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St. Jean Baptiste Church rebuild begins in Morinville

Fences, site work to begin in July, with expected completion date in 2025
DIGGING IN — (L-R) Noreen Radford, Ron Cust, Father Trini Pinka, Bishop Gary Franken, Clint Whitson, Christopher Filipowicz, and Connor Whitson use golden shovels to break ground on construction of the new St. Jean Baptiste Church on May 29, 2024. About 120 people witnessed the ceremony. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

This story originally described Whitson Contracting as "based out of Alcomdale," based on information from Ron Cust. Layne Whitson of Whitson Contracting has since clarified that while the Whitson clan has roots near Alcomdale, the company itself is based out of Sturgeon County northwest of St. Albert.

A heavenly shower blessed Morinville last Friday as hundreds witnessed the official start of construction for the replacement St. Jean Baptiste Church.

About 120 people met at the former site of the St. Jean Baptiste Church in Morinville on Friday, May 31, to break ground on the construction of a replacement church building.

The original 114-year-old structure was one of the town’s oldest and most prominent structures before it burned down in June 2021. Parish members have since raised millions of dollars through fundraisers and insurance to fund construction of a replacement building.

The new church will cost about $7.8 million and will be built by Whitson Contracting, which is based out of Sturgeon County, said church building committee chair Ron Cust. It will be smaller than the original, but will feature a steeple, bells from a church in Quebec, and stained glass windows donated by the Mill Woods Presbyterian Church.

“There will be four stained glass windows facing the street,” Cust said, referring to 100 Ave./Hwy. 642, and a fifth on the west side of the church.

Friday’s event featured hymns, readings from the Bible, and a ceremonial groundbreaking with gold-painted shovels.

“No gold!” quipped Cust, as he hefted a shovel’s worth of dirt.

Speaking to the crowd before the dandelion-ridden church site, Bishop Gary Franken prayed for a safe construction effort, and noted the true foundation of any church was the faith of its members.

“The foundations have already been laid, and now we look forward to the foundations being laid in concrete so that we may have a new place of worship.”

After the groundbreaking, Franken blessed the church site by sprinkling holy water on it. As he did so, a light sprinkle of rain fell, which some in the crowd described as a blessing from the sky.

Whitson Contracting co-owner Connor Whitson said Morinville residents should see fences and signs go up around the church lot this July, followed by initial digging and ground work. Expect to see up to 30 people onsite at once and to hear typical construction noises. Pile-driving will start in August, and structural work will commence in December.

Cust said parish members expect the church to be finished in time for the Dec. 25 Christmas service in 2025.

Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma said the new church will be a beautiful addition to the town that will fill an empty hole on its main street.

“This church has been here since the early 1900s, and to see it removed and see it reestablished is awesome.”

Visit for updates on the restoration project.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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