In 1946, the territory of the municipality of Lantier was part of the Archdiocese of Montreal. Given the distance separating Lantier from the parish of Sainte-Lucie-de-Doncaster, to which it belonged, Mgr. Joseph Charbonneau (1892-1959), Archbishop of Montreal, was petitioned for permission to celebrate mass in the village schoolhouse. In June 1947, the parish council decided to acquire land in Lantier for the construction of a chapel. The chapel, known as Sacré-Coeur-des-Laurentides, was built in 1948 and served by the oblate fathers of Saint-Agathe-des Monts.
In 1952, Mgr. Joseph-Eugène Limoges (1879-1965) bishop of the diocese of Mont-Laurier, approved the division of the parish of Sainte-Lucie-de-Doncaster and the canonical erection of the new parish of Sainte-Maria-Goretti to serve the Catholics of Lantier. The retrocession of the church’s land from one parish to the other was approved in 1953. The chapel was well maintained, and spiritual concerns were not neglected: Ligue du Sacré-Coeur, Dames de Sainte-Anne, Agrégation au Très Saint-Sacrement, Mouvement Lacordaire, and Mouvement de Jeanne d’Arc.
Although efforts were made to build a new church in 1959, authorization for its construction was not granted until 1963 in response to a petition by forty-two parishioners concerned by the chapel’s dilapidated condition, the growing number of seasonal visitors, and the lack of space required to meet worship needs. Montreal-based architectural firm Perron & Perron was commissioned to draw up plans for a church and a sacristy. Three trustees were charged with executing the episcopal decree, and a $60,000 loan was approved by the parish council. The chapel was torn down in March 1964, and parish activities carried out in the village schoolhouse while construction was underway. On August 30, 1964, the new church was blessed by Mgr. André Ouellette (1913-2001), apostolic administrator of the diocese.
The liturgical reform of the 1960s led to major changes in the design and construction of churches. Built in the modern style, the Sainte-Maria-Goretti church, covering an area of 23.7 x 16.1 metres (78 x 53 feet), is plain and unadorned. Topped with an imposing aluminum cross, its bell tower houses Adeline, a bell that served in the Rimouski diocese. The church’s roof is covered with asphalt shingles; its walls are of grey granite, and its windowsills are of pink granite from the town of Annonciation. Its walls were originally adorned with coloured glass block windows but, over the years, these have had to be replaced with less expensive clear glass. This architectural embellishment is nevertheless still attractive, beautifying both the interior and the exterior of this remarkable building.
The church’s interior walls are covered with smoked elm engineered wood. The triangular vault is of wood, and the single nave creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. The harmonious décor includes articles and furnishings crafted by skilled artisans working with wrought iron, including lamps and other items at the back of the sanctuary. Walnut, oak, and mahogany are incorporated into pews and armchairs. The confessionals still boast the original cathedral glass. Notable is the imposing coral, orange, yellow, blue, red, and green glass mosaic stations of the cross on a white cross. The original framed stations of the cross from the Sacré-Coeur-des-Laurentides chapel was carefully preserved and hung below the contemporary version.
Whether for spiritual, cultural, historic, urbanistic, or touristic reasons, this important heritage site is a growing source of interest and inspiration to the public. To look to the future with resolve, we must understand our past and the vitality of our roots. The light, atmosphere, and silence of this church invite us to go within and discover the life that pulsates there.