Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church
HISTORIC PIONEER CHURCH LEFT TO VANDALS
The future of the church is dependent upon finding adequate restoration funding, the willingness of the Catholic Diocese to support the efforts of the parishioners and community members, and Mountain View Memorial Gardens to be accommodating in the treatment of this historic property.
Built in 1904, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church is the oldest surviving Catholic church in Calgary. Located on Macleod Trail in the historic Midnapore area, the church and its surrounding cemetery stand as testaments to the pioneer community of Fish Creek and early Alberta religious institutions. The renowned missionary Father Albert Lacombe is believed to have been the first resident priest at the church from 1909 until his death in 1916.
The church building—a Provincial Historic Resource—remains the property of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary which has demonstrated little interest in preserving it. The land, however, is owned by Mountain View Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home which hopes to remove the church and erect a mausoleum on the site. Currently, the building is boarded up, deteriorating, and subject to vandalism. Unlike many of the early Catholic churches in Alberta which followed Neo-Classical or Romanesque styles, St. Patrick’s is built in the Carpenter Gothic style and features wood siding and a pyramidal wooden steeple. In 1874, Father Joseph Jean-Marie Lestanc was sent to St. Albert, where, under the direction of Bishop Grandin, he began a series of postings, mainly to missions in the southern foothills. In 1903, he proposed the construction of a church at Fish Creek (Midnapore), a community that had recently developed along the transportation route between Calgary and Fort Macleod. In 1904 area Catholics erected the church on land donated by Patrick Glenn, son of John Glenn, one of Calgary’s pioneer farmers.
The 75-seat church building continued to serve the parish until 1983 when the congregation moved into a new and larger church building. In the early 1990s the land on which the church sits and the cemetery around it were sold to Mountain View Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home with the agreement was that the Catholic diocese would move or demolish the church. The diocese applied for a demolition permit in 2000, but that process was stopped when the province declared the church a Provincial Historic Resource in 2001. Beginning in the late 1990s, a group trying to protect and preserve St. Patrick’s repeatedly tried to gain the support of the Catholic Diocese for their aims. The Old St. Patrick’s Preservation Society, a registered non-profit group, was formed in 2006 with the purpose of restoring and preserving the church. Their efforts have been made more difficult by the slow movement of the Catholic Diocese and the undisclosed intentions of Mountain View Memorial Gardens. As yet no structural assessment study has been done on the building, but vandalism is evident and the possibility of fire threatens the building’s survival.
Update: Since 2012, the church has been occupied by an Orthodox community and it is being restored and renovated. The original old bell has even been reinstalled and fire-damaged woodwork replaced. There is a new roof, and efforts are underway to repair and replace siding. It has been described as a successful “revival of the building.”
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2008