It was established in 1852, and is locally called Opoo-gan-asin (Pipestone). The first mass was celebrated on February 29, 1852, in the Hudson Bay Company barn. Located on an old fur trade route, the Lake Helen area has often been the scene of great activity, particularly during the construction of the transcontinental railway. Father Joseph Herbert (Natainabow leander) built the priest's house and Father D. Duranquet (Waiashtestkang—Gives Light) accompanied by the local Indians selected the spot on which the church was built which was completed in 1877 Jesuit Brothers decided to have this church built along their water route, which served as a rest stop before going to the Jesuit Missions at Gull Bay, White Sand, Nipigon House, Grand Bay and McIntre Bay on Lake Nipigon. The original bell brought to Lake Helen by Delaronde was blessed by Rev. Joseph Specht SJM on October 7, 1880.
The first recorded burial was October 3rd 1880. The graveyard is adjacent to the church and people are still buried there to this day.
The Red Rock Indian Band is currently developing a plan to upgrade and restore this historical landmark. The Red Rock Indian Band plans to document and map out all graves that are located at St. Sylvester’s church. After they have mapped out and marked all grave sites, they are going to level out the cemetery ground and mark each grave site with a new cross identifying each person buried there.
Once they have restored the cemetery grounds the Red Rock Indian Band will then move on to restoration and upgrading of St. Sylvester’s church infrastructure. This will include securing the building and footings, painting and replacing the current siding, new roofing, and cosmetic restoration on the inside.
For more information about the Church and its history please contact Red Rock Indian Band at 1-877-887-2510.