I. History of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish was founded in 1913 by Archbishop Timothy Casey, D.D.; at its beginning the parish had sixty families. The Archbishop invited Father Luigi Ciambastiani (Order of the Servants of Mary – Servite Fathers) who came from Chicago and began to help Father Joseph MacNeill of Sacred Heart Parish caring for Italian immigrants. In 1913 the original church of OLS was build under the supervision of Father A.M. Bauman, OSM. The Order of the Servants of Mary served the parish faithfully for forty-one years, and were loved and trusted by their flock, until they entrusted the parish once again to the Archdiocese in 1954.
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish began as a territorial parish: stretching from Rupert Street on the east to Garden Drive on the west, from First Avenue on its southern border down to the water’s edge, Wall Street on the north.
During this first period of parish life, the parish grew and developed a strong community spirit. Vancouver’s first Holy Name Society was begun here in 1924, and many religious and social activities sprang up to show the vigour of parish life. The parish has always been ethnically diverse. In the early years there were many people of Irish and Scottish descent, as well as immigrants from Italy and many from Croatia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The parish grew from the original sixty families in 1913 to 175 families in 1933, to 460 in 1951, and over a thousand by the mid 1950’s. When the Servite Fathers left the parish in 1954 the school enrollment was 350, the parish was debt free and there were numerous parish organizations with many active members.
In 1926 Our Lady of Sorrows School began. On August 26th Sisters Rose de Lima, Maria Patricia, Angela de Lourdes and Maria Baptista of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax arrived in Vancouver, and they lived in the convent of St. Helen’s Parish, Burnaby for one year, moving into the first Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish at 2624 Pender Street in August of 1927. The parish convent was later moved to 2162 Turner Street in 1928, to 2516 Turner Street in 1929. In 1953 the parish built a convent for the Sisters of Charity of Halifax at 2811 Venables Street, which they occupied until 1982.
The school was solemnly blessed by His Grace Archbishop Timothy Casey on August 29th, 1926 and the school opened on September 7th of the same year with 92 students. In 1963 there were 385 children enrolled.
The Sisters of Charity of Halifax educated generations of children in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, teaching in the school from 1927 onwards until they left the parish in 1982, and in Notre Dame Regional High School from its opening in 1953 onwards.
The Golden Jubilee book lists vocations from the parish.
Some of these persons subsequently left the consecrated life. More recently God called from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Father Laurence McKenna C.R. (Resurrectionist) and David Belusci O.P., who lived in the parish as a child and who will be ordained in 2008.
Father Donald. L. Campbell of the Archdiocese of Vancouver was parish priest for Our Lady of Sorrows Parish from 1954 to 1960. Under his direction a fund raising campaign for a new church began in 1958, and the current parish church building was finished and dedicated in 1960. Father Campbell inserted the Servite crest in the floor of the new building in front of the altar to commemorate the dedication of the Servite Fathers for many years in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. For a time the old church was used as a hall for parish and school activities.
During this period of time new immigrants from Italy became dominant in the parish’s ethnic mix. Indeed the parish population tripled during the 1950’s and pastoral care for the new Italian immigrants was an urgent need. The Archdiocese entrusted the parish to the pastoral care of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrini Fathers), dedicated to the pastoral care of Italian emigrants in 1960, and Father Adam Torresan C.S. was appointed pastor. The Scalabrini Fathers continue to minister in the parish today, in the year 2007. The priests soon began to minister to the needs of other ethnic groups. Father Gerolamo Angeli C.S. began working with Portuguese immigrants, also in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, in the year 1960.
The Scalabrini Fathers continue to inspire a strong family and religious spirit in the parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows, evidenced in vigorous parish life, with many parish organizations and groups functioning, from children and youth to the elderly. In 1970 the new parish hall was finished under the direction of Father Peter Sordi, pastor. The following year a fire destroyed the old rectory. The old hall (former church) and rectory were cleared away and a new rectory, also housing parish offices and meeting rooms was built, finished in 1972, during the pastorate of Father Joseph Bolzan. The parish school building was also renovated, beginning in 1973 under the direction of Father Rino Spada. The school building was enlarged in 1989 to its present size.
In 1981 the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence (Guanellian Sisters) came to the Archdiocese of Vancouver to begin Vanspec, a catechetical program for mentally handicapped children; they took up residence within the parish. The following year the Sisters of Charity of Halifax left the parish after fifty five years of service and the Guanellian sisters occupied the parish convent, using it also for catechism classes. From that time until the present one or more sisters have been active in the parish, contributing to religious education in parish and school, and helping in many other ways in the parish. In 1997, when Father Agostino Lovatin was pastor, the church building was remodelled. The job turned out to be a major one when asbestos insulation was found and had to be removed.
The new millenium brought a new challenge to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish with the integration of the Hispanic Catholic Mission (see Part II for a history of the Mission) into the parish, a decision of Archbishop Adam Exner O.M.I. The end of the Hispanic Catholic Mission and the beginning of a new chapter for Our Lady of Sorrows Parish was celebrated at a solemn trilingual mass on September 8th, 2001, presided by the Archbishop.
The integration of the Hispanic Catholic Mission into Our Lady of Sorrows Parish brought a new ethnic mix into the parish, along with the challenges of real integration, which continue today. The parish is now officially trilingual, with services in English for those who live within the parish boundaries, in Italian for those who live within the parish boundaries or nearby, and in Spanish for the entire archdiocese. There are currently four missions in Spanish outside the City of Vancouver, served by the Scalabrini Fathers and the Teresian Carmelite Missionary sisters, but it is difficult to serve the needs satisfactorily over such a large area.
The Hispanic community has also brought many new celebrations and traditions to the parish. We now have street procession for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday and for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in September and trilingual masses for a number of special feasts. The celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Migrant’s Day (Christ the King) have become important parish events, as has the multicultural Dia Alegre festival in the summer. The parish also runs an active food bank for new immigrants and other needy people.
II. History of the Hispanic Catholic Mission
Eucharistic celebrations for Spanish speaking immigrants in the Archdiocese of Vancouver began under the direction of Father Donald Campbell, pastor of Holy Name Church in Vancouver, where a weekly Sunday Eucharist was begun in 1973 with Father Leonard Puesh celebrating in Spanish. About the same time, Sister Adrienne Peak began ministering to the needs of immigrants, especially recently arrived refugees from Chile.
In 1975 the Hispanic community moved to Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Vancouver where the Scalabrini Fathers ministered to the Portuguese community. These priests celebrated masses in Spanish as well until Father Claudio Llopis, a Spanish capuchin, began to serve the community full time in 1978. With Father Claudio the Hispanic Catholic Mission was born, and it moved for a few years to St. Patrick’s Parish. Sister Betty Lou Knox helped with social services and English classes.
Over the years of the Hispanic Catholic Mission, many priests served the Hispanic population, most only briefly.
The Hispanic Catholic Mission grew stronger when Father Eduardo Diaz, a diocesan priest from Colombia, arrived in 1986. At that time there were many refugees and other new immigrants, most of them from Central America, and in need of much spiritual and social assistance. Father Diaz searched for a community of religious sisters to help him in ministering to the Hispanic community and four Teresian Carmelite Missionary sisters arrived in 1989: Pilar Berenguer C.M.T.(superior) (Spanish) from Paraguay, Teresa Rosas C.M.T. and Rosa Jara C.M.T. from Chile, and Pilar Espizua C.M.T. (Spanish) from Italy. The human and spiritual needs of this immigrant population were many and varied; many of them had fled war and violence, and were suffering family disintegration and severe culture shock.
The Teresian Carmelite Missionaries have continued to help the Archdiocese’s Spanish speaking immigrants until the present, providing some continuity and stability to the community.
The Hispanic Catholic Mission lived the experience of a pilgrim church; made up of immigrants of varied origins, the mission itself had no permanent home and used the premises temporarily of many of the churches in the Archdiocese (see Tables 5 & 6). This pilgrim state was shared also by the priests and sisters who journeyed with the Mission as it moved from one place to another until a permanent home was found in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish (Vancouver) in 2001.
The integration into Our Lady of Sorrows Parish was at the desire of Archbishop Adam Exner, omi, who wanted all the Catholic Missions to be integrated into territorial parishes. The Hispanic Catholic Mission was the last to be officially integrated, with the first mass being celebrated in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish on September 8, 2001, presided by the Archbishop. Unfortunately the integration process was not accepted by some of the members of the Mission, who left the community. At that time the Hispanic Catholic Mission officially ended, and the pastoral care of all Spanish speaking members of the Archdiocese who wished for services in Spanish passed to Our Lady of Sorrows. As well as Spanish services in the parish in Vancouver, services have continued outside of the City of Vancouver in Surrey (weekly Eucharist, catechesis, prayer groups, social activities), in Port Coquitlam until 2006 and in Coquitlam from 2006 to the present (weekly Eucharist, sacraments, prayer group, social activities), Abbotsford (monthly Eucharist) and North Vancouver (prayer group). A census of the Mission shortly before integration showed more than 800 families participating actively in religious activities.