On Sunday June 4, a special celebration was held to honor the 110th Anniversary of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Nanton Alberta.
Construction of the church was completed on June 3, 1907. On this day Bishop Légal from St. Albert consecrated the new church and gave it the name of St. Cecilia, the patroness of church music and musicians. On this occasion we sang the last two verses of the hymn Pange Lingua in Latin as would have been heard in 1907. Certainly voices would have been raised in song; sung with joy to praise the Lord and to celebrate their new permanent place to worship.
A lovely potluck meal was enjoyed after Mass. Fr. Tim raised a glass and was joined by all to toast the 110th anniversary. A special part of the festivities was the recognition of nine longtime parishioners present that have attended this church for more than 50 years. A joyous Happy Birthday was sung and delicious cake was served.
Conversations shared this day are the reminiscing of years gone by; speaking of the present and looking forward to the future. In these busy, modern times, St. Cecilia’s is our blessing. Its longevity is visible; its architectural and spiritual character being preserved.
Over its 110-year history St. Cecilia’s has been served faithfully. Fr. Hughes from Prince Edward Island served the church and people from 1918-1933 celebrating Mass every two weeks. Fr. Rouleau, the first ordained priest from the Calgary Diocese came from 1933-1936. From 1936-1941 Rev. A. Tennant served both Stavely and Nanton. During the following six years, Fr. Murphy C.SS.R and Fr. Coyne C.SS.R, (Redemptorists) served this area and the Claresholm Air Force Base. After May 1947 the diocesan priests served. They included Fr. Pat O’Byrne, Fr. Frank Mackay and Fr. Mongeau. Fr. T. O’Riordan attended until 1977, when he was replaced by Fr. Van Tigham. From 1977 until 1998 Fr. Greg Coupal, Fr. T. Connelly, Fr. Dominic Hung Nguyen and Fr. Jim de Los Angeles were serving. For one year the church had no priest. Fr. Benedicto Marino was here from 1999-2006. Fr. Malcolm D’Souza arrived and stayed until 2010. Fr. Angelo D’Costa was present from 2010-2012. His replacement was Fr. Tim Boyle who resides in Claresholm. Currently, he oversees three parishes: Claresholm, Champion and Nanton.
An addition of a hall with seating for 100 people was completed in 1984. Now a modern, well-equipped kitchen adds many more opportunities for using our church hall. In the early 1990s, new parishioners, Ed and Francis Southgate presented the idea of having “toast and coffee” after Sunday Mass. This ritual still continues. Many parishioners linger on Sundays to share moments of togetherness, speak of current and past events, be supportive of one another and share laughter and discussions.
Skip ahead to 2017. Our church has been generously enriched throughout the years with the dedicated services of long-standing parishioners. Today, we are blessed with the arrival of new parishioners who add refreshment to St. Cecilia’s parish community. We remain very thankful to the pioneers of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church who not only built the building, but also built the faith.
St. Cecilia’s • A Poem by Lydia Dillman
This little church for you and me
How blessed we are to practice our faith in thee
One hundred and ten years, a testament to time; this little church steadfast
The visionary pioneers from yesteryear built it to withstand and last
St. Cecilia’s devoted parishioners provide time and loving care
To ensure that this little church will always be here for prayer
Envision the last one hundred years and ten; take time to wonder
The celebrations, the challenges, and the changes; ours to ponder
Present day we celebrate this little church; its past and present
Personally each of us reflect; what St. Cecilia’s to us has meant
St. Cecilia’s; the gift of time and endurance we celebrate today
Let us be forever thankful; to God we give our praise
The Church has always recognized an affinity for the Blessed Virgin Mary. From its very origins this affinity is recognized in Luke by great meaning of the word “blessed.” The Greek word for “blessed” is “Echaritomene,” which literally means a person “having been graced” or a person “having been loved.” The Church responds to the injunction of scripture and responds with the same love for the Blessed Virgin: “‘All generations will call me blessed’: ‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’ The Church rightly honours ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honoured with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…. This very special devotion… differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.’” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 971].
The greatness of St. Mary is often perplexing to people and even to Christians from other denominations. Blessed John Henry Newman acknowledged that scripture does not talk too often about The Blessed Virgin Mary. However, he notes that this in itself is something to be acknowledged to her praise. That despite being the Mother of God, who played a large role among the apostles, she never made this point to be important. Even the biblical authors mention the Virgin about the same number of times as the lesser known disciples. This is however, to Mary’s glory, since it is by being humble that “the meek shall inherit the earth” [Matt. 5:5]. The 19th century book, Fear and Trembling, describes the Blessed Virgin in this way: “To be sure, Mary bore the child wondrously, but she nevertheless did it ‘after the manner of women,’ and such a time is one of anxiety, distress, and paradox. The angel was indeed a ministering spirit, but he was not a meddlesome spirit who went to the other young maidens in Israel and said: ‘Do not scorn Mary, the extraordinary is happening to her!’ The angel went only to Mary, and no one could understand her” [Johannes de Silentio, Hong p. 65]. As we declare the Gospel to the world, to our families, to our husbands, wives and children, we look to St. Mary whose only goal was to serve Christ and God alone!
A blessed tradition dating back to some of the earliest times of the Church is the consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Saturday, July 1, everyone in the Diocese of Calgary is invited to meet at St. Mary’s Cathedral with Bishop McGrattan at 10:00 a.m. See Diocesan Dates on page 20 for details. The other dioceses and archdioceses in Canada will also meet on this day to consecrate Canada to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This consecration is an act of prayer where we will ask St. Mary, the Mother of God, and of all Christians, to pray to Christ from her Immaculate Heart for us.
Our fellowship with the saints and other Christians does not end in this life, but carries onto the next [LG 49]. This is the same living heart that said “yes” to God, and it is the same heart that prays for the world to recognize Jesus as the Savior and Lord of Canada and the Savior and Lord of the universe.
By the spring of 1885, there was trouble brewing in the West. Louis Riel protested conditions to the Canadian Government on behalf of the Metis and some Cree bands in central Saskatchewan and started the North West Rebellion. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sent soldiers on the CPR to put down the uprising and protect settler’s communities on the prairies.
The Blackfoot Confederacy had been approached by Riel to join in the fray and people in Calgary and surrounding areas were nervous. What would Crowfoot do?
Once again, Fr. Lacombe was called upon to take his place on the national stage and he made several visits to Crowfoot to ensure his loyalty and control over the heavily-armed young warriors.
One of the most important telegrams in Canadian history was sent to Ottawa by Lacombe. It simply read: “I have seen Crowfoot and all the Blackfoot. All quiet. Promised me to be loyal no matter how things turn out elsewhere.”
The Riel Rebellion was over by the summer of 1885 and one of the outcomes of the danger in Saskatchewan became a benefit for Calgary. Bishop Grandin transferred some Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, the FCJs, away from the area near the rebellion. Fr. Lacombe had just finished building a brand new two-story Oblate rectory and chapel for the mission. He gladly turned it over to the Sisters for their convent and a school room. Once again Fr. Lacombe would be living in a tent on the prairie… but it was all for a good cause!
In December of 1885, the first school district in the North West Territories was erected… Lacombe Roman Catholic School District #1, with Mother Mary Greene fcj, as its first superintendent. Later the name would be changed to the Calgary Catholic School District.
In 1886, Prime Minister Macdonald invited Crowfoot and the other chiefs from southern Alberta, who had remained loyal during the Rebellion, to tour eastern Canada and receive honors. Fr. Lacombe accompanied them and was effectively their tour guide. On their visit to Ottawa, Crowfoot got up to make a speech and he acknowledged his friend: “This man, the Man of Good Heart, is our brother — not only our Father, as the white people call him — but our brother. He is one of our people. When we weep he is sad for us, when we laugh, he laughs with us. We love him. He is our brother.”
Crowfoot died in 1890, after being baptized by Fr. Doucet. Fr. Lacombe honored his friend, the Great Chief, by writing a biography of his life for newspaper publication. It was the end of an era.
The last 30 years of Fr. Lacombe’s life were not filled with the dramatic history-making events of his hey-day in the national spotlight, but his travel schedule and the list of his accomplishments is still impressive. From the age of 60 Fr. Lacombe tried to retire at least five or six times, but there was always something to do!
He had built himself a chapel-cabin at Pincher Creek, in southwest Alberta in 1885, dedicated to St. Michael, and called it his “hermitage,” a place he could go for solitude and use as a home base. He would return there repeatedly over the years until 1908… but he was never there for long.
In 1909, he was inspired to create what he called, “the most beautiful dream of my life!” It would be located in the Calgary area and called the Lacombe Home… for orphans and the elderly.
He approached Patrick Burns, one of the Big 4 founders of the Calgary Stampede. Burns owned the large Bow Valley Ranche and donated 200 acres of land on a bluff overlooking Fish Creek, close to Macleod Trail and the Midnapore CPR station. Lord Strathcona, of CPR fame, made a significant donation as did many of Lacombe’s old friends.
The Sisters of Providence agreed to administer and serve at the Home and it was opened in November, 1910. An aging Fr. Lacombe was its first resident.
At the dedication he said: “We are now ready to receive all those in need who will come and knock at our door. The elderly will find solace in their time of suffering. The little ones will find devoted mothers to care for them.”
The Lacombe Home was declared a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, but the building burned down in 1999. The area today is home to St. Mary’s University, the Sisters of Providence Convent, the Fr. Lacombe Care Centre, and the Providence Care Centre. The Fish Creek/Lacombe C-Train station honors the history of the area.
By 1913, Calgary and southern Alberta had become its own Diocese led by Bishop McNally. St. Mary’s was now a Cathedral and Fr. Lacombe made his last public appearance there in March of that year. He finished his remarks with these words:
“Many years ago, I stood here on this piece of ground and pictured myself the time when a great Cathedral would stand here.
I will not be with you very long now. I want to plead with you for the poor and the needy and the destitute. God bless you for your kindness to those needy ones at Midnapore. God bless you, people of Calgary, God bless you!”
Fr. Lacombe died on December 12, 1916 in his room at the Lacombe Home. After a funeral Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, his casket was taken by a CPR “ceremonial train” up to Edmonton to lie in state at St. Joachim’s Church for a few days of public veneration… a parish he had founded 60 years earlier.
Later he was buried at St. Albert, crossing the Sturgeon River Bridge for the last time. His body lies in a crypt beneath the St. Albert Church beside those of Bishop Grandin and Fr. Leduc.
That’s in Treaty #6 Territory, traditional lands of the Cree. They called him… “the Noble Soul.”
But his “heart,” at his request, is still in southern Alberta, buried in a small cemetery behind the Sisters of Providence Convent overlooking Fish Creek Provincial Park.
That’s here, in Treaty #7 Territory, traditional lands of the Blackfoot. They called him: “The Man of Good Heart.”
This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary of confederation. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) invites every bishop of every diocese or eparchy to consecrate the country to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on July 1. Families are also invited to commemorate this important event. We can do this by engaging the family in an active and communicative way!
To begin this journey with your family you need a Bible (and, if possible, a Children’s Bible) and the colouring page on page 6, and some colouring pencils. Prepare for the activity by reflecting on your relationship with your parents or with your children, so that you can share an example of your special relationship with your loved ones. Read the scripture passage, John 19:25-27.
- Have copies of the colouring page ready (1 per child). Click Here.
- Ask the children to describe something that they really like to do as a family, something that makes them feel special. For example, “each night before bed, Daddy reads to me and then we say our prayers together,” or “when Mommy makes my lunch she puts a special treat in the bag – something that she knows I will really like,” or “Mommy always knows what to say when I am feeling sad,” or “Daddy and I play outdoor hockey together on the weekends.”
- What makes these moments special? Is it because it is one-on-one time just between the parent and child?
- After everybody has had a chance to talk about their special times with mom or dad, read the scripture passage – John 19:25-27. If you don’t have a children’s Bible, you can paraphrase the passage in words that the children understand. It is important to mention that when children get older, they want to care for their parents, just as their parents cared for them when they were younger. Jesus wanted to make sure that his mother would be looked after. He wanted to make sure that his mother and John would take care of each other.
- Jesus also has a special relationship with his mother, and he wants us to care for her, and for her to care for us. That is why we pray through Mary that she will ask God to help us when we need it. We are comforted in the knowledge that Mary loves us and cares for us just as our parents do.
- This year Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. As Jesus entrusted the disciple John to his mother Mary, and his mother Mary to John, we, as Catholics, are marking this special occasion by entrusting our country to the care of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. By doing so, the Blessed Virgin, Mary, the mother of Jesus, will ask God to help us live together in peace and harmony.
Ask the children to colour the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Pray the Hail Mary together:
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Let me confess that I am someone who tends to wear his clothes until they virtually fall apart. My favourite pair of shoes is over ten years old, and my sweaters weren’t much younger, with most pitted with an assortment of tears, holes and other character-defining features. In fact, it wasn’t until I had a business meeting and noticed one of the attendees fixated on my shredded sleeve that I decided, finally, to replace them.
My first thought for the fate of my trusty companions was a quick burial in the garbage. But as the mercury fell dramatically it occurred to me that perhaps a faded or well-worn sweater, for someone less fortunate, was better than none, and so I dropped them in the local charity bin. I won’t lie. My heart skipped a little at seeing my trusty steeds put out to pasture, but at least, I reasoned, it was a noble retirement.
As is often the way, I thought of those clothes going out into the community and wondered whose home they would join. Would they find their way to a cool retro-hunter keen to show off his thrift-shop chic? Would they be part of a workman’s casual wear, perfect for odd jobs around the house? Or would the charity determine that they weren’t fit for duty after all?
Recently, while volunteering at a soup kitchen, a remarkable situation occurred. As I was moving through the crowded hall I noticed an older gentleman shuffling forward. He set himself up at a crowded table and wriggled out of his threadbare jacket. To my surprise I saw that he was wearing one of my recently discarded sweaters. I recognized the torn sleeve, the holes peeking out beneath the armpits, and the frayed edges all around. I couldn’t help but move towards him, and when he saw me he smiled. “Check out my new threads,” he said, rubbing his sleeves happily. “Looking good,” I answered, humbled and abashed. “Yes,” he laughed emphatically, “yes I do.”
If there are such things as life-defining moments, then that was surely one of them. I will never again take my good fortune for granted, and I will always remember that all gifts matter, be they large or small. More importantly, I know that I must go out into the world to offer service. Not just to render good to others, but because my soul needs feeding, and there is no greater meal.
… because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. -2 Kings 22.19