A feast for the eyes and soul
Fort Good Hope church a divine work

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

FORT GOOD HOPE (Oct 18/99) - A nearly-neon cobalt blue ceiling, studded with gold stars cups the congregation, who face the fabulous frescoes of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Lace-like filigree carved from Sahtu jackpine adorns the altar. This is more than a place of worship, this is a divine art work.

Our Lady of Good Hope Church was built in 1865 by Brother Joseph Kearny, and adorned with the inspired work of Father Emile Petitot. The little church has since served the faithful of Fort Good Hope, art lovers and tourists who come to marvel at the misson's finery.

Jonas Kakfwi greets the tourists and the congregation alike. Kakfwi has been attending service all his life and he's served the church almost as long.

"I've been working at the church since I was 12," Kakfwi said.

"I learned how to play the organ by ear and still play every Sunday. Every Sunday morning the church is nearly full," he said. Built from locally-milled lumber, the 100-year-old church shows few signs of age.

"They built it out of wood from across the river," he points. "If you look at it close you'll see there is no rot. The wood is all still in perfect shape."

The building underwent renovations three years ago, Kakfwi said, but the restoration hardly touched the inside of the church. In addition to his duties as organist and tour guide, Kakfwi keeps the church clean, fixes what needs fixing and tends to the cemetery.

"For the last few years there's been no priest here, so it's hard," he said. "Sunday morning I come early and get everything ready. In the winter I have to come late Saturday night to get the furnace going for Sunday morning."

"When it's too cold, we use the rectory," he added.

The community almost lost the legendary landmark once, Kakfwi said.

"Stu Hodgson tried to have the church moved to Yellowknife one time," he recalled. "You should have heard the people complain about that. He changed his mind on that pretty quick."