History of Sacred Heart Cathedral: Fascinating Faith Story Celebrating 125th Anniversary

What a wonderful celebration of 125 years as Sacred Heart Parish in Kamloops!  From the con-celebrated Mass at 5 pm to the multicultural food and presentations from parishioners, the evening was a enjoyed by the hundreds who attended.  Bishop David Monroe, Monsignor Gerry Desmond, Rector Reverend Father Andrew L'Heureux, Assistant priest, Reverend Father Paul Sims, Resident Reverend Father Ryszard Hanaczewski, and Reverend Father Fred Weisbeck celebrated this significant anniversary Mass.  Bishop Monroe provided an historical background to the founding of the parish in 1887.  Oblate Fathers of Immaculate Mary put their lives in peril to travel throughout what is now Western Canada, stopping at missions to say Mass whenever they were in the area.  The 11 Oblates in the interior of BC in the 1840-80s, visited 100 missions as frequently as possible, travelling by horseback and canoe, cutting firewood for the next morning's fire, and surviving cruel winter temperatures. Thanks was given for the determination and faith of the early clergy and citizens.  It is from their hard work that Sacred Heart Parish and eventually the Diocese of Kamloops evolved. The strong, rich voices of Knights of Columbus Men's Choir, under the direction of Herb Wiens, led the liturgical music. The full church joined in the singing with energy and emotion.

Following the 125 Anniversary Mass, a Multicultural evening of food and fellowship was overwhelmingly received by the large crowd of parishioners, present and past.  Beginning with grace by his Excellency, Bishop Monroe, attendees feasted on food from around the world.  Reflective of the parishioners, groups and individuals prepared African, Mexican, Korean, Philippine, German, Eastern European, Indian, Italian and French.  As well First Nation and Eclectic Canadian rounded out the choices.  Decorated booths and traditionally attired servers added a festive flavour.  Presentations reviewed 125 years of history of Sacred Heart Parish; interviews of longtime parishioners entertained; service groups informed.  Grand Knight Herb Wiens asked about memories of past days from Mrs. Marguerite Beesley, Ms Rose Corea, Mr. John Giddens, Bill Palmer, and Msg. Gerry Desmond, who was baptized, received first communion, confirmed and ordained at Sacred Heart Parish. He was pastor there for  

Service groups, Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Little Flower Society and Catholic Women's League presented photo montages on the big screen while explaining the historical significance of each of them.  The presentations informed parishioners of the importance of these groups while encouraging new membership.  The service clubs are the life blood of the parish, providing innumerable hours of volunteer time for everything from renovations and construction to banquets and bazaars.  These groups promote sharing of time, treasure and talent in this Year of Faith for all Catholics worldwide.

Early Oblate Missionaries visited the Hudson Bay Company trading post, Fort Thompson, the predecessor of Kamloops in the 1840s.  St. Louis Mission, now Mission Flats was established by the Oblates in 1845, but without a resident priest. St. Louis School was established in 1880.

It wasn't until 1887 that Sacred Heart Catholic Church was built at Battle and Second Avenue, near the Cenotaph.  The first Mass was celebrated by Father Le Jeune in December, 1887. Still served by missionary priests,m Father Le Jacq, father Grandidier, Peytavin, Coccola and Le Jeune until 1889 when Father Bedard was introduced assigned as the first parish priest.  Retiring the church debt was a major concern even though it was only $127.39; in 1898 the pastor's stipend was $25.00 a month. As the collection for a month was often only $40.00,  this meant great penny pinching to pay off the debt. In 1904 the pastors stipend was increased to $50.00. The balance sheet was finally in the black by 1910.  The Knights of Columbus began serving the parish March 17, 1912.

In 1919, during March 5th Ash Wednesday service,  the wood frame church burned to the ground. No one was hurt but only a few vestments were saved. Services were held at St. Ann's and surrounding community halls.  Father A Madden was the force behind building a new Sacred Heart
Church at the present site, opening in December 1925. The altar was made of carrara marble, shipped from Italy. This altar still graces the Cathedral today.  Father Madden also established the Catholic Women's League in 1927, which stills add much to the spirit of the parish.  Father McCullough (1939-1941) was the last Oblate to serve Sacred Heart Parish.  

In December of 1945, the new Diocese of Kamloops was formed. In March of 1946,
Bishop Edward Quentin Jennings was named as the first Bishop of Kamloops. Sacred
Heart Church was then elevated to Cathedral status. The administrative structure remains
the same as it was established by Bishop Jennings. The Bishop, a Rector and one
or more assistants.  In 1952 Bishop Jennings was appointed to Thunder Bay and Bishop
Michael Alphonsus Harrington was named his successor. In 1963, St. Ann's was named a parochial school attached to Sacred Heart  Cathedral. In 1970 due to budget restraints St. Ann's high school was closed.

In 1973, under the direction of Father John Mclntyre, an addition was erected to Sacred Heart Cathedral increasing the seating from 300 to 420. The 300,000 dollar cost was paid off in the early 1980s, due to the generosity of the parishioners. Bishop Harrington passed away in 1973. In l974, Bishop Adam Exner was installed as Bishop of Kamloops. Bishop Exner left in 1982 to become Bishop of Winnipeg. Prior to his departure, His Excellency
bishop Exner reactivated St. Ann's high school under the mantle of the Christian Brothers of Ireland.  Sacred Heart parishioners from Valleyview, Barnhartvale and Dallas begin to attend Holy Family Church in 1979.  

In 1982, Bishop Lawrence Sabatini was installed as the fourth Bishop of Kamloops.  Bishop Sabatini
served until 1999 when he retired and moved back to the United States. The Diocese of Kamloops was without a Bishop for two years but Father Jeremiah (Jerry) Desmond (now Monsignor) was appointed as Diocesan Administrator to fulfill the duties of a Bishop until Bishop David Monroe was appointed
in March of 2002.  Father Dale Normandeau served as rector until his departure in Oct. of 2004 to take up  his post as Pastor of the Church in Merritt.  Father Derrick Cameron served the needs of the Cathedral until 2011 when he went to Williams Lake and Father Andrew L'Heureux came to Kamloops.  Though ten men from the Diocese have been ordained since 1986, recently many priests from other countries and continents have assisted with parish life, particularly coming from Nigeria and Philippines.

Kamloops is celebrating its bicentennial this year, 200 years of European contact with Secwepemc.  It is fitting that Sacred Heart Parish celebrates its 125 anniversary in 2012, the year of the canonization of  St. Kateri Tekakwita, the first North American Native saint.  

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