Downtown church marks 100 years of worship in Sudbury

The pews may be full this Sunday morning at Christ the King Catholic Church in Sudbury, Ont. The parish is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The building is an imposing old church with two brick towers looming over the downtown. It shares property with its French counterpart, St Anne of the Pines.

Parishioners will mark the anniversary of Christ the King Church this Sunday with mass, procession

Montsignor Brian Dixon of Christ the King Church (Eri kWhite/ CBC)

The pews may be full on Sunday morning at Christ the King Catholic Church in Sudbury, Ont. The downtown parish will mark its 100 year anniversary.

Monsignor Brian Dixon has been the pastor at the church for the past five years.

Christ the King sits on the same piece of property as St. Anne of the Pines, a French church which separated from its English counterpart in 1917.

Dixon says there was just one church created in 1915 and parishioners of both languages shared resources. However the separation happened a couple of years later.

The divide was not due to animosity between the two language groups, says Dixon.

"While there was all kinds of long history of separation and trying to get along and cooperate in the community, there was also the need to express who each group had in their history. So that was one of the main reasons."

Nowadays, Dixon says either church welcomes parishioners regardless of their mother tongue.

"You'll find people who have gone to French-speaking mass without understanding the language and not understanding the prayers in French or the prayers in English," says Dixon. He adds that it was more important for an individual's experience of faith to be together with his or her family, despite language barriers.

Mass held in nearby theatre after major church fire in '47

Dixon says throughout the 100 year history the most interesting story of the church is the fire in 1947. He says that event ruined some of the church structure.

"The square block towers were not affected. They had damage to them, but they weren't destroyed. Whereas the roof [of the church]... the fire showed a lot of destruction there."

Parishioners at that time, went to the nearby Capitol Theatre for their mass, until repairs could be made to the church.

Dixon says there is a symbol in the current church building which used to hang in the theatre, before that building was taken down.

"That symbol came back to Christ the King. It was presented to the Capitol theatre for a thank you for hosting people on a Sunday morning."

'Future of Christ the King is based on people'

And as for the church marking another 100 years in the future, Dixon says people worship differently now.

It's not so much the place, as it is the time they worship he says, adding that people fit worship into their schedules, when they can.

"Parish is always the people, and so the presence of the people determines the building of the extra buildings or the other churches. And the determination for the future of Christ the King is based on people."

"If people see it as just a monument or a shrine, it's not meant to be that. It's meant to be a living entity and it has to have the people to go with that."

Dixon says the church structure was not key when the parish first started.

"What was important was the people who gathered to say yes to the need."

Parishioners and visitors alike will gather this Sunday morning to mark 100 years of the Christ the King Catholic Church.

After mass there will be a procession where the bishop and priests will walk through the streets offering the eucharist to the public.

With files from Erik White