‘So tragic,’ Archbishop said after fire destroyed Shemogue church

A century-old church caught fire Thursday morning in the community of Shemogue, in southeastern New Brunswick.

Saint Timothée is a Catholic church that is part of the Archdiocese of Moncton.

Firefighters were on the scene before full daylight, but Beaubassin-Est Mayor Louise Landry said they determined the building was unrecoverable.

“We recovered a couple of items,” Landry said. “As for the rest, we know there is no chance of getting anything back from the church.”

Cap-Pelé Fire Chief Ronald Cormier says it’s too early to say what caused the blaze. (Pierre Fournier / CBC)

Cap-Pelé Fire Chief Ronald Cormier said the call arrived around 5 or 6 a.m. Thursday. The blaze was small when firefighters arrived, but the flames spread quickly within an hour to destroy the church.

“It’s probably over 100 years old, and it’s dry,” he said. “It was a big challenge.”

Firefighters from five different departments responded, he said, and the cause of the blaze is under investigation.

“We can’t say whether it’s suspicious or not. At the moment it’s hard to say.”

The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Moncton, Valery Vienneau, says the loss of the church will have a big impact on the community. (Pierre Fournier / CBC)

“Very sad for the community”

Bishop Valéry Vienneau was at the scene of the fire Thursday morning. He said that before becoming a priest he was a schoolteacher in Cap-Pelé and that the church played a big role as a community center.

“It is very sad for the community,” he said. “Especially at this Christmas time, because people tend to come back with their families and tend to come to church.”

He said about 100 to 150 people attended church before COVID-19, and people were maintaining the old building and working hard to renovate and preserve it.

“It’s so tragic too because they’re losing something they’ve been working on,” Vienneau said.

The fire quickly destroyed the 105-year-old wooden church. (Kate Letterick / CBC)

According to the Archdiocese’s website, construction of the wooden church began in 1903 and was completed in 1916.

It was transported over the ice to its present location by horses the following year.

The building underwent extensive renovations in 1983.

An old church in the community was destroyed by fire in 1826.

Jerry B. Hatch