It was a very emotional day in Hagwilget as the St. Mary Magdalen church held its grand reopening on Sunday.
The church, packed for the inaugural Sunday service, was presided by Bishop Stephen Jensen, Prince George, and Father Johmer Faderansa, who will be conducting regular Sunday mass at the revitalized church.
Nearly everyone who contributed to making the renovation of the more than 110-year-old church attended a small feast/luncheon afterward at the Hagwilget Gathering Place where the person most responsible spoke to those gathered.
“This has been quite the day,” Dora Wilson-Kenni said. “My dream has come true and I want to thank everyone who has made this all possible.”
Phil Trombley led the construction and design of the newly minted church and it was a labour of love that provided several revelations for the man who pulled all the necessary pieces together.
Trombley, who was an alter boy when he was younger, learned that his great-great grandfather, David McKenzie, was the one who commissioned the church back in the early 1900s.
“I had no idea about any of that,” Trombley said. “It’s just one of the many wonderful things I learned during this project.”
Trombley listed the people that he supervised during renovations and lauded praise on each of them, including Bill and Grace Blackburn.
Bill is a retired woodshop teacher who spent most of his years teaching at Hazelton Secondary and Trombley was one of his many students.
“If Bill didn’t agree to make the doors I would’ve just ordered some from a store,” Trombley said.
Bill found working for Trombley to be a great experience, but made sure to return the recognition when he stood to speak about being part of the project.
“It was neat having Phil as a boss,” Bill said. “He made me salvage as much wood as possible, which I didn’t think would work. But when I put the wood the machines that dull wood was vibrant underneath.
“This project made me see how things come full-circle. Phil was in my class when he was younger and lost three fingers on his left hand to a bandsaw. It was devastating because he was such a gifted artist and left-handed. Now we see that this church is his art.”