Transformation of a Building to God's House

1914 is remembered around the world as the year that the first world war began, but it also the year that the parish of St. Joseph’s in Edmonton came into being near the north shore of the North Saskatchewan river.

Presenter: Fr. Martin Carroll, Former Rector of St. Joseph's Basilica

Archbishop Legal had named St. Anthony’s church as the pro-Cathedral of the Archdiocese. But the priests and the people of this parish had a vision and a determination to build a church for the future, with the capacity to hold more than one thousand people. At that time the city was growing rapidly and soon other parishes would be established.

It was in 1925 that Archbishop O’Leary announced that St. Joseph’s would be the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese. It was then the land was purchased from the Hudson Bay Company to build this Church. For financial reasons the parish could only build the basement church.

It was on May 1st 1963, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker that Archbishop Jordan presided over the Consecration of the church.

Due to two world wars and the depression the parish was not free from the construction debt until 1940. It was noted in the history of the parish that the Catholic Women’s League fundraising activities netted almost the same amount as the annual collection of the parish.

By the spring of 1960 Archbishop MacDonald decided to proceed with the building of the upper level of the church in order to complete the original vision of the Cathedral church. A religious census of the whole district was carried out by 160 men of the parish, knocking on some 7,000 doors and this identified 1350 wage earners in the parish. The driving force behind all of this was Monsignor Malone, who was the Rector of the Cathedral from 1949 to 1965.

In our history book, which will be available soon we can see the Journey of the building of God’s house from the bare wall which surrounded the structure, to all the different additions which have made this a beautiful place of worship today. You will hear shortly about the stained glass windows, the cathedral bells and the Tabernacle. There were other beautiful additions too, most recently the Mosaic of the Lamb; all of which show that this is a special and holy place where we can come to pray as individuals and as a community to our God.

This work of building the structure designed by the architect Henri LaBelle of Montreal and his local partner Eugene Olekshy, and transforming that into the House of God happened because of the hard work, zeal and generosity and sacrifice of the priests and people of this parish. For all of that we are truly grateful and give thanks to God.

Witness: Mary Molloy, Chair, 100th Anniversary Committee

Transforming a building into God’s House takes more than bricks and mortar. It’s about the faith of the people who bring God’s presence into the life of the church. When the 100th Anniversary Committee began meeting to discuss how to celebrate this milestone in our Parish’s history, we discovered that the life of this parish was founded on the faith stories of many, many parishioners. Therefore to describe how the church came into being is indeed a ”Beautiful Faith Journey, a 100 years in the Making”.

Each of us has a faith journey that has contributed to the life of this parish community. My faith story started a little over 30 year ago.

After leaving my home in Saskatoon, I started a new life in Edmonton and this Parish. Beginning a career in Edmonton wasn’t my first choice. Many of my friends had already moved to Calgary, but a job opportunity presented itself so I came to Edmonton thinking it would be just a quick stop before I moved on. Of course, at that time I didn’t realize that God had other plans.

New to the city, I was feeling lost and a little worried about what would I to do if something happened to me – after all, I was raised by an Irish Catholic Mother. But I read a note in the Sunday Bulletin about a new Liturgy Committee and a meeting inviting anyone interested. So I decided to attend. I thought to myself if nothing else I would at least get to meet the Parish Priests.

And I did. I met Father John Hesse and Father Les Derwicki but was also introduced to many wonderful people in the Parish. After that my life changed.

Those new friends, Bill Monaghan, Jim Edwards, Louis Moret, Mona Whelan, Sue and Marc Barylo - and others - inspired and challenged me to look deeper into my faith and into its tradition. For nearly two years my new friends and I met every second week to study the documents of Vatican II. Change in this parish wasn’t going to happen without proof! Bill Monaghan was there to ensure weren’t adapting some popular non-sustaining practice.

My eyes were opened. I finally realized that my sense of faith and the faith of others could be shared.

In my professional life, I was always known as “The Catholic”. Whenever there was need for a religious opinion, I would be asked for either advice or to find the right person. I often returned to this Parish Community for help. I can’t tell you how many times I was the default person to write and or to say Grace at business functions, political dinners and Christmas parties. It was Father Mike who clued me into the best interfaith blessings.

In 1987, a Tornado took the lives of 27 Edmontonians, as a City employee I was asked to prepare a Prayer Service for the families of victims. Again I turned to the Parish for help. I didn’t know what to call the service, how to connect the different faiths, what to include or even the music to use. But one call to Sister Annata and the service took shape. Archbishop McNeil suggested calling it a Prayer Service of Hope. Father John Rose & Monsignor Bill Irwin connected the faith communities and helped to develop an ecumenical service. John Wetherill played the organ and Margie McCaffery was the leader of song. Our Parish is blessed and our faith is deep and encompassing even in the face of a tragedy.

So much of my life has been centered on faith. I hadn’t necessarily planned it but I believe that God provided its direction. I have been fortunate to have been invited on some amazing spiritual journeys both in the Parish and the Archdiocese. Life isn’t without trial, but here in this house of God, I have found comfort and strength.

And I believe that the best is yet to come.

It was during those early years after coming to Edmonton that I attended a reflection day. During the day we were asked to open the bible and place our finger on a single passage. My finger happened on the line

“Here I am Lord; speak, for your Servant is listening”.

Each time I am asked to help the passage comes to mind. I know in this Parish Community we will have more years to fill the will of the Lord.