Qu’Appelle House of Prayer
September 3, 1995 – 2020


Qu’Appelle House of Prayer
September 3, 1995 – 2020

“These I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer…For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)

This vision of Isaiah has been lived here in the Qu’Appelle Valley, as many places elsewhere, for 25 years today.  What follows are some of the times being gratefully remembered today.  Although the account is lengthy, many more significant dates have been left out.  It is a day to be thankful for so very many hundreds and thousands of people, beginning with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  We are most thankful for the many who have come here, for the untold number of generous benefactors, for so many volunteers and for the people of this part of the Qu’Appelle Valley and elsewhere who have consistently, faithfully supported the life and ministry of this place.

Glenn Zimmer, OMI and Chantelle Bonk, PM

Co-directors along with Margaret Dick, SNJM in heaven.

(Photos by Chantelle.)

Some of the Significant Dates in the History of

 Qu’Appelle House of Prayer 

Sister Margaret Dick, SNJM & Fr. Glenn Zimmer, OMI

Mid-October, 1992 – Visit to the Strudwick home by Margaret Dick, Glenn Zimmer, and Rita and Larry Novakowski.  Just after getting out of the car, Margaret remarks out of the blue:  “Wouldn’t this be a wonderful place for a house of prayer!”

March, 1993 – Second visit to Marlene and Art Strudwick by Margaret Dick, Glenn Zimmer, Alice Zimmer,   Howard and Michael Stensrud.

April 7, 1993 – Third visit to property (Tuesday of Holy Week) by Ron Rolheiser (Provincial of St Mary’s Province), Oblates Harold Kaufman and Martin Moser,  and Glenn Zimmer.

October 6, 1993 – Letter sent to members of St Mary’s Province with proposal to consider purchase of Strudwick property for the purpose of a house of prayer.  Letter sent to Lebh Shomea house of prayer confirming that Glenn Zimmer would arrive there for extended discernment sabbatical, beginning October 27.

August, 1994 – Members of St Mary’s Province in annual Congress approve starting of a house of prayer, location to be determined.

January, 1995 – Oblates purchase property (residence and 4.5 acres of land) from Marlene and Art Strudwick near Fort Qu’Appelle on B-Say-Tah Road.

June, 1995 – Second-hand trailer home and attachment moved from Hepburn, Saskatchewan to site of future house of prayer.  Glenn was there on its arrival;  Strudwicks were away at the time.

Mid-July, 1995 – A brief visit is made to the site by Margaret and Glenn, as well as Elsie Stitsen,  Leonne Valois and Anne DiPersio on a Sunday afternoon, coming from and returning to Saskatoon during Summer Stillness.

September 3, 1995 – Margaret Dick, SNJM and Glenn Zimmer, OMI arrive at the property which that day had been vacated by the Strudwicks.

Journal entry:  “Margaret Dick and Glenn Zimmer left Queen’s House in Saskatoon at nearly 4:30 pm on a bright, sunny afternoon – the 1986 Ford Van needed a battery boost from CAA before leaving.  Margaret drove the 1985 Citation, and Glenn the van, arriving in Fort Qu’Appelle just at darkness – it was 8:10 pm on arrival at the house of prayer, already named Qu’Appelle House of Prayer (QHP).  They soon discovered the trailer/mobile home still had no services, so used a flashlight to find a few dishes, pots and pans – and cooked a first meal in the main house – some steak on the Strudwick’s bar-b-q still left here and fresh vegetables brought from Walter Demong’s garden in Saskatoon.  The end of a very long, tiring and emotionally draining day, and the beginning of a very new venture – a foundation already rich in vision and apostolic need, but highly uncertain as to the eventual unfolding.”

September 11, 1995 – The first Eucharist is celebrated at the house of prayer and the Blessed Sacrament reserved.  The opening prayer in part said:  “Father of everlasting goodness, our origin and guide, be close to us and hear the prayers of all who praise you … Keep us safe in your love.”  The Scripture texts of the day were:  Colossians 1:24 – 2:3 and Luke 6:6 – 11.  The closing prayer in part read:  “You give us the strength of new life by the gift of the Eucharist.”  Brother Walter Demong arrives from Saskatoon as the first overnight guest, followed later on the same day by Ron Long, then of Lloydminister, both to have some quiet and to help in the setting up over the coming four days.  A third guest also arrived, Patricia Frain of Winnipeg, for a three-day stay.  The house of prayer had begun.

September 25, 1995 – Sister Elsie Stitsen, a member of Les Filles de Jesus from Edmonton, arrived for sabbatical time, tentatively until the end of the year, which was extended to June 30, 1996.  As a community member, she greatly assisted the many tasks of establishing the house of prayer.

October 3, 1995 – Arrival of young kitten, Frannie, from Saskatoon, who in 1996 gave birth to six kittens, of whom, Zoey, would remain at QHP.  Frannie died October 27, 2014, and Zoey January 27, 2015.

October 4, 1995 – Mark Mantyak, a local man, came to QHP for the first time; he was the chairperson of the local Catholic parish council and a councilor for the RM of North Qu’Appelle, and also a member of the local Knights of Columbus Council of Mary Immaculate.  The House Journal records:  “He wanted to know if the Knights could help out in any way, that they have carpenters, plumbers and electricians among them … one further blessing from God through the goodness of the people here.”  This began a substantial financial and other support from the K of C which continued through all the years;  and Mark continues to this day to return for weekday Eucharist and to volunteer.

October 7, 1995 – Another two overnight guest retreatants, Arleen Cornish and Sharon Martorana, of Regina arrived for a 24-hour stay.  Glenn had left to lead an Oblate retreat in Los Angeles, and therefore Margaret led a communion worship in the afternoon, and evening prayer that night, in the beauty of a full moon.

March 8, 1996 – Marlene and Art Strudwick return for the first time together since September 7 and join in evening prayer, staying for a complete walk through and tea.  Art twice mentions that they were the “caretakers of the property (which they had owned for 20 years) until the house of prayer came here.”

June 6, 1996 – Howard and Michael Stensrud of Miner’s Construction, Saskatoon and Art Gessner visit the site, and make final plans for the construction of the 4 solitary dwellings.  (Margaret turns 59 the same day.)

June 7, 1996 – Ron Tulik delivers his “cat”, and Art Gessner begins clearing site for solitary dwellings.  Actual construction began about 2 weeks later.

August 26, 1996 – Scaffolding collapses on the work site, resulting in fall of Art Gessner and Mick Dawson;  Art is injured and no longer able to work on the construction, replaced by Bernie Mazurkewich.

September 3, 1996 – First anniversary.  Glenn is in Japan leading a retreat for the Oblates there, having left on August 26.  Another Oblate, John Greene, is present, having arrived on August 31 and would stay until April 30, 1997.  House Journal reads:  “Today is the first anniversary of the opening of QHP.  There were four at Eucharist this morning, symbolic of the past, the present and the future.  Sister Carole Marie from Margaret’s community, John Greene from Glenn’s community and someone embarking on an extended journey here, and Steve Micklebright, a young man of 21 from Saskatoon – the future, and a sign of the openness and inclusivity of QHP – all gather around the table and are welcome; and Margaret.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians expresses the mood of the today:  “We have received … the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”  Truly God has gifted QHP this year with people, events and circumstances – QHP continues to be blest.  Elaine Thompson (Our Lady of the Missions Sister) arrived just before supper, and we toasted the first year, giving thanks, and asked blessings on the new one beginning.”

October 29, 1996 – Bernie completes the construction, and returns to Saskatoon with the last of equipment and tools.  The first two guests arrive to use the solitary dwellings, Linda Leier of Vancouver, and Rita Priestley of Saskatoon, staying two days.

November 8, 1996 – Additional land (2.5 acres) is purchased from Gaynal McCaw of Regina,  owner since 1946 who sold original complete parcel of property to the Strudwicks.

September 6, 1997  – Ken Baker and his daughter, Danielle, placed a large cross along with Glenn near the rock on the hill overlooking the property;  this was done in memory of son and brother Danny who died in a skidoo/car collision on hwy. 35 near Lipton on March 22, 1997;  Danny was six days past his 14th birthday.  His well attended Celebration of resurrection took place at Our Lady of Sorrows on Wednesday of Holy Week this year.

April 13, 1998 – Herb from Miner’s Construction arrived on Easter Monday with construction trailer and tools, followed shortly by Don Lautner and Mike Depeel to begin construction of the new chapel.  Architect is Jim Zimmer of Saskatoon.

October 19, 1998 – After final inspection by Jim Zimmer (architect) was completed on October 5, the first Eucharist is celebrated in the new chapel at 6:00 pm (exactly six months after construction began) with about 20 people present, followed by potluck supper.  Appreciation faxes are sent earlier in the day to Jim Zimmer, Miner’s Construction, Alan Bells, the Oblates and Our Lady of Prairies Foundation.

July 21, 1999 – Having built a small base and stand during the past month, Ken Baker single-handedly installed the bell with truck and a rope pulley (the rope broke four times!) on the hill behind the chapel.  The bell came from the Oblates in Battleford where it had rung 3 times a day for the Angelus from 1932 into the 1980’s or early 90’s; it is thought to have been originally a locomotive bell.  The next day, Ken installed a power cord used to ring the bell – for the first time at QHP after years of having been silent –  from the chapel sacristy.

October 14, 1999 – Al Gerritsen completes the altar, tabernacle and other décor in the chapel, as well as prayer corners in the two guest and two resident dwellings.  Final piece of art for the chapel, the Trinity/Marian icon is installed February 26, 2003 after it arrived on the bus from Al Gerritsen.

September 13, 2000 – Additional land, including trailer, garage and 2.5 acres, is purchased from the Riffel family of Regina.

September 16, 2000 – Some furniture and other possessions of Donna and Paul Tremblay of Kenora, Ontario, arrive.

September 25, 2000 – Construction of the garage built by volunteers  Guy Levesque, Alcide Levesque and Lucky Lemay is completed.

November 25, 2000 – Construction of a new residence is begun, and occupied for the first time on March 12, 2001.

March 19, 2002 – Trailer home renovations are mainly completed, and move is made back into it, in use once again.

July 1, 2002 – Donna and Paul Tremblay gave notice that they will be leaving QHP and returning to their home in Kenora, Ontario.  Decision was confirmed on August 17.  Move was completed on Tuesday, October 8.

August 10, 2002 – Budget rental truck arrives with possessions of Emily and John Cherneski who prepare to take the place of the Tremblays.

August 22, 2002 – Emily and John Cherneski from Saskatoon moved to QHP.  This transition was completed on September 10 when John came and stayed, moving into the residence, followed by Emily on September 13.  They remained at QHP for 8 years and 6 months.

February 23, 2003 – Move to renovated library is mainly completed.

June 22, 2003 – Completed Marian shrine, in large part thanks to Father John Riffel and Ken Yuzicapi is blessed and smudged at gathering of local Knights of Columbus and wives.

August 27 & 28, 2005 – Two-day celebration of 10th Anniversary.

August 27, 2005 – Eucharist and Meal in Town  (22 persons):

Sylvia and Don Lautner, Art Gessner (Miner’s Construction, Saskatoon); Gretta Lynn, Eldon, Heidi, Adelaide and Michael Ell;  Alice and Lynden Zimmer; SNJM Sisters Carole Peloquin and Yolande Marion;  Marg and Alan Bells (Humphrey Windows);  Diane Lepage and Paul Fachet (Oblates of Mary Immaculate);  Pat and Joe Sickler (Our Lady of the Prairies Foundation); Emily, John Cherneski, Margaret Dick and Glenn Zimmer (QHP).

August 28, 2005 – Outdoor gathering – short Prayer and Presentation by Margaret Dick and Glenn Zimmer, with 125 – 150 guests in all.  Burgers and hot dogs were served.

February 4, 2011 – Emily and John Cherneski left QHP by car late in the day for West Vancouver and their new home and work.  They arrived the next day, February 5.  Emily returned for a few weeks later to complete some commitments.  She left for the last time on March 25,

March 21, 2011 – Catherine Barnsley and partner Rick McCorrister, while here on retreat, met with Margaret and Glenn to look at possibilities for extended volunteer time during the coming summer, which later occurred several times.

June 1, 2011 – Jane and Felix Kryzanowski of Regina moved their RV to QHP for the summer to live in community and volunteer their time and talent to the growing work of the House of Prayer.  This would continue for 3 full summers, until they left with their RV October 23, 2013, although continuing their close relationship with and commitment to QHP.

September 3, 2011 – On this 16th anniversary, Leslie Strudwick, daughter of Marlene and Art, was married to Dave Taylor in the Chapel, surrounded by the Strudwick family, and many memories going back to 1975 when the home was built.

June 25, 2014 – Catherine Barnsley and Rick McCorrister arrive late at night from Tugaske and move into the residence, to begin what was initially to be a 2-year volunteer commitment, which turned out to be nearly four years.

May 2, 2016 – Tim, accompanied by Kathy Letkemann for short stay, arrived for extended stay in the Prowler RV both for personal time and as volunteer.  He remained until May 28 following another short time with Kathy at QHP;  this time became stepping stone for eventual substantial time at QHP by both after they retired from their careers in 2018.

March 1, 2018 – Catherine and Rick spent their first night in their newest home, a condo unit in Fort Qu’Appelle.  They took the next few weeks sorting, packing and slowly moving out of residence at QHP day by day

March 27, 2018 – Kathy Letkemann and Tim arrive from Winnipeg to stay in the residence, and further explored volunteer work at QHP which soon led to being at QHP for about two weeks most months.  This volunteer Associate commitment continues.

May 2, 2018 – Boyd Drake arrived on flight to Regina from Alymer, Quebec for a month stay, which would begin several lengthy stays in time to come with his wife, Susan Butler-Jones, as Associates and volunteers at QHP.

May 24, 2018 – Susan arrived at QHP for a 3-day stay on May 24 on flight to Regina.  Kathy and Tim also drove from Winnipeg the same day.  This marked the first time all four Associate volunteers were together along with Margaret and Glenn.

May 25 – 26, 2018 – First of 3 Vision Weekends take place at QHP in major effort to revision and perhaps restructure the House of Prayer.  Original participants included:  Adele Longstaff & Jim Longstaff, Kathy Letkemann & Tim, Christine Rumancik,  Susan Butler-Jones & Boyd Drake,  Dolores Fehr,  Sue Bland, Margaret Dick and Glenn Zimmer.    Bishop Don Bolen, John Meehan, SJ and Margi Hollingshead, though not present,  also contributed valued input.  Two more Weekends followed:  November 16 – 18, 2018 (which included Sr. Chantelle Bonk) and November 26 – 28, 2019, after the death of Sr. Margaret Dick a few months earlier.  One of the conclusions of the first meeting was that another full-time person was needed for QHP going forward, and that this person would not likely be a volunteer.

June 1, 2018 – Sister Chantelle Bonk, PM came for brief visit to QHP accompanied by Sister ReAnne Letourneau;  Chantelle was planning to have a 3-month stay at QHP as part of a sabbatical  which began one week later, June 9.

June 6, 2018 – Margaret Dick celebrated her 81st Birthday in Saskatoon in lovely gathering at the home of Alice and Lynden Zimmer, with some of Glenn’s family.  It was to be her last birthday.

January 1, 2019 – Sister Chantelle began formal employment at QHP, the first ever full-time employee.

April 24, 2019 – Glenn finds Margaret gently slumped on her bed around 8:30 am;  she had passed away just before midnight on April 23.  Several moving celebrations of her life followed at the House of Prayer, at the local Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and at Despins Residence in St Boniface, with hundreds of people in all participating.  People as far away as New York and Vancouver came

May 14, 2020 – Fran Duffy arrived by car from Calgary, what would be her third and longest stay yet at QHP (until May 29);  this would turn out to be a time of discernment as to whether or not she might become part of volunteer community.  She would return again for extended times in June and July into August, continuing volunteer service and on-going discernment.

July 16, 2020 – Jackie and Gerry Guimond of Fort Frances complete installation (having designed and made) of a new sign at entrance of property, replacing the very the first one put in place by Margaret and Glenn,  October 6, 1995.

September 3, 2020 – Marks the 25th anniversary since Margaret’s and Glenn’s arrival at QHP.     The celebration was considerably downsized because of COVID-19.  Kathy, Tim, Chantelle and Glenn felt the absence of Susan and Boyd who originally planned to be personally part of this important occasion.  A simple Eucharist was celebrated during the afternoon, giving thanks for the 25 years of QHP and for the life of Margaret.  A meal followed;  present were Sylvia and Ken Baker, Mark Mantyak, Christine Rumancik, and Sister Theresa Feist, OSU, each representing their own significant, personal lengthy commitment and also on behalf of many others at this time and over the years.

Published on the QHP Connection Blog.