The Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples certainly lit up hope in a year of turmoil. The inner-city parish led by Oblate priests put up white Christmas lights on the French Gothic Revival façade which brightened the neighbourhood along Edmonton’s famous ‘Church Street.’
Located in the mature neighbourhood of McCauley, 96 Street carries the name ‘Church Street’ for its historic religious significance. There are 12 current Christian churches and one Buddhist temple on the street from 106 Avenue to 110a Avenue as of 2021. With three more churches down to mainstreet on Jasper Avenue, and at least 5 others in the neighbourhood, it’s no wonder there’s an urban legend that Church Street was once listed in the Guinness World Records. Many of the churches on the street have been designated as historic resources, including Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart Church was opened in 1913 as a church plant of Immaculate Conception Church across the street (now Rhema Chapel). The church became home to the Indigenous community in 1991 as a home for the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. In 1993, it became the first designated national parish for the indigenous in Canada.
The church was damaged by fire caused by smudging materials smouldering in the trash in August 2020. It damaged the sacristy and some of the artworks on the altar side of the church, including the first station of the cross painted by Métis artist Sheldon Meek in 1992. The church had a more devastating fire in 1966 when only the outside of the church survived.
The cross-street where the church is located, 108a Avenue, has an honourary street designation of Father Jim Holland Way. It is named after the priest who served at the parish from 1995 to 2017. His impact on the community has not gone unnoticed – Rev. James Holland, OMI, is a member of the Order of Canada, the Alberta Order of Excellence, and Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee Medal.