Traditions of Faith and Service
Written by: Dr. Jacqueline Gresko
Designed by: Christine Guzman
Jacqueline Gresko brings the 100 years of the archdiocese to life by focussing on specific people, places, and organizations.
Rather than an institution or a series of buildings and bureaucrats, the archdiocese has been the people themselves and the communities of which they were a part.
Individuals, religious organizations, and the archbishops’ leadership also come alive in this book, with its hundreds of accompanying photos, many of them in colour.
The book introduces the beginning of West Coast Catholic history in the mid-19th century on Vancouver Island with Bishop Modeste Demers. Accompanying photos include maps, papal bulls and important correspondence, Church leaders, and crowds of the faithful.
This period establishes one of the constant themes of the archdiocese’s history, the relationship with the native people. Bishop Louis-Joseph d’Herbomez established a system for missions to the natives, with the help of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who make up another great part of archdiocesan history:
“Between 1859 and 1878 the Oblates established missions in the Okanagan as well as at Squamish, Williams Lake, Sechelt, Fort St. James, St. Eugene’s in the Kootenays, and Kamloops. Plans for schools at these posts were delayed into the 1880s and 1890s.”
The Oblates also served the wider community, especially when times were tough after gold rushes. Like many orders, they provided not only spiritual outreach but also material aid. The photos from this rich era show its difficulties, with crowds of people standing or sitting in muddy grass for a service, or priests living on the edge of wilderness.
Gresko and the photos depict the archdiocese growing with the Lower Mainland, with “continuity and change” being a major theme. In the early years, times of great growth, Archbishop Neil McNeil (served 1910-12) built many parishes, including St. Andrew’s, St. Joseph’s in Vancouver, St. Edmund’s, St. Joseph’s in Port Moody, and St. Joseph’s in Powell River. With this rapid expansion came crushing debt, which took decades to get under control.
Perhaps Archbishop Duke’s era, 1931-64, brought the biggest changes, as the archdiocese moved from being largely mission territory, relying on other parts of Canada to staff its parishes and sisters organizations, to forming its own independent identity.
The junior seminary opened in 1931 and the major seminary in 1951; The B.C. Catholic newspaper was established in 1931; a Eucharistic Congress was held in 1936, bringing visitors from all over North America; Holy Rosary Cathedral was consecrated after its huge debt was paid off; and the offices of the archdiocese were centralized at 150 Robson St. in Vancouver.
Both male and female religious orders played a significant role in the spiritual, educational, health, and social life of the Church and wider society right from the beginning: “To reach out to adult Catholics, Archbishop Duke encouraged the Oblates, Redemptorists, and Franciscan and Dominican Fathers to preach week-long parish missions and to foster devotional programs and associations.”
Women religious who had come in the early days of the archdiocese greatly expanded their work under Archbishop Duke. Gresko notes that during Archbishop Casey’s era (1912-31), the Catholic sisters involved in health care and education had “gained public trust.” Some of these sisters also worked with Asian immigrants. The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, for example, served the Chinese community, providing education and health care.
In addition, “Twenty-two new congregations arrived, particularly as teaching sisters for parish schools.” The book’s photos reflect the integral place of this teaching and health-care work, with sisters surrounding the archbishop or in front of their new school or hospital. Their work was not simply Catholic institutions providing health care and education, but people with vocations serving the spiritual and material needs of others.
During the Vatican II and post-Vatican-II years, including Archbishop Carney’s episcopacy (1969-90), there was a decline in vocations, aging of the members of orders, and increased lay involvement. Again photos and Gresko provide many specific examples.
The archdiocese was also confronted with increasing secularism and therefore decreasing Church participation, even as the overall population of Catholics grew and diversified. Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Koreans all added their voices to the Church.
Much of this continued into the years of Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, which included reconciliation with native peoples and ever- increasing lay leadership. The book ends with some thoughts on the episcopacy of Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM, and a large section of one-page profiles of parishes.
This last section adds to the sense that, though the sum of the archdiocese is greater than the parts, each part is itself important, made up of individuals and communities that have been the lifeblood of the archdiocese for 100 years.
Here are a couple examples of the information contained in the 250-page book; from the Archdiocese (sample ) and its parishes (sample ).
For more information, please contact the Chancery Office at 604 683 0281.
-- Brian Welter