Parish History of the Catholic Church of the Holy Name, Vermilion
Including history written by Geraldine Collins, 2010
Early Beginnings (1908-1953)
Denis Noonan and his wife Mary, along with bachelor Raymond Mercier, arrived from Quebec in 1907 to find the town of Vermilion with several businesses but without a Catholic Church. In response, Dennis, Raymond and a small number of parishioners sawed and hammered together a small building which would become the first church, with Mary as its organist.
It was served about four times a year by Fr. Bernier of Vegreville.
Other early parishioners included:
- Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Kehoe and Family (1909)
- Tim Kehoe (1911)
- Mr. and Mrs Tim Shea and Family (1908)
- Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Simonet and Family (1910)
- Mr. and Mrs. James Powell and Family
- Gilbert Shane
- Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Darragh and Family
- Dave Bilodeau
- Roger de Dreville
- Mr. and Mrs. Tom Dwyer
- Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Goutier and Sons
- Mr. A. Martel and Family
- Miss Helen Prew
- Mr. and Mrs. Jack Killion and Family
- Mr. Joe Killion
- Mr. and Mrs. H. De Delly
- Mr. Victor De Delly
- Mr. and Mrs. Wm. P. Colbert
- Mr. and Mrs. A. Bilodeau
These early pioneers must have liked their social events and laughter as we do, for The Vermilion Standard reported on November 3, 1909, that “the ladies of the Roman Catholic Church will give a ‘fowl dinner’ in the Rutherford Hall on November 11th, a week from tomorrow. Admission, Adults, 35￠ and children 15￠. Watch for bills.”
In 1909, Fr. Henri Goutier was appointed by Mgr. E. Legal to “take charge of the parish of Vermilion” and he became the town’s first resident Catholic Priest.
As for the building itself, a few years after it opened the Church was enlarged, secured with a new stone foundation, and enhanced with a tower and bell.
Eventually a sanctuary was added to the east end, along with a sacristy.
The missions of Mannville, Islay and Dewberry were attended in private homes as there were as of yet no churches.
The Catholic Church of the Holy Name was officially erected as a canonical Parish on April 5th, 1915, under the patronage of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Feast being January 3rd.
The missionary service of Fr. Henri reached far and wide, and in 1923/24 included parishioners in Mannville, Islay, Dewberry, Kitscoty, Marshall, Vanesti and even Lloydminster!
The Financial Statement of 1923 reported a nearly-balanced budget, with $2801.90 coming in and all but $51.35 going out.
Fr. Henri served Vermilion and the surrounding missions until 1925.
Other Priests to serve the parish until the building of the second church in 1953 included:
- Fr. J. O’Sullivan
- Fr. J. Ashe
- Fr. P. Rooney
- Fr. P. McQuaid
- Fr. A. MacDonnell
In addition to Fr. Landrigan, pastors to serve in this building included:
- Fr. C. Keenan
- Fr. M. Campbell
- Fr. J.L. Killoran
- Fr. E.F. Purcell
Highlights of this time included, firstly, Vermilion’s first ordination on July 3, 1955 when Fr. Henri Goutier’s nephew Maurice jointed the Priesthood. Second was an invitation by Archbishop Jordan in 1965 to the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron to open a convent in Vermilion. The sisters responded favourably and Rev. Fr. Keenan, parish Priest and founder of St. Jerome’s, welcomed Sr. Helene Levasseur, Sr. Monique Beaudoin, Sr. Rosanne Favreau and St. Louisa Theroux on August 28th of that year. The sisters served faithfully as teachers at St. Jerome’s school and as nurses at the Municipal Hospital. Finally, 1974 marked the 65th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Vermilion, and the ensuing celebration led by Fr. Purcell was blessed with the presence of other Priests from Edmonton, Vegreville and Clandonald. Mass was held and then followed by a potluck supper at St. Jerome’s, presentations and some entertainment.
The Second Church (1952-1975)
Under the guidance of Rev. Fr. Landrigan and driven by the need for a larger building to support the growing community of Vermilion, the new Holy Name Catholic Church was blessed and officially opened on April 12, 1953 by Most Reverend J.H. MacDonald, Archbishop of Edmonton. Costing $65, 000 and with a seating capacity of 350, the church boasted new pews, a tiled aisle leading to the altar, and a full-sized basement with a “well-equipped modern kitchen” (p. 17). Wm. J. Pettigrew “was in charge of construction of the fine ediface and the finished building [was] a great credit to his abilities both in design and craftsmanship” (p. 17).
NEW MAGNIFICENT HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH OPENED
Sunday, April 12th, 1953, marked the culmination of a major and very wonderful project in Vermilion and district with the blessing and official opening of the magnificent new Holy Name Catholic Church. The services which marked the occasion were attended by a capacity congregation of 350, while the Church was visited during the day by fully 650 people,The Vermilion Standard ,1953
The Blessing and official opening began at 11 a.m. given by His Excellency Most Reverent J.H. MacDonald, Archbishop of Edmonton. After opening, High Mass was celebrated by the Rev. W.E. Doyle Chancellor of the Archdiocese assisted by Rev. C. Landrigan, Pastor of the new church, and Rev. Kennedy MacLean; Pastor of St. Andrews. The sermon for the occasion was delivered by the Rev. Fr. Cohalan C.S.S.R. of Edmonton. His subject was very appropriate, namely “The Gift of Our Holy Faith”.
At the conclusion of mass His Excellency the Archbishop erected the Stations of the Cross.
Following the ceremony, dinner was served by the ladies of the C.W.L. in the commodious and beautifully finished basement of the church, which contains a very well appointed kitchen.
The conclusion of the first sitting, Rev. Fr. Gorman Pastor for Lloydminster minister acting as Chairman for the occasion, introduced the speakers Rev. Fr. Landrigan Pastor; Mr. S. C. Heckbert, Mayor of Vermilion; Mr. Keith Chalmers president of the Vermilion Board of Trade and His Excellency the Archbishop.
Father Landrigan’s remarks were centered around expressions of gratitude to God, then to the people of the parish who so generously subscribed to the new church. Mr. Wm. Pettigrew, Mr. A.M. Watt and finally to the people of Vermilion who showed such encouraging interest in the work.
Mayor S.C. Heckbert representing the citizens of the town of Vermilion spoke to the gathering, pointing out the tremendous potential value of the acquision of the fine new church building and the effect it would have on the congregation in future years, especially as regards to the youth of the church. The mayor spoke of the various new additions to community life, having in mind the recent official opening of the public library, and the forthcoming extension of community activity throughout the newly established provincial park in the river valley. He stressed the value of all these things in broadening our community life and said that the Church provided the moral fire which was gradually woven into the fabric of the broad community life.
His worship expressed appreciation of the guidance given by the Rev. Fr. Landrigan who had previously given credit to the congregation and other persons, wholly overlooking the major role played by himself in the planning and construction of the building. There was no question the mayor said but that the final completion of the building was very largely due to the faithful direction given by the parish priest throughout the construction period.
Mr. Heckbert extended a welcome on behalf of the town to Archbishop MacDonald and to all who were in attendance at the opening and expressed the hope that the new church amply fulfill its mission in the community in the future.
Mr. Chalmers, president of the Board of Trade used these words in addressing the gathering, “It is with great pleasure that I bring you today’s greetings on behalf of the Vermilion Board of Trade. To you Fr. Landrigan and all your willing workers goes great credit for your wonderful accomplishment in the erection of this magnificent church. I fully realize the hours and days and weeks of planning over the past few years that were necessary before you were able to finance such an undertaking and undoubtedly at times you almost despaired of ever being able to proceed with the construction. That of course is now a thing of the past and this edifice will stand as a memorial to your determination and perseverance.
The Church will be a big asset, not only for its primary purpose, that of worship, but also for all other activities in connection with the everyday life of the church.
In closing I would like once again to extend to you Father Landrigan and your entire congregation to extend the good wishes not only of the Board of Trade but of myself as well”.
His Excellency the Archbishop expressed great pleasure at the work done in such a short time, congratulating the pastor and the people on the fine spirit of cooperation shown in erecting such a lovely church. He reminded the parishioners that while they had done excellent work they would have to continue in the same spirit for some time yet until money owing on the work was paid off.
This concluded the ceremonies and formal program but dinners continued to be served all afternoon and up ’til 6 o’clock.
The new church is a most ambitious and commendable undertaking. Constructed at a cost of $65,000 the outside measurements are 100 feet long by 38 feet wide. Seating capacity is 350 and the appointments throughout the whole building are beautiful. The new pews, the tiled aisle leading to the altar, all tend for sublimity, reverence and humility.
The full sized basement with the well-equipped modern kitchen provides fine accommodation for all church gatherings.
Wm. J. Pettigrew was in charge of construction of the fine edifice and the finished building is a great credit to his abilities both in design and craftsmanship.
As stressed by the speakers at the dinner the accomplishment of the Pastor and parishioners of Holy Name Church is a major step forward for one and another in the cultural advancement of Vermilion and district.
Unfortunately, the church only stood for 22 years before being claimed by a fire of unknown origin on March 1, 1975.
The building itself and all its contents were completely destroyed.
Firemen were, however, able to save the adjoining rectory which was separated from the church by a fire wall.
The Present Church (1975-)
On the day of the Official Opening and Dedication new church on August 22nd, 1976, Fr. Purcell was quoted as saying the following regarding the devastating fire of the previous church: “We did not cry over our misfortune. That same day in the evening we said Sunday Mass at St. Jerome’s Catholic School.”
Insurance in excess of $100,000 helped to build the new church, along with a special building fund which was set up to cover the rest.
Designed by architects Dupuis-Donahue from Edmonton, the new church took on a more ‘modern’ square design than the long and narrow churches of the past.
Amalgamation of the 3 Parishes, 1990
In 1990, the Parishes of Holy Name and St. Columba were amalgamated and served by one Priest. Lay involvement was increased to take some of the workload off the Priest, including once-a-month lay-led services and more involvement in ministries such as preparation of the Sacraments, religious instruction of children, adult education, youth ministry and financial and moral support to Third World Missions. At this time each of the two Parishes maintained their own Pastoral Councils.
This was to change, however, when in 2006 Fr. Stan Lasko facilitated the joining of the three Pastoral Councils of St. Joseph, St. Columba and Holy Name into one.
The Catholic Parish of the Holy Name currently has an active Knights of Columbus Council, as well as a Round Table, and a Catholic Women’s League. The Pastoral Council has placed a strong emphasis on stewardship and continues to ask people to use their time, talent and treasure in the service of God and our Parish community. St. Jerome’s Catholic School maintains strong ties to the Parish through monthly Masses. In 2008, Archbishop Richard Smith appointed Deacon Kenneth Noster of Derwent to assist at Holy Name Parish and its Missons.
Pastors and clergy who have served since Fr. Purcell include:
- Fr. Leo Cordeau (1977-1984)
- Fr. Lucien Robert (1984-1989)
- Fr. Kenneth West (1989-1994)
- Fr. Eduardo Escober (1994-2004)
- Fr. Len Cadieux (2004-2006)
- Fr. Stan Lasko (2006-2008)
- Deacon Kenneth Noster (2008-Present)
- Fr. Stan Blaszkowski (2008-2009)
- Fr. Adam Deren (2009-2013)
- Fr. Roger Rouleau (2013-2019)
- Fr. Joy Vadakkan Poulose CFIC (2019-Present)
May God continue to bless our Parish community with new members, enthusiastic stewards, strong leadership and holy and zealous Religious men and women.
- “History of Vermilion Roman Catholic Parish: 1909 to the Present”. July, 1974. Fr. E.F.Purcell. Vermilion.
- “The Official Opening and Dedication of the New Holy Name of Jesus Parish Church” August, 1976. Most Rev. J.N. MacNeil, Archbishop of Edmonton. Meridian Printing Co. Ltd. Lloydminster.
- Author Unknown. Sheet on the amalgamation of Vermlilion and Clandonald Parishes and Priests serving the two churches.
- “Holy Name Church Burns”. The Vermilion Standard, Mar 1, 1975.
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