Log Church Holds Generations of Memories
Northland Uncovered: Saints Mary & Joseph Church
A place of worship feels like home for many.
In Sawyer, Minnesota, a group of parishioners are working hard to bring life back to a log church that is home to generations of memories.
Barb Omar and Don Berthiaume are lifetime members of Saint Mary & Joseph Church.
Now, they worship in a modern building built in the 1960s, but growing up it was a different story.
They were raised attending services in a log church that stands next door.
“I was baptized in this church, I made my first communion in this church, and my solemn communion,” said Omar.
“What pops in right away is the bats that were flying around all the time,” said Berthiaume.
“We would just be shooing them away and to this day now I’m not afraid of bats,” continued Omar.
The log church was built way back in 1884 and grew with many cultures.
“The Franciscans with the help of the Native Americans built this in 1884 and they were here for a period of 12 years to 1896,”explained Deacon Bryan Bassa, “they left and then the Benedictines came here from 1896 to early 1900s.”
The church was even spared in the historic Cloquet fires of 1918.
When a new building was constructed in the 1960s the log church was left alone.
“It was supposed to be rebuilt and be a museum, but you run out of money and interest and time,” explained Berthiaume.
Over time, the outdoors has crept in, “The charm of the church has kind of gotten lost with the squirrel nests,” Berthiaume said.
A committee was formed and plans for restoration began.
“I couldn’t bear to see it fall apart and not be sitting here,” said Omar.
“It was boarded up, all the windows were broken and there was plywood on all the windows,” Berthiaume said.
The group has applied for the Native American and Black Mission Grant, along with what is called the Catholic Extension Grant.
“I can picture it as it was when I attended as a child. And I can see a wedding ceremony going on in here,” Omar said.
It’s a project involving more than just a few coats of paint.
“This is a link to the past,” said Deacon Bryan.
“Without our past there is no future,” Omar said.
The restoration is expected to cost more than $400,000.
If you’d like to make a donation to help in the restoration, head to stkaterisawyer.com.