The mission of the Tolstoi Heritage Centre is to restore the church and to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts that represent the history of the church, the local Polish culture, and the community, for the education and enjoyment of our generation and those of the future.
How it all started:
In September 2011, a group of interested individuals met with Archbishop LeGatt to discuss the fate of the Tolstoi Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. During that meeting the message was clear: honour our history; respect the sacrifices and hard work of our grandparents and parents; and preserve the past for future generations. With these goals in mind, a working group of volunteers was formed and they were tasked with determining how to move ahead.
The working group was to determine if it would be feasible to take ownership of the Tolstoi Holy Trinity Church from the Diocese. To reach a decision on the issue of ownership, a number of things were considered including short-term and long-term costs and how to pay for them. The group also researched the steps to be taken to gain ownership of the church, which included obtaining charitable status.
After a lot of research and discussion, the group decided there was enough support to set up a permanent organization and to pursue purchasing the church and property. The Tolstoi Holy Trinity Church Historical Society Inc. was chosen as the official name and the Society was registered with the Province of Manitoba as a non-profit corporation. The organization’s first directors were drawn from the volunteers of the working group and will remain until the first Annual General Meeting is held. The operating name was changed to the Tolstoi Heritage Centre to better reflect the goals of the organization.
The Diocese has approved our efforts and is willing to turn the church over to the Society once the organization becomes a charity.
Condition of the church:
Following the September 2011 meeting with Archbishop LeGatt, a building inspector assessed the church’s structure. Concerns had been raised at the meeting that the church was no longer in a good state of repair and it may only be a matter of time before it would need to be torn down. The inspector reported that the building was still in good repair putting to rest any concerns about the current state of the building. He did, however, recommend that steps be taken immediately to waterproof the building. The Diocese agreed to provide funds to the working group to conduct the work.
First steps in restoration:
During the first year, volunteers stabilized and waterproofed the church structure. Work included:
- Installing poly-sheeting in the crawl space,
- Adding gravel to the crawl space and creating a sump pump hole,
- Sealing the foundation,
- Sloping the ground away from the foundation, and
- Replacing fascia and eaves troughs.
This work has eliminated the wicking of any ground moisture into the church, preventing further deterioration. In addition, the carpet was removed from the inside of the church so that the wood floors could remain dry.
Although the paint on the ceiling is peeling and will need to be removed before any painting can be done, the church’s good bones shine through! We continue to marvel at the beauty and simplicity of the building. It is definitely a gem worth preserving.
Demolition of rectory:
Because of the state of disrepair of the rectory, it was demolished and the site was cleaned up. The costs were covered by the Diocese and any reusable building materials were donated to a northern Parish. All furniture and household effects left in the rectory were moved to the garage and church for safe keeping. Anything of historical value to the church will be kept. Everything else will be disposed of in a garage sale or similar event, and the funds will be used to help maintain the church and grounds.
Restoration of Windows
In the summer of 2015, the society decided to repair the church’s eleven colored glass windows. All of them had deteriorated in some way and we felt that we had to act quickly before the damage and the cost of repairs both increased. We hired a craftsman and he did a wonderful job, restoring the windows to their former glory. We also embarked on a major fundraising campaign to pay for current and future building restoration costs.
Plans for the Future
- Plant grass around church.
- Scrape flaking paint off interior walls and ceilings.
- Paint interior walls and ceilings.
- Paint exterior walls, steps and garage trim.
- Replace roof in one or two years.
- Clean church interior.
- Clean linens and vestments.
- Restore/clean artifacts.
- Research church and local history.
- Organize and set up historical displays.
- Organize an annual mass and picnic.