A historic bell that holds great cultural significance for the Acadian and francophone community in Rollo Bay, P.E.I., and the surrounding area will be put into a new home, in the St. Alexis Church cemetery.

The church, which shut its doors in 2015, has kept the bell until it was determined where it would go.

Parishioners of St. Mary's Church in Souris, where St. Alexis' community migrated when their church closed, voted on what to do with the bell on Monday.

Over 300 votes were cast and 78 per cent of the ballots supported moving the bell to St. Alexis Cemetery. The other options were giving ownership or leasing it to Le Comité Acadien et francophone de l'Est (CAFE), the organization representing the Acadian and francophone community in the area .

CAFE wanted to display the bell at their school and community centre which is currently under construction and is set to open in January.

'It's a voice'

Judy Chaisson, a member of CAFE, said the nearly 300 year old bell holds a great deal of significance for the Acadian community.

She said that the bell was buried when the Acadians were forced off their land by the English.

La-Belle-Cloche

CAFE commissioned design plans for the bell's possible display at the new community centre being built. (Submitted by Genevieve Ouellette)

In 1870 a farmer hit it with his plow, unearthed it, and gave it to a church in Morell which traded it for a new bell with St. Alexis, whose parishioners were largely Acadian in descent. 

"It's a voice, when you think that the people were all gone, it was still a voice and it came back," said Chaisson.

"It just represents a survival, and a revival. There's such a pride."

'Felt my heart drop'

Chaisson was one of the parishioners tasked with counting the ballots on Monday and said it was clear early on the vote wasn't going the way she hoped.

"It was pretty evident from when we first started the count," she said.

"I felt my heart drop, but no one was having any satisfaction of winning over another person."

Judy Chaisson

Judy Chaisson, a member of CAFE, says that she hopes the bell will be displayed in a way that allows Acadians from around the world to come and see a piece of history.

Genevieve Ouellette, a teacher at Ecole La-Belle-Cloche and a member of CAFE was unhappy with the results.

"I was sad, I was disappointed, I cried a bit even," she said.

"I do understand the parishioners. They wanted the bell to stay where their Acadian ancestors are laid to rest. I can respect that."

'Vitality, resilience, courage'

Both Chaisson and Ouellette hope that CAFE and the parishioners can work together to find a good way to display the bell for the community to enjoy.

"We'd love to have it to be a destination for other Acadians all over the world to come and see this marvelous treasure," said Chaisson. 

"It's just so special."

Genevieve Ouellette

Genevieve Ouellette, a literacy and french teacher at Ecole La-Belle-Cloche and a member of CAFE, says she understands the parishioners choice and hopes to work with them on the decision of how to display the bell. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

Ouellette said that although she is sad about not having the bell for the community centre, she is happy with the way the situation was handled. 

"We basically just want people to know that there is an Acadian community that is being built here and we want the community to work together in order to celebrate that," she said.

"I see that as being a wonderful asset to the community."

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said that the St. Alexis parishioners had moved to St. Mary's in Indian River when St. Alexis shut its doors. The congregation moved to St. Mary's in Souris.
    Jul 20, 2017 9:20 AM AT