CCHA, Report, 14 (1946), 73-94
The History of the Redemptorists
in Western Canada
A. McBRIARTY, C.Ss.R.
141 McCaul St. Toronto, Ontario.
“You may ask,” says a Redemptorist worker in the West, “what the missionary sees as he looks upon his new territory. He beholds a country whose people are scattered far and wide. He scans vast distances that have been the cause of gain and loss to the settlers. The rich farmer is a common spectacle, but the manifest Catholic a scarce entity. Faith is generally low in these parts, and it is not an unusual occurrence to meet Catholic families that have been away from the Church for many years.”
Yes, the great spaces of the West have constituted a real problem for the church. How bring to them the blessings of the faith and the consolations of their holy religion? In cases where there are settlements or small towns the answer has been the erection of small churches with a resident priest. Where the people are widely scattered, the policy has been to erect small chapels here and there or to say Mass in private houses. This system calls for a number of priests who live in community at some centrally-located rectory and who attend these stations or out-missions on week-ends. The Redemptorist Fathers follow this plan.
But there has been another problem – the language question. We say “there has been,” because this difficulty is fast disappearing due to the familiarity of the younger generation with English and their eagerness to speak this language rather than that of their parents. In many places, however, the language of the people is still necessary in order to conduct certain out-missions. One typical instance is the Athabasca district. From the time the Redemptorists located there in 1940, there were five or six out-missions that could not be served because no priests were available to speak Polish. It was only in 1945 that such a Redemptorist could be procured, who since then has done great work among these people. At present the Toronto Redemptorist Province has three of its young priests studying Polish in the U.S.A., that they may later labor among the Poles of the West.
There are in Canada today some five and a half million Anglo-Saxons, upwards of three and a half million French, and two and a half million Canadians of European stock. Since 1938 the Anglo-Saxons amount to less than 50% of Canada's total population.
Today we can optimistically state that the West is responding to the efforts of its missionaries. But it was the missionaries of former days, especially the Oblate Fathers, that blazed the trail and prepared the ground. The courage and constancy of these pioneers, their amazing capacity for work and the energy they displayed, is the wonder of all the priests who now labor in their territories. Their noble spirit seems to breathe from the very soil and their example is a stimulus to their successors. The West is a great country, its people are a great folk, and its apostles, past and present, are men of great stature.
(Established August 15, 1898)
This history of the Redemptorist Order in the West is a history of its various foundations, the first of which was Brandon, Manitoba.
About the year 1894 Rev. William Godts, C.Ss.R., at the behest of his higher Superior, went West on a tour of inspection. He was instructed to note particularly the spiritual needs of the Germans and other foreigners in the vicinity of Regina and Edmonton.
After his return East Father Godts wrote to Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface on the subject of a foundation. The reply was not encouraging, although not disheartening. The matter then rested until 1898, when the Archbishop came to Montreal and arranged with the Redemptorists to locate in his diocese. The contract between the Archbishop and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer was drawn up and signed on July 16, 1898, according to the terms of which the Redemptorist Fathers were to have charge of Brandon and the following out-missions: to the North – Rapid City, Minnedosa and Clan William; to the South – Souris, Monteith, Fairfax and Caroll; to the East – Carberry, Melbourne and Douglas; to the West – Alexander. Hun’s Valley was to be taken over later.
According to the wish of the Archbishop, the Redemptorists took possession of Brandon on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1898, in the person of its first Superior, Very Rev. William Godts.
In the summer of 1902 Father Godts, out of his family money, began the construction of a new church at Brandon. It was opened and consecrated on August 29, 1903, and was given the name “St. Augustine.” This church was and still is one of the best in Western Canada. Father Godts also re-established the convent and raised up churches at Austin, Rapid City, Minnedosa, Hun’s Valley and Yorkton. But soaring higher than the building constructed was the caliber of the man as a priest of God. To the poor he was a friend, to the children a devoted father, and to his parishoners a zealous and self-sacrificing apostle.
Great work, fruitful work, was done by the French Redemptorists in Brandon and its out-missions. Circumstances, however, brought about their withdrawal from this field of their zeal and activity.
On December 20, 1911, Very Rev. Fidelis Speidel, Consultor-General to the Redemptorist Rector Major in Rome, arrived in New York. The Very Rev. Alphonsus Lemieux, Provincial of the St. Anne-de Beaupre Province, went to New York for an interview with Father Speidel. Broadminded enough to look to the common good and the greater expansion of the Congregation in Canada, Father Lemieux saw the difficulty connected with the administration of English-speaking parishes by his French-speaking priests. So he proposed to Father Speidel that the three English-speaking foundations under his jurisdiction (Montreal, Brandon and Yorkton) be added to the other English-speaking Houses in Canada and with them come under the government of the Baltimore Province. It happened that the Toronto Vice-Province was formed in July, 1912, and, in compliance with the suggestion of Father Lemieux, Brandon, with Montreal and Yorktown, came under its authority. On July 20, 1913, the retiring Rector of Brandon, Very Rev. A. Caron, placed the parish in the hands of the new Superior, Very Rev. Augustine Duke. There thus began a new regime, that of the English-speaking Redemptorists of the Baltimore Vice-Province of Toronto.
The day-by-day activities of the English-speaking Redemptorists were much the same as those of their predecessors. Nothing unusual occurred until September 2, 1916, when a Juvenate or Preparatory College was opened at the monastery. In such an institution boys are taught by Redemptorist priests only for the Redemptorist Order. At the opening of this new Juvenate 15 students were present to take up their studies.
About the middle of December, 1916, the Right Rev. Alfred A. Sinnott arrived in Winnipeg as its new Archbishop. Brandon now came under his jurisdiction. On June 10, 1917, His Grace came to St. Augustine’s, Brandon, on his first official visitation. The next day, Sunday, a crowded congregation greeted the Archbishop as he came into the sanctuary to say the eight o’clock Mass. His Grace gave First Communion to several boys and girls. At the High-Mass a great congregation again filled the church. Very Rev. Father Blair, Vicar-General and Secretary to the Archbishop, said the Mass. His Grace was seated in the sanctuary. Very Rev. Edward Walsh, the Superior of the Brandon Community, gave an address of welcome to the Archbishop in the name of his Community and parishioners. After the Mass His Grace administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to about 150 children and some adults. At the evening services in the church His Grace preached a very inspiring sermon. He then unveiled a roll of honor which contained 75 names of the Knights of Columbus and members of the Catholic Club who had enlisted for Overseas. After Benediction a reception was tendered the Archbishop in the monastery. In the presence of many parishioners Very Rev. Father Walsh presented His Grace with a purse of gold.
On January 28, 1917, the Redemptorist Fathers of Brandon, at the request of Archbishop Sinnott, took charge of the Indian Reserve near Griswold.
On August 20, 1920, there was blessed and dedicated the new Polish Church of St. Hedwig, Brandon. Rev. Joseph Knapik, C.Ss.R., who for some time had been working in Brandon among the Polish people, raised enough money to purchase a vacated church that had been for sale. This he converted into the new church of St. Hedwig. On the occasion of the blessing of the new church Father Knapik preached a very eloquent sermon in Polish, after which His Grace, Archbishop Sinnott, who was present for the event, delivered a very appropriate address. A word about Father Knapik’s work among the Polish people.
Father Knapik came to Brandon on Christmas Eve 1919. There were then no Polish Church, no Polish School, and no societies of any kind among the people. Different priests had tried to procure a church for the Poles but failed. Father Knapik threw himself into the undertaking of building up a Polish Parish. So successful were his efforts that in the short space of two years he not only bought and paid for a beautiful church, but also established three Polish Schools and erected a convent. He moreover found time to organize different societies among his people and to visit them in their homes. He also took a great interest in the children. In the midst of these activities he attended three large outmissions: Hun’s Valley, Sifton and Sandy Lake. On December 8, 1921, he was transferred from Brandon to another field of labor.
In August, 1924, the English-speaking Redemptorists of the Toronto Province left Brandon, and the parish, with its out-missions, came under the care of the priests of the Winnipeg Archdiocese.
(Established January 13, 1904)
On the 11th of December, 1904, the public chapel and monastery of the Redemptorist Fathers at Yorkton were solemnly blessed. The new chapel and monastery were dedicated to St. Gerard Majella. This date, marks the coming of the Belgian Redemptorist Fathers into this district.
On January 26, 1905, Rev. Father Girard, the first Superior of Yorkton, wrote a letter to Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface. The following extracts from this letter will convey an idea of the conditions existing at that time:
“Yorkton and its missions are situated on the western extremity of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. This territory is settled by people who form a cross-section of almost all the nations of Europe and who are the adherents of practically every form of religion. Those who profess the Catholic faith comprise about 600 families of the following nationalities: Irish, Germans, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians. To serve this motley population two rites are necessary: the Latin and the Ruthenian; and three languages must be spoken: English, Hungarian and Polish. At present we can use only the Latin Rite and we can speak but two languages: English and Polish.
“Two railway lines run through this part of the country: the C.P.R. and the Canadian Northern. They do not, however, facilitate contact with our parishioners because the land in their vicinity is occupied by either the Companies or Protestants. Catholics are therefore obliged to settle further back, as much as from 15 to 20 miles. The fact is that there is not one railway station near enough to our Catholic people to justify the erection of a single chapel.
“In Yorkton itself there are eleven Catholic families, half of whom follow the Latin Rite and the other half the Ruthenian Rite. Consequently, if the Redemptorists have established themselves in Yorkton, it is not be. cause of the importance of the place from the standpoint of religion, but because of its central location in relation to the outlying Catholic settlements. We are thus enabled to reach our people more conveniently, which must be done by horse and carriage in summer and horse and sleigh in winter.
“Up to last year the Catholics of this vast territory were looked after by one priest whose visits were very rare and irregular. This priest, Father Page, was burdened with the work of three or four priests. Consequently, he broke down under the strain and had to retire to a hospital.
“In the meantime the demon took advantage of the situation and, working on national prejudices, succeeded in drawing 350 Uniate Ruthenian families from the bosom of the church. Some of these families went so far as to place themselves under priests who were imposters. Others lapsed into such a spirit of indifference that nothing up to the present has been able to overcome. Living amid such pernicious influences, even some of the Latin Rite became affected and numerous defections followed. In Yorkton half of the Irish Catholics fell away from the church and for years did not attend to their duties.
“Such was the unfortunate state of affairs when on the 13th of January, 1904, the Redemptorists, at the pressing request of the Archbishop of St. Boniface, came to Yorkton.”
In the contract drawn up between Archbishop Langevin and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the following were the out-missions mentioned: to the South – Otthom; to the East – Saltcoats and Bredenburg; to the West – Insinger and Sheho; finally, the territory comprised between the C.P.R. and the Canadian Northern Railroad, which takes in the missions of Tetlock, Menofield and Kamsack. A little later this jurisdiction was extended.
On July 3, 1905, the Vicar-Apostolic of Saskatchewan, Albert Pashal, O.M.I., of Prince Albert, gave the Redemptorist Fathers at Yorkton full jurisdiction and authorization to labor within the limits of his territory. He also expressed the wish that the Redemptorist Fathers might find it possible to establish missions here and there in his Vicariate.
In a letter from Rome, dated November 29, 1905, Archbishop Langevin was authorized to designate two Redemptorist Fathers at Yorkton to celebrate in the Ruthenian Rite. Rev. A. Delaere was the first appointed for a period of five years.
It is interesting to note that in a report issued by Father Delaere in 1906 the Fathers at Yorkton looked after 17 out-missions; that the people at these places, including Yorkton, comprised mostly Ruthenians and Poles with lesser number of Irish and Hungarians; that of the sum total, 314 families followed the Latin Rite and 639 families the Ruthenian Rite.
On July 30, 1910, the new church at Yorkton, which had been built by Father Delaere, was solemnly blessed. His Grace, the Archbishop of St. Bonifece, preached for the occasion, and a sermon was also delivered in Ruthenian by Father Decamps, C.Ss.R.
On July 21, 1912, Yorkton came under the jurisdiction of the Englishspeaking Vice-Province of Toronto. From then until the present the English-speaking Redemptorists attached to Yorkton have been continuing in the footsteps of their predecessors. In winter as well as summer the following out-missions are attended: Otthon Polish, Otthon Hungarian, Brewer, Canora, Lanigan, Mikado, Saxon Hill, Oak Hill, Saltcoats, Jedburgh, Theodore, Sheho, Parkview, Rockdell, Crescent Lake. The automobile has made travel to the out-missions more convenient and expeditious. But during the winter months, when the car cannot be used, the train must be taken at very inconvenient times, followed by a drive for miles in a sleigh as in the early days. Thus does the grand work go on for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Since, however, the Fathers of the Belgian Province were the real pioneers of Yorkton and its out-missions, it is fitting that we give them the last word.
The Belgian Redemptorists mostly responsible for the building up of this foundation were: Rev. Fathers Girard, A. Delaere, E. Vrydaegs, F. Borgonie, H. Boels, A. Adam and A. Conter. Father Girard was the first Superior. His successor, Father Delaere, who was with Father Girard from the beginning, was really the man who organized the work and must be credited with its progress and success.
EAST KILDONAN, MANITOBA
(Established April 17, 1914)
About December 21, 1913, Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface wrote to the Superior of the Redemptorist House of Yorkton, Very Rev. Augustine Duke, and through him offered the Redemptorist Order a foundation at Elmwood, Manitoba. Elmwood is situated on the East bank of the Red River, North-East of Winnipeg proprer and directly East of the North end of Winnipeg.
Father Duke at once wrote to his higher Superior and was instructed to interview the Archbishop and to investigate the situation. Father Duke saw the Archbishop on January 12, 1914. His Grace was very cordial and he advised Father Duke to get in touch with certain gentlemen whose names he submitted and then to report back to him.
In consultation with these gentlemen, the site of the new parish with other matters was discussed, an understanding was arrived at, a report was delivered by Father Duke to the Archbishop and his Provincial, and on February 20, 1914, Father Duke received word from his Provincial that the foundation of Elmwood was accepted by Rome. In due course the usual contract regarding the acceptance of parishes was presented to His Grace, who agreed to the conditions and signed. It was on this occasion that the name “St. Alphonsus” was given to the new parish. On June 17 of this year Father Duke was appointed the first Superior.
On June 30, 1914, the erection of a temporary church was begun on the corner of Brazier St. and Munroe Ave. On July 27th work was begun on the new Church and rectory but had to be postponed.
On December 31, 1914, the parish had been in existence six months. Prior to its formation it is.safe to say that Catholics themselves could not tell whether there were a dozen Catholic families in the district. A prominent business man of Elmwood remarked: “If anyone had said that there were fifty Catholics on this side of the river I would not have believed them.” But at this date there were actually 116 families of all nationalities and a total of 513 persona. Of these there were 297 English, 50 Germans, 42 Dutch, 62 Hungarians, 26 French, 19 Syrians and 17 Flemish
Work was resumed on the new building on June 2, 1916. On September 29, 1916, the Community moved into the new monastery, and on October 15, 1916, the new church was opened and solemnly blessed.
From now on the parish ran like a well-oiled machine. One would not suspect that it had just emerged from swaddling-clothes. The daily and weekly activities succeeded one another like those in a long established congregation.
However, there had been considerable unrest among the parishioners because there was no school. After several meetings it was finally decided on July 11, 1920, to draw up plans and estimates to enlarge the parish hall. The work was begun and the school was opened on January 9, 1921. His Grace, Archbishop Beliveau, officiated at the ceremony.
On August 19, 1923, His Grace solemnly blessed the corner-stone of St. Alphonsus’ Convent and a new addition to the school.
(Established April 3, 1915)
On January 18, 1914, His Grace, Olivier-Elzear Mathieu, Archbishop of Regina, wrote a letter to the Redemptorist Provincial of the Baltimore Province, Very Rev. Joseph Schneider, from which are the following extracts
“I come to speak to you about a question which is very important to my diocese. You know that when I arrived here there was but a small church in Regina for all the Catholics of the different nationalities. I saw that I had to divide that parish, and a very fine church has been built for the faithful of English and French descent. I followed them there and this church is my cathedral.
“In the whole diocese I had but one English-speaking priest. I had to appoint him as pastor of this new parish, in which there are 2000 English Catholics and about 450 French. Before my arrival a great number of them were not going to church, but now they are fulfilling this duty.
“Unfortunately the parish priest is unable to take sufficient care of all these people and I will not be able to have English-speaking diocesan priests for some years. Since the opening of the parish I have thought of the situation day and night before God. I have come to the conclusion that the only means of having these souls properly cared for is to ask a Community to take over the direction of the parish for a time as pro-pastors. I would be kind to them. I would do my best to help them. And I am sure that with men like those you have at Yorkton it would be easy to organize the parish.
“Would you kindly let me know if you could give me two or three of your Fathers. If one of them could speak French it would be very useful. And once here in Regina, these Fathers would be of great help to the priests of the diocese, who would be pleased to invite them to preach Missions in their parishes,” etc.
The Redemptorist Provincial responded to this appeal of the Archbishop by expressing his willingness to conform to his wishes. On March 7, 1914. the Redemptorist, Rev. John Darling, was notified by the Provincial that he was to be the first pastor of the Cathedral parish in Regina. All the papers were signed at the beginning of 1915, and the foundation was officially established on April 3, 1915.
On October 28, 1914, Father Darling was transferred to Montreal. He was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Funk. In 1915 Rev. George Daly became Superior. The following were the other Superiors down to the time that the parish was given up: 1918-1921 – Rev. Stephen Connolly; 1921-1924 – Rev. Peter O’Hare; 1924-1927 – Rev. Francis Healey; in 1927 – Rev. Francis Hill.
It was under the Superiorship of Father O’Hare that the new presbytery was built, which was occupied for the first time in October, 1922.
In August, 1927, the Redemptorist Fathers gave up the incumbency of the parish to take over the parish at Moose Jaw.
The work of the Redemptorists at the Regina Cathedral may be judged by the following remarks which were embodied in a letter of the Archbishop to the Redemptorist Provincial: “I must thank you for the help you have given me in allowing your Fathers to take charge of the Cathedral. Nowhere else have your Fathers done or are doing so much good. Everything was to be organized when they arrived. It would have been necessary to have seen the sad state of our Catholic people at the time your Fathers came among them and to see the state in which they are now, to understand the good your Fathers have done and the graces they have drawn down from heaven. I ask God to reward you for what you have done for His glory in this immense West, and you may be sure of my deep gratitude.”
(Established October 18, 1923)
The Rt. Rev. Timothy Casey was Archbishop of Vancouver when the Redemptorist Fathers located there. Previous to this the archdiocese, and particularly Vancouver itself, had been suffering from a scarcity of priests. Here, as in other parts of Western Canada, the Oblate Fathers had been the pioneers. With a limited number of Secular Priests and two Servite Fathers from Chicago, the priests of the Oblate Order had charge of Greater Vancouver. But this metropolis was rapidly expanding and Archbishop Casey looked around for priests to care for the mounting population. In 1922 the Redemptorists accepted the invitation but it was not until the following year that steps could be taken to actually establish in the city. The district assigned to the Redemptorists was well to the West. It is now called Point Gray.
The Redemptorist appointed by the Provincial at the time, Very Rev. Arthur Coughlan, to found the new parish was Rev. John F. Coghlan. When Father Coghlan arrived in Vancouver the question of paramount importance was just where to build. The Point Gray locality, which today is probably the most beautiful residential section of Vancouver, was then just woods. So Father Coghlan did the wise thing – he consulted some leading real estate men. They assured him that this Point Gray area was certain of development and on the strength of their judgment he decided to establish there.
The boundaries of the parish were to be: on the North, English Bay; on the South, 25th Avenue; on the East, Balaclava Street as far as 18th Avenue; and then West on 18th to Blenheim Street and South on Blenheim to 25th Avenue.
On July 29, 1923, the first Mass was said in the temporary chapel and the first announcements made. This chapel continued in use until November, 1925. It was thirteen feet wide and fifty-five feet long and provided seating accommodation for eighty-five. It had previously been used as a temporary church by a non-Catholic sect. It was the only vacant building in the district, and just prior to the time the Redemptorists began to use it, a shoe-repair man had his business there. The proprietor of the premises was an active Free-Mason and the key of the place was kept by a Baptist next door. The building contained an organ, a confessional, an altar, a communion-rail, a sanctuary and sacristy. Heat was procured from two portable oil stoves. With the opening of this temporary chapel, the history of the Redemptorist Parish in Vancouver begins under the title “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.”
Excavation work for the new church commenced the week of January 11-18, 1924. On Sunday, November 15, 1925, the new church was opened. There was a Solemn Mass at 11 a.m. and blessing and dedication at 3 p.m.
The new hall was opened on February 3, 1926.
On June 13, 1926, there took place the solemn blessing and dedication of the new monastery. His Grace, Archbishop Casey, officiated and Rev. Father Boyle preached.
A four-room parochial school was built in 1927 and in September of this year it opened its doors with the Mother Seaton Sisters of Halifax in charge.
In July, 1928, a residence was rented not far from the church as a convent for the Sisters.
The Vancouver Foundation has never had the care of any out-missions, but it has been a centre from which missions have been preached through-out British Columbia.
(Established February 29, 1924)
In the early Spring of 1924 the Provincial of the Toronto Province, Very Rev. Arthur Coughlan, sent Rev. James Cloran to Edmonton to look over the ground in preparation for a new foundation there. The Rt. Rev. Henry Joseph O'Leary, Archbishop of Edmonton, owned a plot of land in the North-East section of the city and he thought that this would be a good location for the new foundation. Father Cloran, however, decided against this site because of complications that might ensue. There happened to be a piece of property on 85th Street not far from 118th Avenue on which there were two vacated school buildings and which was up for sale. Father Cloran judged that this spot would be most suitable for the foundation so he made the purchase of the land and buildings.
In June 1924 the Triennial appointments for the Toronto Redemptorist Province came from Rome. Father Cloran was designed Rector of the Redemptorist Community at St. John, N.B., and Rev. Charles O’Hara was named Superior of the new foundation in Edmonton. Father O’Hara arrived in Edmonton on June 20th.
Father O’Hara had the two vacated school buildings referred to converted, one into a monastery and the other into a church. On September 16, 1924, the new monastery was ready for occupation. On October 26, 1924, the new church was opened and solemnly blessed by Archbishop O’Leary, who also for the occasion preached a very eloquent sermon. About 425 people were present, which number packed the edifice.
This day, October 26th, was a Sunday. That evening at 7.30 a two-weeks Mission opened in the parish. It was preached by two Redemptorist Fathers, who had just been appointed as members of the new Edmonton Community, Rev. Wm. McLaughlin and Rev. Charles O’Reilly. The Mission was well attended and was very successful. During the Mission the following societies were established: Holy Name, Married Women’s Holy Family, and the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Redemptorist Parish in Edmonton was formed from part of the Franciscan Church to the North and from part of Sacred Heart Parish to the South and West. The new parish comprised people of Irish descent from England, Scotch from Glengarry, Ont., and a very large percentage from Nebraska, U.S.A. They were all splendid parishioners and very loyal, to church and priest.
Not long after his arrival in Edmonton Father O’Hara prevailed upon the School Board to provide a school for the children. For the purpose a store was rented on 118 Avenue, not far from where the present school stands. However, this building was so unsatisfactory as to size and accommodations that Father O’Hara approached the School Board on the subject of a new school. After some preliminary discussions the School Board agreed to build. The project was begun in the Spring of 1927 and completed probably in September of the same year. The Papal Delegate, Most Rev. Andrew Cassulo, who happened to be in Edmonton at the time, blessed and dedicated the school at the request of Archbishop O’Leary. This took place under the Rectorship of Very Rev. Archibald McDonald who succeeded Father O’Hara in June of this year 1927.
About 1929 the Redemptorist Fathers at Edmonton took over two “Lines,” viz., Gibbons, 22 miles, and Redwater, 40 miles to the North; and Hastings Lake, 35 miles, Tofield, 61 miles, and Bruce, 70 miles to the East. Ten years later all these places, with the exception of Gibbons, were given up, as the diocese was then in a position to supply priests to look after them. However, at this same time the Edmonton Community began to take charge of Beverly, a suburb of the city to the East.
On August 21, 1945, the Roman Triennial appointments for the Toronto province arrived, and in a letter accompanying them it was announced that the portion of Canada from Winnipeg West would be until further notice a Vice-Province of the Toronto Province. Edmonton was chosen as the head house of the new Vice-Province, where the Vice-Provincial, Very Rev. Gabriel Ehman, would reside with his staff.
MOOSE JAW, SASKATCHEWAN
(Established October 17, 1927)
The Parish of St. Joseph’s, Moose Jaw, had been in existence prior to the coming of the Redemptorists in 1927. The following is its early history.
The real founder of the Moose Jaw Parish was Rev. F. Woodcutter. Previous to his appointment to Moose Jaw in May, 1909, he had been secretary and interpreter to Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface.
Father Woodcutter arrived in Moose Jaw on a Saturday and on the following Saturday he began to build a rectory next to the church. The Catholic Church in Moose Jaw had been originally a Methodist church, which had been bought and remodelled by the Catholic authorities. A Belgian priest was the first in charge for a comparatively short time before Father Woodcutter. Whilst the new rectory was under construction Father Woodcutter, like his predecessor, had a room in the hotel, which he occupied practically only at night. During the day he lived in the coal cellar of the church, so as to be available to his parishioners. In October, 1909, the new rectory was finished and Father Woodcutter moved into it.
Father Woodcutter also looked around for Sisters who could do hospital work and teach. For the former responsibility he procured the Sisters of Providence, Kingston, and for the latter he engaged the Sion Sisters, who had a house at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Father Woodcutter built the church basement, the rectory and the school, but exactly when is not recorded. What followed until the time the Redemptorists arrived we place in chronological order:
Sept. 13, 1913: The new school (St. Agnes) was opened.
May,1915: Rev. Father Conroy was appointed curate to Father Woodcutter.
Dec. 28, 1915: Father Woodcutter, whose health broke down, left for California, where he still is (1947), aged 78, and doing moderate pastoral work. Father Woodcutter never returned to Moose Jaw as pastor. He deserves great praise for the marvellous job he did at Moose Jaw in such a short time. He built up the parish and erected practically all its institutions, which stand today as a memorial to his zeal, love for his people and spirit of sacrifice.
March, 1916: Father Conroy appointed Pastor of Moose Jaw.
Sept. 19, 1917 The new hospital was opened with the Sisters of Providence in charge.
Dec. 21, 1924: The superstructure of the new church was dedicated. This superstructure was built by Father Conroy.
Jan. 13, 1926: Father Conroy was forced to leave Moose Jaw for California because of ill-health.
June, 1927: Father Conroy died.
June 21, 1927. Father Conroy was buried from St. Joseph’s Church, Moose Jaw. He had been Rector of the church for ten years, during which time he built, as we have said, the superstructure of the new church. He organized the Separate School, worked tirelessly in connection with all church organizations, and stimulated the interest taken by the congregation. He was revered and deeply loved by his parishioners and the tremendous funeral he had testifies to the great esteem in which he was held.
It was understood that when the services of the Redemptorist Fathers would be no longer needed at the Regina Cathedral they were to be given complete charge of another parish in the city. Archbishop Mathieu had made this promise. Since, however, Father Conroy’s death left the Moose Jaw Parish open, and since just at this time the Archbishop saw his way clear to provide his own diocesan priests to take care of his Cathedral Parish and to allow the Redemptorists to depart, he made the Redemptorists the offer of the Moose Jaw Parish instead of the one in Regina. Moose Jaw was accepted.
On August 27, 1927, Rev. George Daly and Rev. Edward Walsh arrived in Moose Jaw to take charge of the parish until the arrival of the Redemptorist Community from Regina, which took place on October 19, 1927. The last Superior of the Regina Community, Very Rev. Francis Hill, was the first Redemptorist Superior of Moose Jaw. The first members of the Moose Jaw Community were: Rev. Wm. McLaughlin and Rev. John Cunningham and Brother Reginald.
On November 30, 1930, the Moose Jaw Community opened a new chapel at South Hill, which is situated in the Southern part of the city. This chapel was set up to give the residents of that district a more convenient place to hear Mass and to receive the Sacraments. Another reason was to serve the Ukrainian Catholics, most of whom reside in that locality. In a short time the double purpose for which the chapel was erected was to a great extent realized and hopes could be entertained of still greater results in the future. Rev. James Grannan was the Redemptorist who labored among the Ukrainians from the beginning. He said Mass for them in the Ruthenian Rite and the work he did and the sacrifices he made for these people were responsible for the great good that followed.
YORKTON AND ITUNA, SASKATCHEWAN
(Established: Cfr. Conspectus of Foundations)
As to location, Yorkton lies about 300 miles N. W. of Winnipeg. Ituna is situated about 40 miles due West of Yorkton.
These two foundations formed the Ruthenian Vice-Province of the Belgian Province until 1928, when they were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Toronto Province. Just before the transfer it was decided that some Redemptorists of the Belgian Province would remain in these two places until the English-speaking Redemptorists of the Toronto Province would learn the Ruthenian language and Rite so as to be able to take over the work themselves. This explains why the personnel of the first Redempttorist Communities of the Toronto Province comprised mostly Fathers of the Belgian Province, viz.: Fathers Delaere, Kinsinger, Bala, Coulie, Szyszkowycz, Bachtalowsky and Kopiakiwsky. Of the Toronto Province, the Superior, Very Rev. Edward Walsh, was in Yorkton from the beginning, and then these others arrived in 1929: Rev. James Grannan at the beginning of this year; Rev. Michael Maclsaacs on September 19th; and Rev. Lucien Howard about a week later. Father Kinsinger was Superior of Ituna.
On the Sunday following the arrival of Father Maclsaacs, Father Grannan said his first Mass in the Greek Rite.
At the beginning of 1930 Very Rev. Edward Walsh was appointed to the Calgary Community and Father Bachtalowsky succeeded him as Superior at Yorkton.
The Redemptorist Fathers of the Toronto Province, through their Provincial, had been originally petitioned by the Belgian Province to take over this Ruthenian work. But from the beginning the various elements did not seem to harmonize. The difficulty of acquiring the Ruthenian tongue on the part of the English-speaking Redemptorists, the strong national spirit of the people, their passionate adherence to their customs, their prejudice against priests who were not Ruthenians, created, as time went on, strained relationships. The upshot of the situation was that one of the Belgian Fathers of Yorkton wrote to the Provincial of the Toronto Province suggesting that the only solution was to transfer the care of these Ruthenians to the Galician Vice-Province of the Belgian Province. Priests could then be sent from Galicia who could speak the Ruthenian language and who had been brought up in the Ruthenian Rite. This suggestion was followed. On December 5, 1931, the two Ruthenian Houses of Yorkton and Ituna came under the administration of the Belgian Province and thus ended the short-lived existence of the Toronto Ruthenian Vice-Province.
(Established May 6, 1929)
Our present parish in Calgary was originally called “St. Angela’s Parish.” In 1925 Rev. N. Anderson was appointed pastor. From 1925 to December 22, 1929, Mass was said in one of the vacant rooms of St. Angela’s School.
On April 20, 1929, Rev. Isidore Shells, C.Ss.R., the first Redemptorist Superior, arrived in Calgary to take over the new parish. The parish was placed under the special protection of St. Alphonsus and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The population was of a very cosmopolitan nature. The school children numbered 240.
On June 19, 1929, the site for the new church was discussed with Bishop Kidd. On July 13th the plans were studied. On August 20th the ground was tested and on September 13th the contract was awarded to Mr. Guay of Winnipeg. A Mr. Bates was the architect. The church was to measure 70 feet in length and 40 feet in width. On December 22, 1929, the new church was opened. His Lordship blessed the edifice and addressed the congregation first in Italian and then in English. On February 20, 1930, Bishop Kidd blessed the stations in the church, and on December 12, 1930, the new organ was installed.
At the end of 1930 the following were the parish statistics: 140 families – 157 men, 164 women, 304 children – 625 souls in all. The various nationalities were: Italians (the vast majority), English, Scotch, Irish, Ukrainians, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, French, Hollanders, Negroes.
On February 15, 1931, the Calgary Community took charge of Forest Lawn, which is located about three and a half miles to the East.
On March 14, 1931, the new Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was erected in the church.
March 25, 1936, Rt. Rev. Francis Carroll solemnly enthroned as Bishop of Calgary.
Parish Statistics for 1946: Number of families, 300 – 327 men, 322 women, 317 children – number of souls, 966.
GRAND PRAIRIE, ALBERTA
(Established March 29, 1932)
Grande Prairie lies in the midst of a great stretch of level country on the Northern Alberta Railroad, about 400 miles North-West of Edmonton.
On April 2, 1932, Bishop Guy, O.M.L, Vicar-Apostolic of Grouard, wrote a letter to be read to the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Parish, Grande Prairie. In this letter the Bishop states how he had applied to the authorities of the Redemptorist Order for some priests to labor in his Vicariate, that he received a favorable reply, and that he now introduces the first Redemptorist to come, Rev. John Cunningham, who was to be their pastor.
On March 29, 1932, Father Cunningham had arrived in Grande Prairie. He was the first Redemptorist and probably the first English-speaking priest to labor in this Peace River district. Since 1900 the Oblate Fathers had been in charge of Grande Prairie and outlying centres. They did great pioneering work in this part of the country and laid the foundations of many a parish that has since passed out of their hands.
At the time of Father Cunningham’s arrival the church was the second to be built at Grande Prairie. The first had been destroyed by fire. The rectory was a small frame structure, to which since two extensions have been added.
At the beginning the people were nearly all English or Irish with a few Germans, Poles, French and Half-Breeds.
Two Redemptorist Fathers soon came to look after the out-missions: Rev. Isidore Shalla on June 17, 1932, and Rev. Austin McGuire on August 16 of the same year. In midsummer of 1933 Father McGuire succeeded Father Cunningham as Superior.
In 1934 the Bishop outlined the limits of the Grande Prairie Parish as follows: on the North to Range 73 exclusively; on the East to Smoky River; on the South to the 55th degree; on the West to the 8th Township between the 70th and 73rd Ranges. The parish thus covers an area of 540 square miles or takes in about 214 townships. Quite a parish!
Construction work of the Redemptorist Fathers since they established in Grande Prairie:
Chapels erected at Goodfare, Teepee Creek and Beaver Lodge. Work done entirely by Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers.
Academy for girls and boys – built by Father McGuire.
New Academy for girls and boys. Twelve grades taught. Includes a commercial school. This academy is one of the finest in the West. It is modern in every particular. It is the most important edifice in the town and its size and up-to-date interior would give any visitor a big surprise, because Grande Prairie is only a small place of a couple of thousand people. This academy was planned, financed, and its erection supervised by the Superior, Very Rev. Robert McKenna. Three Redemptorist Fathers, six Redemptorist Lay-brothers, and five laymen did the work.
The school: The first two rooms were built by the Oblate Fathers. Father McGuire added two more rooms. And the present Superior, Very Rev. Victor Creen, added two more and a chemistry room. The Holy Cross Sisters have always taught in the school and they have made a record in the district as educators.
(Erected March 12, 1919)
(Established by C.Ss.R. October 16, 1935)
The present Redemptorist Parish in Saskatoon was erected by the Oblate Fathers March 12, 1919, under the name of “Our Lady of Victory.” The Oblates continued in charge until 1931, when the diocesan priests fell heir to it and remained incumbents until the arrival of the Redemptorists on October 16, 1935.
From the time that the parish was erected in 1919 until 1931 no records or chronicles are available covering this period. In 1931 the first diocesan priest to have charge was Monsignor Desmarais, Vicar-General of the Prince Albert-Saskatoon Diocese. In the Baptismal Register from March 1932 to September 1934, there appears a bewildering array of signatures, which would seem to indicate that during that interval many incumbents and assistant incumbents came and went for reasons nowhere recorded.
Rev. John O’Neill, of the Ottawa Diocese, was loaned to Bishop Murray and took charge of Our Lady of Victory Parish, henceforth to be called St. Mary’s, in September 1934. In July 1935 Father O’Neill was called to Ottawa because of the serious illness of his mother. Father Billington took charge until the arrival of the Redemptorists. However, before any member of the first Redemptorist Community came, Rev. Leo Sexsmith, Superior of the Redemptorist House at Moose Jaw, at the suggestion of Bishop Murray, lived at St. Mary’s Rectory with Father Billington.
Rev. Paul Fisher was the first member of the first Redemptorist Community to take up quarters at St. Mary’s. The first Redemptorist Superior, Very Rev. John F. Coghlan, arrived later.
Father Coghlan deserves great credit for the very substantial and progressive work he did in St. Mary’s Parish. He and his assistants, Fathers Paul Fisher, John Cunningham and Oscar Diets, dug into parish work. They kept up constant contacts with careless, fallen-away Catholics. They rectified marriage cases. They took a special interest in the children and young people. In the church there were regular weekly services and each Sunday five out-missions were attended to. And the Superior did a fine job financially.
The successor of Father Coghlan, Very Rev. L. Sexsmith, has continued in the footsteps of his predecessor. He has made. a number of improvements in the church and rectory and has still further advanced the finances.
DAWSON CREEK, B.C.
(Established December 1, 1936)
The district taken over by the Redemptorists goes North to the Peace River, West as far as there are any Catholics, South the same, East to meet the boundary of the Grande Prairie Out-mission of Hythe.
The Church at Dawson Creek was built in 1931 by Rev. Paul, Serrand, O.M.I. It measured 36 feet by 60 feet and was heavily in debt. There was also a frame building 21 feet by 15 feet with an attic or loft. The lower part was used as a garage and a living and sleeping-room for the priest in summer. In the winter the priest had a room at the hospital, which was and still is in charge of the Montreal Sisters of Providence.
On December 1, 1936, the parish of Dawson Creek was taken over by the Redemptorists, Rev. Austin McGuire and Rev. Joseph O’Donnell, who motored from Grande Prairie for the purpose. Both belonged to the Grande Prairie Community and Father McGuire was its Superior. Father McGuire stayed for a few days at Dawson Creek, left Father O’Donnell in temporary charge, and returned to Grande Prairie.
On December 11th, Father McGuire returned to Dawson Creek to have some repair work done on the basement of the church. Father O’Donnell returned to Grande Prairie, and was followed by Father McGuire a few days before Christmas. Rev. John Martin now replaced Father McGuire at Dawson Creek as the first Superior of the Foundation. At the beginning of 1937 Father Martin thus writes: “The faith is very weak here and fervor and devotion unheard of. It is rather discouraging at times, but perhaps gradually by the grace of God and by dint of persuasion the people will be aroused to a sense of their duties. Confessions and Communions are scheduled for each Sunday morning, but only two or three come, and on some Sundays none at all. Each Sunday during Lent we harp on Easter Duty, but very few have thus far responded. Catechism is held for the children each Thursday after school, but the parents are not so diligent in sending them regularly. Consequently the attendance is from three to fifteen.”
In May 1937 Brother Thomas, C.Ss.R., arrived to do carpenter work. He remodelled the garage into a rectory; made twelve pews for the church, a High-Altar and a Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He remodelled the vestment case, wired the church for electric lights, and did some other useful jobs.
In July 1940 Rev. Joseph Owens arrived to work among the Sudetens of the Tate and Tupper Creek districts. He gave unremitting attention to the children of these people. Every week he instructed them. He thus strove to raise up a generation that would be solidly grounded in the faith and weaned away from the anti-clerical prejudices of their parents. From the standpoint of religion the adult Sudetens are a very difficult people to do much with.
On September 5, 1944, there was opened a Catholic School, the first in the town or district. A noteworthy event! There was an enrollment of 70 children. Two Sisters of the Montreal House of Providence were engaged to teach. The school produced a marked improvement in the children.
Rev. Cornelius McElligott, who was Superior of the Dawson Creek House from 1939 to the summer of 1945, was responsible for the erection of the new rectory and the school projects. He also built chapels at the out-missions of Rolla, Pouce-Coupe, Farmington, Tate and Tupper Creek, and a summer camp at this last place.
WILLIAM'S LAKE, B.C.
(Established May 1, 1938)
The two foundations of William’s Lake and Wells are situated in the heart of the Cariboo Country, B.C. They are about 125 miles apart and lie pretty well North and South of each other. Wells is to the North. They might be called “Twin Foundations” because they came into being within a few years of each other and their out-mission territory meets, the Northern boundary line of William’s Lake coinciding with the Southern boundary line of Wells. They differ radically as to setting and modes of life. William’s Lake is a rolling, grazing country and its people are ranchers; Wells is high up in the mountains, 4200 feet above Quesnel, and its people are gold miners. The two places differ also as to their out-mission work. William’s Lake has a parish of 290 square miles, and apart perhaps from a couple of regular out-missions, Mass is said in homes at fifty different places scattered throughout the district. Wells has but two out-missions: Quesnel 55 miles almost due West, and Alexandria about 30 miles South of Quesnel.
Rev. John Cunningham came from Vancouver and took charge of William’s Lake and out-missions on May 1, 1938, until the arrival of the first Superior, Very Rev. Russell Conway. For about a year the first community comprised Fathers Conway and Thomas Coyne, the latter of whom was with Father Conway from the beginning.
Father Conway built the church at the out-mission of Alexandria, which later was transferred to the jurisdiction of Wells. The Superior who succeeded Father Conway, Very Rev. Gerald Redmond, built the Sisters’ Convent at William’s Lake.
(Established June 18, 1939)
The earliest ecclesiastical history of Nelson is found in the Baptismal Records, which go back to November 22, 1893. The first pastor was the Oblate, Father Brunoz. For some years before they established themselves in Nelson the Redemptorist Fathers had been doing apostolic work in the territory.
In 1934 Rev. Francis Sullivan, stationed at Vancouver, helped out for six weeks in connection with the Slocan Missions. In 1935 Rev. John Cunningham, also of the Vancouver Community, preached Missions in most of the churches of the district. In 1936 Rev. Charles O’Reilly helped out in the neighborhood of Kelowna. In 1937 Father Sullivan again assisted for six weeks in the Slocan Mission field. Then in October 1937 Father Sullivan received word from his Provincial, Very Rev. James Fuller, to go to Nelson for an indefinite period. He stayed with Bishop Johnson.
The Bishop of Nelson, the Right Rev. Martin Johnson, who was consecrated and installed as Bishop of Nelson in October, 1936, had offered the Redemptorists a foundation at Slocan City, B.C., but no decision was reached as to its acceptance. In the Spring of 1938 Father Provincial came to Nelson. Either of two places was offered as a foundation, East Trail or Fairview, the latter of which is part of Nelson to the North-East. Fairview was accepted.
Father Sullivan stayed in Nelson to look after out-mission work. He was soon joined by Rev. Gerald Murphy and they divided up the outmission area between them and attended to their respective sections.
On September 23, 1938, Very Rev. Father Provincial again arrived in Nelson. He was accompanied by Rev. John Lambert, who was given charge of Father Sullivan’s out-missions.
Father Provincial now directed Father Sullivan to find a house in Fairview, where the three Redemtporist might live, to get started on a census of Fairview and to prepare plans to build a new rectory. Four lots were purchased, but the building program was postponed until the Spring of 1939. In the census Father Sullivan found 30 Catholic families, both good and bad, within the limits of the Fairview Parish.
In the meantime, during that same year 1938, Bishop Johnson asked Father Murphy to build a new church at East Trail. This church was completed in six weeks. In the same year Father Sullivan built a church at Proctor and another at Edgewood.
On May 8, 1939, Father Sullivan became Rector of Edmonton and Father Murphy succeeded him as Superior at Fairview.
On June 2, 1939, excavation work was begun for the construction of thé new combination chapel and monastery.
On June 18, 1939, the Decree was signed by Bishop Johnson, whereby the Redemptorist Fathers were officially established in Nelson.
On July 29, 1939, the name “Blessed Sacrament” was given to the new foundation. On August 22, 1939, the electric lights were turned on in the new monastery and on October 8th the new chapel was solemnly blessed by His Excellency, Bishop Johnson.
On July 11, 1940, Father Lambert finished the new church of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus at Sheep Creek, which was the seventh church built by the Redemptorists since they came to the diocese. Another was finished on June 21, 1942, at Ainsworth. On September 27, 1942, Father Lambert was transferred to Claresholm, Alberta, as Superior.
(Established July 14, 1940)
The Oblate Fathers were the first to hbave charge of Athabasca and district. It cannot be ascertained from accessible sources whether the Oblates were there before 1906 or not, as our existing records only go back that far. The Oblate, Father Desmarais, was the last of his Order on the spot. Diocesan priests then took over, who until arrival of the Redemptorists, were successively: Fathers Ash, McGowan and Heffernan.
On July 11, 1940, the Redemptorist Fathers, Rev. Cletus Kramer (first Superior) and his assistant, Rev. Howard McMahon, motored from Edmonton to Athabasca. Women were procured to clean up the rectory and men were engaged to help in other ways. New supplies and house furnishings were purchased so that soon the rectory was in good condition.
Very soon after their arrival the Fathers began to attend the outmissions, which at the end of this year 1940 were: Colinton, Pine Creek, Boyle, Donatville, and George Lake.
In the summer of 1942 a drive was made to round up careless Catholics in the out-mission district. At the same time the Sisters of Service conducted a summer school in Athabaska itself. A camp was organized and children from the North side of the River were brought to the town. The attendance was 64. The Sisters found these children very ignorant of their religion. Three children were baptized and thirty-three made their First Communion.
In 1945, Rev. Joseph Knapik, C.Ss.R., although in his sixtieth year, came to Athabaska to take care of certain Polish out-missions which the English-speaking Redemptorists could not attend because they could not speak the language. Certain Secular Priests from Edmonton used to visit these people three or four times a year. Since his arrival Father Knapik has done remarkable work among these Polish people. Father Knapik made an observation, that as far as he could judge, the Ukrainian children in those parts prefer to speak English. The same seems to hold for the children of other nationalities in the West.
At present the Redemptorist Fathers at Athabaska look after sixteen out-missions. This out-mission territory extends 20 miles to the South, 60 miles to the East, 50 miles to the North, and 9 miles to the West. To the West, however, there is only one out-mission and West of that for unknown miles the country is not inhabited.
(Established June 29, 1941)
Away back in the early days Wells was under the care of the Oblate Fathers. Not long before the Redemptorist Fathers arrived the diocesan priests were in charge.
The original church, located on what is called “The Tailings” at South Wells, had been transported from Barkerville. There were added to it a bell-tower, and a kitchen at the rear. The new church stands on the Wells Townsite. It was erected in 1940-1941 by the Redemptorist Fathers of William’s Lake, who had charge of Wells as an out-mission before the Redemptorists took it over as a distinct parish. Rev. Russell Conway, the Superior of William’s Lake, was the builder.
On June 26, 1941, Rev. Oscar Dietz, the first Superior of Wells, arrived from Toronto. Three days later Wells was officially established as another Redemptorist Foundation.
Not long after the coming of Father Dietz the new church was blessed by His Excellency, Emile Marie Bunoz, Apostolic of Prince Rupert, which in 1946 was given the status of a diocese under Bishop Anthony Jordan. Present at the ceremony of the blessing were: the Redemptorist Fathers, Rev. Russell Conway and Rev. Gerald Redmond; Father Gilhooly of Prince George; a fair number of Catholics and some non-Catholics of the town.
The rectory adjoining the church had consisted of a sleeping-room and office. In 1945 a large extension was added. The work was done entirely by Father Dietz and the Redemptorist, Brother Andrew. It is a very fine job.
(Established July 6, 1941)
On July 2, 1941, the first Redemptorist Superior of Claresholm, Very Rev. Thomas Coyne, and on July 3, 1941, his assistant to be Rev. Timothy Murphy, arrived in Calgary, where they were obliged to make their headquarters for about three weeks because of the following circumstances. First, there was no rectory at Claresholm, and then the retiring pastor, Rev. D. L. Moreau, who resided at Granum, could not conveniently leave sooner. So it was arranged that during this time the Redemptorist Fathers look after Nanton and Stavely from Calgary and that Father Moreau would take care of Granum and Claresholm. Father Moreau departed on July 21st, and on July 25th Fathers Coyne and Murphy left Calgary for Claresholm.
The Redemptorists were warmly received by the people, who showed themselves very hospitable and friendly. Even the careless and bad Catholics were easy to approach. The field looked promising.
It can be seen from the relative position of the four places above mentioned that it would be more convenient to attend the other three places from Claresholm than from Granum. So Father Coyne decided to make Claresholm the main parish and to build a rectory there. Work on the new rectory was begun at once, and after a few interruptions it was finished on March 15, 1942, when Fathers Coyne and Murphy moved into it.