After falling into disrepair, Father's House in Paulatuk will reopen this month. Photo supplied by Stef Michniewski
For decades, Father Léonce Dehurtevent’s house was a staple of Paulatuk. More than 20 years after his death, the building is being given a second life.
During his summers repairing the house of the late Father Dehurtevent, Stef Michniewski says he heard numerous stories of its importance to the community.
“People have told us that they were married there. One gentleman was actually born there because of a snowstorm,” said Michniewski. “The community really saw this building as a symbol of so many events in their lives.”
Michniewski is a project manager for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP), a Catholic organization that has worked to restore the house.
The soon-to-be-reopened “Father’s House” was first built in the 1930s as a Catholic mission house.
Ray Ruben Sr, the mayor of Paulatuk, said Dehurtevent’s house was integral to Paulatuk on a “daily basis.”
“After the church services, people would gather there, sit for tea or coffee and tell stories, and just get together,” said Ruben.
His house was abandoned following his death in 2002. In order to restore the building, major renovations were required after the roof and chimney sustained severe water damage.
Over the past five years, the building has been repaired with support from SSVP, private donors and Bishop Jon Hansen of the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.
“Covid set us back two summers, otherwise we would’ve been a lot further forward than we are now,” said Michniewski.
Ruben said that when he surveyed the community about what to do with the building, the consensus was clear.
“Everybody would say, ‘We should bring it back to as close to its original state.’ You know, we can’t do that now, obviously … so they [SSVP] are trying their best to make it as original as they can,” Ruben said.
The new-look building is intended to serve as a community hub, including a thrift shop and food bank with items donated from the Edmonton and Calgary area, according to Michniewski.
“There have been rocky roads, but everybody is onwards and upwards, that would be the vision,” said Michniewski regarding the Catholic Church’s complicated history in the North.
The celebration of the new Father’s House will be held on Thursday at 5pm.