Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of CanadaFranciscains du Canada

Ordo Fratrum Minorum

St. John’s mission

St. John’s mission

 

Map of missions around Red Lake, 1951. Drawn by Fr. Stan.

From 1946-1953, Fr. Stan (Ladislaus) Frytek was in charge of St. John’s mission at Red Lake in northwestern Ontario and many of its outlying missions, including McKenzie Island, Cochenour, Balmertown, Finn Town, Madsen, Campbell, and Dickenson, as well as Lac du Bonnet and Bisset in northeastern Manitoba. Apart from Lac du Bonnet, the rest were small, isolated mining communities spread out over 300 kilometres.

On June 11, 1946, Fr. Stan left Lac du Bonnet on his first-ever plane ride: “I enjoyed it very much. After about an hour’s ride over an uninhabited stretch of rocks and lake—I landed at my destination—Red Lake.”

To reach all the communities, Fr. Stan traveled by plane, bus, taxicab, taxi-boat, canoe, snowmobile, and many times on foot; he slept on a table one night in a school, on floors, in mining company bunkhouses, hotels and at parishioner’s homes. In June and July 1947, several missions banded together to raise money to purchase a boat for him.

The size of the mission territory and the changeable weather along with difficulty of access meant that mass schedules were often inconsistent. On October 13, 1946, Fr. Stan records a particularly busy day:

1st mass at Red Lake… 2nd mass at McKenzie Island. Could not find a taxi the night previous and so had to look for one the next morning. Found one but it was 1 hour late. People all waited—good crowd. Right after mass, administered Mrs. Daubin. Then still without breakfast hurried across Cochenour to baptize Labine’s baby. First meal that day at 3.30 pm.

 

Left: Fr. Stan canoeing on Red Lake, 1946-1953
Right: Fr. Stan baptizing a child in a home in Red Lake, 1947