As settlers came west to make a new life, often they brought with them the very basic, some food, clothes and a dream. They also brought their faith.
This year the St. Anthony’s Parish is celebrating 100 years in Drumheller. While it was not the first faith community in the valley, it has endured through the last 100 years.
According to the Hills of Home History book, the first Catholic mass didn’t begin in a sanctuary, but in the Whitehouse Hotel. Reverend Father Russell, whose territory stretched from Rockyford to Alsask, held a mass in a room at the Whitehouse in the spring of 1913. Before a church was established, Father Russell would attempt to make it to Drumheller once a month, however, the road conditions’ and weather in the undeveloped area made travel difficult. At times, he would say mass at a cabin in the Orkney distinct owned by Ovide and Alphonse Auger. In 1914, the first church was built.
This continued for a few years and the ministry grew under Father Bowlen. In 1917, Bishop McNally visited Drumheller and deemed it necessary to appoint a resident pastor, and Father J. McGillivray became the first parish priest. Soon a rectory was built and the church was furnished and added to for capacity. Father McGillivray served for the next 10 years also saying mass in Wayne and Munson. The church flourished and in that time, the Catholic Women’s League, the Altar Society, and Columbus Club were established.
In 1927 Father P.J.N, Cosman was appointed by Bishop Kidd, and the church continued to grow. A robust Sunday school was formed. The church was able to purchase adjacent lots, which were beautified, and there were more improvements to the interior of the church. He also had the foresight to begin a building fund knowing a new church would one day need to be built.
In the fall of 1935, Father Cosman was transferred and Rev. Neville Anderson became the parish priest. That fall the St. Angela’s Convent was established.
Times were tough in the 1930’s in Drumheller and indeed, throughout the world, however, the parish was in need of a new church as it had become dilapidated. They were able to trade some of its existing property west of the wye for a site for a new church and work began in 1938. A parish priest in Banff designed the church and Stanley Campbell was the contractor.
It was a community effort. Mother Bernice and the Sisters made the drapes and tapestries. Mr. Chiarieri constructed the pews, Joe LeFebre made the wall brackets for the statues, Joseph Guidolin made the cross and Mr. W. Hodgson of Dorothy carved the oak Corpus for the altar crucifix. The old church became a parish hall.
In 1942, a home was purchased and became the new rectory. In 1949, the former church was sold to McPherson Motors, and the next year a new hall was built.
On December 20, 1952, fire ripped through the church. The Mail reported that George Derbyshire turned in the alarm shortly after 1 a.m. and two firefighters were injured. It was estimated that nearly 60 per cent of the interior was destroyed.
In 1957, a new addition was added to the church, which included the bell tower and baptistery.
The church has been busy preparing to mark the centennial. Rose Porter has been heading up the project. They are planning a church directory. They have also posted a gallery of priests in the foyer of the church.
As part of the celebration, the church is hosting “Mountain Do,” a day of fun and fellowship with the priest of the Calgary Diocese including a soccer game.
The Church is also planning a luncheon to mark 100 years come August.