The Church

Ste. Thérèse Roman Catholic Church, also known as the Cardinal Church, was erected in stages between 1927 and 1939 and dedicated to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. A Municipal Heritage Site designation applies to the church and the grounds it occupies.

A landmark in the Cardinal area, it is a fine example of ecclesiastical architecture in the French and Quebecois classical tradition, as characterized by its symmetry, large nave and formal tower. The wooden structure also symbolizes the fierce pride and commitment of parishioners, who, desiring to establish their own identity and confident in their community's prospects, persevered with the challenges of fundraising and church construction even though this broke with their tradition of attending mass in nearby Notre Dame de Lourdes.

The Exterior Features

The building sits on an attractive location on the edge of the village of Cardinal, amid mature trees, grassed grounds and rolling agricultural fields.

Its external design consists of a square tower, a high, elongated nave under a gable roof and a pentagonal apse, with a perpendicularly appended, gable-roofed sacristy.

Tower features include the second-level eyelet windows, a central stained-glass bull's eye, a pyramidal roof interrupted by a belfry with pointed arched openings, an octagonal steeple with metal sheathing, and a finial and ornamented Latin cross.

The modest materials and details include the horizontal wood siding, cedar-shingled roof, trim and corner boards painted to contrast with the facades, double entrance doors, and decorative return eaves.

The Interior Features

The traditional formal plan is organized by the vestibule, centre-aisle nave, and sanctuary.

The altar is set behind a large pointed arch inscribed with a banner and featuring a lowered ceiling converging above a large statue of St. Thérèse. It has intact wooden communion rails and finishes.

It has plank floors, walls and arched ceilings throughout.

It has fine details and finishes, including the historically accurate colour palette, simple mouldings and trim, wooden pews, L-shaped choir loft stairs, plank confessionals and closets.


The new village of Cardinal was created in 1905, but the area was settled in the 1880's, centred on the Parish of Notre Dame de Lourdes. As the village grew and community identity and pride developed, citizens wanted their own church. The issue was brought to light when, in the aftermath of World War 1, the village created its own "Arc de Triumph" to welcome home its soldiers. A local church would be a logical next step.

The Chanoines Priests at Notre Dame opposed the idea. They were supported in their position by the archdiocese. The concern was that it would diminish attendance at Notre Dame.

In 1926 a group known as the Societe St. Louis was organized to build a Church. The support of the community was evident in the success of fundraising activities and in 1927 construction began under the direction of Alexandre Beaudry and Joseph Schumacher. The church was dedicated to Sainte Thérèse-de-l'Enfant-Jesus. The altar was constructed by Francois Blain. The building was ready for use in 1929.

Under construction in 1927

The residents of Cardinal had a church, but due to opposition from the priest and parishioners of Notre Dame, it was not blessed and had no priest. A bitter struggle ensued.  As an alternative to having their own priest, the Cardinal citizens appealed to have services conducted at least in the winter months. After extensive discussion a compromise was struck. Services would be provided but the ownership of the chapel would be transferred to Lourdes. The chapel was blessed on November 17, 1935. The first Mass was attended by over 250 people. Services during winter months were held every third Sunday.

The first mass.

Only three religious ceremonies other than mass were said in the church, two baptisms (in 1945 and 1949) and one marriage (in 1950).

The church on its earlier site, closer to the street.

Improvements continued with the addition of a Sacristy and a Bell Tower in 1939, but in 1948 a renewed effort to make Cardinal a parish was not approved by the Archbishop.

That didn't stop the community from continuing improvements. A basement was added in 1951 and other renovations undertaken.

Despite determined community efforts, the forces of rural depopulation, seen across the prairies, was to have its effect. Farms were larger and families were smaller. Improved roads and reliable vehicles made shopping in the larger centres attractive, which in turn rendered many village businesses unnecessary. People moved away and church attendance could only decline sharply.

The Church closed in 1960 and found new life in the early 1990s when descendants of the area's early residents mobilized to save it.

It was declared a Municipal Heritage Site. The community and la Société Historique de Notre Dame de Lourdes undertook an ambitious restoration project. Restoration of the Chapel began in 1990. Then the building was moved onto a new foundation and exterior and interior woodwork was repaired. Continued renovations between 2003 and 2008 were done as part of the Manitoba Prairie Churches Project.

Today it is open to visitors from May to October. Its collection of religious artifacts, historical information and photos - and above all the beautiful building itself, are a tribute to the community.