By Marianne Curtis
The Le Comité des amies de la prière from Richer are looking for help from the community to help support and preserve a historical cemetery located in the community.
In 2008, the Enfant-Jésus Church and site was given the status of a Municipal Heritage Site. A heritage site/building is deemed to be irreplaceable and threatened thus needing to be protected and preserved for future generations.
The history of the Enfant-Jésus Cemetery in Richer dates back to 1904 when Pierre Michaud and his wife Helene Favreau donated 17 acres for chapel, a school, a rectory, a convent and a parish hall. Shortly after, a chapel was built in Thibaultville to meet the spiritual needs of a growing community. Part of the property was also used for burial.
The Enfant-Jesus Cemetery is made up of two sections: the newer section which is to the east side and the older section which is situated to the west side. The older section has two areas: the west side has the odd numbers and the east side of the cross has even numbers. In the western-most section, there are many graves of infants (west side of the cross). There are over 900 graves of which only 450 are marked.
Marcel Gauthier, Secretery of Le Comité des amies de la prière explained the importance of the cemetary.
“We see the cemetery as a sacred ground that needs to be respected and maintained,” stated Gauthier. “The cemetery is part of a designated Municipal Heritage Site and as such, the monuments need to reflect the respect and dignity of their loved ones.”
The group is hoping to raise enough money so that they can preserve the historic site. This includes levelling the grounds, improving the foundations and stone bases of all monuments in the older section of the cemetery, identifying the unmarked graves, cleaning up the monuments and updating the cemetery map. Volunteers are also needed to help maintain the site by mowing trimming, levelling and cleaning of monuments.
“Our ancestors invested much of their hard work, and finances in order for their posterity to have a beautiful heritage church and cemetery,” Gauthier added. “Now it is up to us to carry the flame and to put forth the unending effort to continue to preserve and protect Richer’s only heritage site.”
The organization is looking for additional cooperation of the community and cemetery visitors in keeping the cemetery free of debris, and pet waste and respect the cemetery as a sacred place.
The Enfant-Jésus Cemetery Committee works in collaboration with the Sainte-Anne Pastoral Region and the Saint-Boniface Diocese, and adheres to the rules and regulations laid out by the Manitoba Cemetery Law and Animal Act.
For further information or to make a donation readers can contact Patricia Gendreau or Marcel Gauthier at 422-6880 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The main entrance of the historic Enfant-Jésus Cemetery in Richer is made of a metal arch with the words: Je suis la vie (I am life).