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Old St. Patrick's Church

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 0014
St. Patrick's Church

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0014

At the Heritage Roundtable on March 17, here at the Central Library in the Dutton theatre, we will be hearing an update on the fate of the old St. Patrick’s Church that stands so near its Anglican neighbor, St. Paul’s , out along Macleod Trail in what used to be the town of Midnapore. There couldn’t be a more stark contrast than the fates of the two nearly identical churches. St. Paul’s is in beautiful condition, with its cemetery intact and well maintained. It has been revived and tended for many years by the Midnapore Church of England Society. St. Patrick’s on the other hand, has been allowed to fall into disrepair, a kind of demolition by neglect. Recently scorch marks were seen on the building suggesting that someone had lit a fire that may have gotten out of control. This is heart breaking as St. Patrick’s has great historical significance to the city. Ironically, the situation was once reversed. In the early part of the 20th century, Patrick Burns used to send a crew out to maintain and paint St. Patrick’s Church. The story goes that he didn’t want St. Pat’s to outshine its near neighbour, which was looking a mite shabby, so he would have St. Paul’s painted by the same crew.

St. Paul’s is actually the older building. It was built in 1885 on land that was donated by John Glenn, who, although a Catholic himself, felt compelled to give to his community. Twenty years later, his son donated the land on which St. Patrick’s was built. Money was raised for the church by the community and both Catholics and Anglicans worked to build it. There is no delineation between the cemeteries, even in death the two communities are as one. When a fire damaged St. Patrick’s, services were held in St. Paul’s until the church could be repaired. The communities, Anglican and Catholic, met and mingled and cooperated over the generations and for that reason alone, the two churches, in their cozy proximity, have heritage value.

Another aspect of the historic value of St. Patrick’s church is Father Lacombe was the parish priest at St. Patrick’s from 1906 (or 1909) until his death in 1916. Father Lacombe is a very important figure in the history of the province. In addition to his work with First Nations people, he also established the Lacombe Home for orphans, the elderly and the handicapped near to the church on land donated by Patrick Burns.

Little St. Pat’s has been declared a Provincial Historic Resource, after the land was sold to a memorial company with the proviso that the Catholic Diocese, which owns the building, either demolish it or move it. Little has been done to maintain the building, although the statue of St. Patrick has been removed and preserved as has the bell that was given to Father Lacombe for the bell tower by Archbishop Legal. There have been developments, though, and we will hear what is in store for the old church at the Heritage Roundtable on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, – quite apropos, I think. If you would like to register for this event, you can do so by calling 403-244-4111 or online at www.calgarycommunities.com/events.php.

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