account:
At age 36, Father Joseph-Marie Couture was ordained as a priest in 1922, soon mastered the Ojibway tongue, and conducted missions by canoe, dog team, and snowshoes in roadless communities in Northern Ontario. At age 47, he took flying lessons, acquired his first plane, a Gypsy Moth, and flew 4000 miles that season, acquiring the sobriquet “The Flying Priest”. In 1940, he gave up flying and visiting his 36 missions to take up residence in a new presbytery in the tiny community of Longlac.
Father Couture still had nine missions to visit along the railway line, but it took five priests to replace him. On April 1, 1948, the old church on Indian Point (a projection of land on the north shore of Long Lake) burned down. Father Couture, seriously ill at the time, expired on March 4, 1949. People came from hundreds of miles to pay their respects.
Construction began almost immediately on a new Roman Catholic church on the Point, part of Long Lake Reserve #58, which opened in 1950. Father Couture’s remains were laid to rest in a vault in the basement of the Church of the Infant Jesus.
At the end of the century, on May 7, 1997, the church closed. It stood empty, succumbing to the elements, until it burned down on May 23, 2018.