St. Anthony of Padua – Agassiz, British Columbia
St. Anthony of Padua parish is located in the friendly country atmosphere of the town of Agassiz, B.C. Our first church building was built in 1913, but previous to that, the Catholic settlers attended Mass at the First Nations Mission Church of Immaculate Conception at Seabird Island. The Oblate missionaries traveled up and down the Fraser River, serving the communities on a regular basis. The Hop Yard Industry provided much employment to the communities during this period, especially to the First Nations from Chehalis and Harrison Mills. Mass was celebrated there, and as well at Seabird Island. Several baptisms were performed in the Hop Yard, until it ceased operations in the early 1950’s.
Mr. Arthur Agassiz, who is the pioneer name sake of our town, donated the land where the present church is located today. His long-time housekeeper, Miss Susie Miller was a Catholic, and because Mr. Agassiz thought highly of her, he chose a site close to his home for her convenience. Mr. Agassiz, also, donated the first organ to the church and Miss Miller was the first organist for our parish. (that working organ remains on display in our parish meeting room) Upon its construction, the first church was blessed on October 12, 1913 by Most Reverend Timothy Casey, Archbishop of Vancouver. There were 10 families registered in our community at that time. On the occasion of the blessing, 15 young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation. The first baby was baptized on January 31, 1915, and the first marriage solemnized was in 1917.
In 1928, the parish was able to raise money to purchase a church bell and five statues from France. They came by a six-month boat trip via the Cape Horn on the last trip that was made by that freighter around the Horn. The bell was named Maria Antonia Teresa, and her name is cast in raised bronze on the bell. Other raised names include the name of the foundry where the bell was cast, along with the pastor at the time, Reverend M. Lepine, OMI, and the original donors of the bell. The statues were of the Sacred Heart, Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Therese. The bell and statues were blessed by the Most Reverend William Mark Duke, Archbishop of Vancouver, and 3 of the statues still remain in our church. It is interesting to note that one of the original pioneers in the church, Mr. Emile Martin, had the unique distinction of being second cousin to St. Therese, the Little Flower.
St. Anthony of Padua was given the status of Parish in 1939. The first parish priest was Fr. Aidan Angle, OSB, and a rectory was built for his residence that same year. In 1950, because extensive repairs were required on our church, it was decided to construct a new church building and rectory. The architect of our church was awarded Silver Medal for the church design in 1955. In 1958, the church bell tower was erected adjacent to the building, and the four-room school building was built for Religious Education programs in 1960. A portion of land was purchased from our neighbor for $6,737.52 in 1965, and it was that land that we were able to sell in 2005 to support the renovations done to the present church renovation in 2006. Our local Knights of Columbus (K of C) was selected for two awards in recognition of their tremendous volunteer efforts in the this renovation project: First Place in the State Category, which included all of British Columbia and Yukon, and Second Place award was in the Supreme Category of the International Service Programs Awards Competition – Church Category. We are very proud and grateful to them for their volunteerism and generosity! Our Catholic Women’s League (CWL) largely supported the purchase and installation of the appliances for the Parish Kitchen.
During the tenure of Fr. Dennis Flores, the stained glass window project was completed. All windows were generously donated by individuals and families. Most notable is that one of the large windows behind the altar was donated by the Martin Family Estate, original pioneers in the parish. The windows were blessed by Reverend Flores on the feast of our patron, St. Anthony of Padua on June 13, 2007.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) are no longer to supply priests for the First Nations Communities, and so St. Anthony of Padua has become the administrator of Immaculate Conception Parish in Seabird Island, Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Chehalis, as well as the mission churches at Skowlitz and Cheam Communities. Note: When our church was built in 1913, the people of Immaculate Conception Parish in Seabird Island worked alongside our parishioners to erect the new facility.
Our parish has approximately 150 families who are registered and active in the parish. The volunteers in our parish give of their time and energy with such unselfishness, and it is because of them that our parish continues to flourish. We have an active and generous CWL & K of C who support our parish with their time, talents, and treasure. Parents are eager and willing to help in teaching our children in the Parish Religious Education Program (PREP), and so we continue to grow in our faith.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish community comes from a long and proud heritage. One of our original pioneers, Mrs. Florence Sinclair, will turn 100 years this upcoming November. She has spent her entire life attending our parish, rarely missing a Sunday Mass. She is a tremendous example to all of us, and we will strive to continue in the footsteps of our forefathers in fulfilling our parish mission statement:
We, the Catholic community of St. Anthony of Padua, relying on the Wisdom and Grace of God, unite ourselves to the call for renewal and transformation of our spiritual, social, and economic life.
Now… in 2015, the Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCD) has assumed the responsibility of ministering to our parish. We are grateful for this, and we welcome them to our parish community!
Fr. Steny Mascarenhas OCD
God bless you!