Mission Upgrades in Dawson City

A view of the rectory repairs underway next to the historical church of St. Mary's in Dawson City, YT

St. Mary’s Church in Dawson City holds a rich history that dates to 1897, when it was a small building constructed by Fr. William Judge a Jesuit priest who moved to Dawson City from Forty Mile, Yukon, at the onset of the gold rush. The original church structures were replaced in 1902 after the Oblates had taken over the mission from the Jesuits.

In 1995, Fr. Tim Coonen, OMI, undertook major repairs, including a new roof, truss replacements, insulation, wall repairs, rewiring, window replacements, and interior painting, all aimed at preserving the building’s historical integrity. The church was rededicated on June 12, 1996, with a celebration that included a banquet and a rededication ceremony.

The legacy of St. Mary’s extends beyond the church to the associated hospital and school. St. Mary’s Hospital, established in 1898, served the community until it became an extended care facility for elderly men in the 1950s. St. Mary’s School, operating from 1898 to 1959, was the first school system in the Yukon.

In 2022, St. Mary’s received $4,250 from Catholic Missions In Canada to complete an energy upgrade project for the church rectory. The project aimed to insulate the priest’s and guest bedrooms and rebuild the exterior walls of the building with better insulation and new triple-pane windows. This upgrade was crucial in enhancing the living conditions within the rectory and improving energy efficiency.

Construction underway on the rectory at St. Mary’s, Dawson City, YT.

Above and beyong the Rectory repairs, Catholic Missions in Canada also provides essential funds to cover the travel expenses of the resident priest to neighboring missions, living expenses, and utilities for the year. Specifically, every two weeks, the priest travels to Mayo to celebrate Mass, a 460 km round trip.

Maintaining the over 100-year-old church and rectory involves continuous repairs and maintenance. Rising heating and vehicle fuel costs, along with a substantial increase in property insurance (around 60% in 2022), add to the financial burden.

Thanks to the support from Catholic Missions in Canada donors, St. Mary’s continues to serve its community, preserving its rich history while adapting to modern needs.