Why Cooks Creek?
Cooks Creek is a very small Manitoba community located just minutes from the city. The only reason I even know of Cooks Creek is because Ace Burpee often mentions his parents and home town during his morning radio show. Being a small town girl myself, I was always intrigued and wondered what Cooks Creek was like. This summer, Cooks Creek once again popped up on my “radar” when I was researching Manitoba Festivals. I thought the Cooks Creek Medieval Festival sounded really cool and was so disappointed when I had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it. It is definitely on my “Manitoba Must Do’s” list, but it will now have to wait until another year.
Although I’d really never travelled in this direction, I did end up heading out this way as part of my Manitoba Stay-Cation blog theme. I was out for a drive and passed the Cooks Creek turn off while en route to Beausajour and Lac du Bonnet. I made a mental note and decided to do some research and find out more about the town when I got home (despite having missed the festival). I was amazed to learn about the massive “prairie cathedral” located in Cooks Creek and just knew I’d have to set aside some time to check it out. So, Sunday afternoon my neighbor and I hit the trail and set out to do some exploring.
Cooks Creek Heritage Museum:
Although our sites were set on the Immaculate Conception Church in Cooks Creek, we had decided to take the afternoon to explore the area and thus made a stop at Cook’s Creek Heritage Museum before continuing on to the church. The museum grounds consist of 7 historic buildings that are full of treasures from the past. I have been in many museums, but what made this a bit different was the large collection of religious artifacts. Having grown up Roman Catholic, many of the pieces brought back memories of my childhood (when I was an “Alter Girl”!) There was also war memorabilia and it was interesting to see pieces from Auschwitz, a concentration camp that was located in Poland. [I had just finished reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (an excellent book) and much of the story focussed on life in this particular camp.] We did find that some of the museum items didn’t have proper signage or descriptions and it was somewhat difficult to figure out the historical value/purpose of them. The museum also boasts a beautiful array of traditional Slavic costumes. We enjoyed browsing through the various rooms of the main house, as well as most of the outlying buildings. Here are a couple of pictures from our museum stop:
St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church:
While at the Museum, we also had the opportunity to take a quick peek at the church next door. St. Michael’s is also a beautiful old church and I’m so glad we got to take a look around before heading to the Immaculate Conception Church.
Immaculate Conception Church:
I have to begin this with a bit of a disclaimer. Although raised Catholic, I have not attended a Catholic church for many years, so I feel like I’m almost talking about a foreign subject. Please forgive me if my descriptions or wording are not completely accurate, most of this post is based on a the limited printed information I was able to find/collect along with what I remember from the tour.
One of the Manitoba treasures that I learned about in my Manitoba Stay-Cation research was that located less than 40 km outside of Winnipeg is this monstrosity of a church that is not only an incredible piece of architecture, but also has a tremendous story that’s really worth exploring. The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church was designed and constructed under the leadership of Father Philip Ruh. Construction began in 1930 and continued to be worked on in stages until it was consecrated in 1952. As you approach the grounds and building for the first time, you can’t help but be “awed” by the expanse and grandeur of the structure, especially when you consider that it is located almost in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. It is not found in the hustle and bustle of the city where there is a huge population to support it and it is not even found in the midst of a rural town, but rather along country road 212, just outside of Cooks Creek. The entire building and grotto were built by volunteer church members. The main church structure was created with concrete, stucco and paint. From the murals to the faux marble painting….everything was created with the love and passion of a group of committed parishioners. This project not only extended over a 22 year period, but also continued during the war when times were very bleak. It is hard to imagine the thousands of hours of volunteer labour that went into the building of the Immaculate Conception Church.
Our tour guide, Darlene, was extremely knowledgable and it was very interesting to hear the stories of how the church came to be and learn the history of many of the artifacts as well as the symbolism and meaning behind the icons and art work that flank the sanctuary. It seemed as though every image and statue was created, selected or given for a very specific purpose or with symbolic reasoning. It was very interesting, but I highly recommend the short guided tour as I would never have learned what I did without Darlene’s expertise and passion for what she does.
Although I’m sharing a few pictures, mine totally fail in comparison to the amazing photos taken by Winnipeg photographer Ken Yuel. You absolutely need to click the link to check-out his pictures of Manitoba’s “prairie cathedral”.
There is much written about Father Ruh, as he was responsible for designing many churches across Canada in the early 1900’s. It is believed that over 40 of those churches remain as a part of his legacy today.
Shortly after the completion of the church, Father Ruh embarked on a new dream. He envisioned creating a place of worship similar to that of Our Lady of Lourdes shrine that is located in Lourdes, France. It is considered to be one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world and it was Father Ruh’s dream to create something similar right here in Manitoba. The grotto that was created on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church is very large and has a somewhat medieval look. Although the structure is still very impressive, one couldn’t help but notice the deteriorating condition of the faux stone.
The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes are really a testament to Father Ruh and the dedicated volunteers in his parish who joined together in this labour of love. Upon close inspection, you can see the little imperfections in some of the work, but when looked upon as a whole I am truly moved by how they pulled together to accomplish this wondrous place of worship. It is truly mind boggling to think of all of the effort that went into to the planning, building and finishing of this project. It is totally worth the drive to see this for yourself.
Time was running short, but we couldn’t help but take a quick detour and stop at Pineridge Hollow on our way home. We didn’t have time to eat, but I know their reputation speaks for itself. The restaurant boasts fresh Manitoba grown food and the atmosphere is second to none. The grounds are beautiful and the store has “my taste” stamped all over it. I absolutely love all of the unique gift ideas, furniture and accessories. If you are looking for a great meal and an awesome shopping experience, Pineridge Hollow is a must stop!
We had a wonderful afternoon and all of this was less than 40 minutes from the city. If you decide to do the Cooks Creek Adventure, be sure to check the websites for hours of operation. I do believe the church is only open on weekends. Enjoy!