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ST. ANTHONY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH


St. Anthony's Parish could be said to have started in 1905 with the coming of the railway through Lloydminster. The railway allowed Father Auguste Bernier and his assistant, Father Jean Garnier, to visit the local Catholic people. These two men had a large area to serve: east of Vegreville between the North Saskatchewan and Battle River, all the way through into Saskatchewan. Roman Catrholics would gather in a local hotel to hear Mass and receive the sacraments from these missionary priests. In 1909, Father Henry Goutier was appointed priest of the Parish of Vermilion. As there was no church or priest's house in Vermilion, Father Goutier worked out of Vegreville until 1910, when churches were built in both Vermilion and Lloydminster. Lloydminster remained part of the Parish of Vermilion until 1924.

The Roman Catholic parish community began in Lloydminster in 1909 with Father Henri Goutier, a missionary priest appointed to establish a church in Vermilion.    Father Goutier served Lloydminster from Vermilion from 1909 - 1924.  

At this time, through the Church Extension Society of Canada, a gift of $500.00 was received from a Mr. Hirst, in memory of his son Anthony, for a memorial chapel. This first place of worship was built on the NE corner of 53 Avenue and 49 Street, facing south. When well filled, it would hold about 100 people seated on chairs. These early parishioners included: (Lloydminster) the Almond family; A. Behnke; Mrs. Boorman; the Bourne family; H. Browsen; W.E. Coleman; Mrs. Cryne; G. DeLisle; J. Edelmayer; E.W.H. Howell; the Hughes; 0. Ingram; J.S. Jerone; A. Keichinger; P. Lahaye; A. Maloney; J.A. McLean; the McLellans; J. Powers; J.A. Probert; J. Swan; H. Trulin: P. Weighhill; the Zackowski's. (Kitscoty) Tim Bootsman; E. Carroll; E. Dalton; J. Drew; J. Finlin; P. Freehill; G.E. Hines; P. Hurley; Mrs. McDonald; Thomas McGreey; Steve O'Connor; B. Orwick; L. Newton; Tim Sexton; W.J. Kennedy. (Marshall) Mrs. H. Fisher; J. R. Hodgson; the O'Connors; F.W. Wells.

Electric lighting, operating off the town generator, was available in this church. Lights consisted of single bulbs - one on either side of the altar and two in the body of the church. Leo Cavanagh remembers well the church lights. "They swayed in the winds, " he recalls.  A cast iron stove near the back of the church provided heat during the colder months. When Father Dobson arrived however, the winter months' Mass was often celebrated in the rectory because of the inadequate heating in the church. With a full crowd in attendance, people would often spill over into the kitchen as the rooms of the rectory would fill.

Father Thomas Dobson was the first resident pastor. He had come to Western Canada from England on the advice of his doctor who had suggested that a drier climate might improve a serious respiratory ailment. Archbishop O’Leary of Edmonton welcomed the young priest and immediately sent him on a “temporary” assignment to Lloydminster and its far-flung missions. Not only did the climate improve his health, but Father Dobson was able to assume the rigors of missionary life with unwavering zeal and dedication. The “temporary” posting was to last for more than 24 years!

The story was told that Father Dobson had a special pet and companion, a little fox terrier. One Sunday, the dog got lonely (Father was celebrating Mass) and so decided to attend the service himself. It was summertime so he trotted in through the open door, walked right up the aisle, poked his head through the altar rail curtain, looked around, and trotted back out. Father Dobson happened to see him just as he left the altar rail, and if looks could kill, the poor dog would have dropped in his tracks.

In 1948, St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton was in need of a spiritual director and professor of English and Father Dobson was invited to fill these positions. It was a very difficult departure. Happily though, he was able to return during the Christmas and summer vacation breaks to assist his successor, Father Gorman.  On June 19, 1959 while coming home to Lloydminster, Father Dobson was fatally injured. The automobile in which he was a passenger, was involved in a head-on collision near Vegreville. The first Catholic School - "St. Thomas" and the Knights of Columbus Council were named in memory of this great pioneer pastor.

On July 1, 1948, Father Gorman arrived and work was started on a badly needed new church building. Ground was broken for the church by Father Gorman, not ceremoniously with a shovel, but with an actual "Cat." It was found out later that, prior to becoming a priest, the Father had learned to operate all types of heavy equipment. This new church was located on the NW corner of 52 Avenue and 44 Street. The parish moved into it in August, 1949, and the basement was completed in 1950. The vestry and front entryway were added at a later date. The grand cost of this church was $49,536.81. The total labor cost was $13,167.44. The architect used was Husky's architect. Joe Nicodemus, whose line of work was heavy machinery and excavation, and Greg Baribeau, Sr., a carpenter, who provided much of the expertise in the building of the Church. Parishioners did the remainder of the general labor with everyone pitching in to help out. With the exception of the plumbing and electrical work, all was donated or given at cost.

To raise money for the church, the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) organized suppers, teas, bazaars, and held them in the Alberta Hall. Under the capable organizational skills of the ladies, everyone in the parish, including the children, pitched in to make them truly parish affairs. The stairs up to the hall were narrow and everything used (except for the table and chairs) had to be brought in each time. What a job carrying the water! Later on, these events were held on the main floor.

The parish was not very old when various groups began to form and contribute to the life of St. Anthony's.  On the first Sunday in May, 1924, Mrs. Culford, President of the Vermilion C.W.L., came to Lloydminster to help organize the St. Anthony's council of the Catholic Women's League. Mrs. A. Behnke became the organization's first active president. First line of business for the group was to get a house ready for Father Dobson. The C.W.L. also ran the fair booth during the thirties. Lucella Ross remembers helping wait on tables, as complete meals were offered to hungry fair-goers. Money raised was used for the new church building.  In 1977 under the leadership of Father Donald Stein, the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception arrived in Lloydminster to assist in Pastoral Ministry.

The Catholic school system rapidly grew and in October, 1963, St. Mary's was opened to eighty-six students to accommodate grades nine to twelve. In 1969, it was converted to a junior high school. In 1985, St. Mary's had a re-opening as Holy Rosary High School and once again offered grade eight to high school programming.  Two other elementary Catholic schools opened in Lloydminster. They were: Father Gorman, opened in August, 1977 and the newest school, St. Joseph's, which was officially opened on November 3, 1982.

Faced with an ever expanding community and an aging building, plans for our present building were conceived. Much of the introductory work began under the leadership of Father Stein. Through a lot of hard work on the part of many people, the dream came true on Palm Sunday of 1987.  A bridge from the old to the new was created with a procession which walked from the old church to the new building which is located at 27 Street and 56 Avenue. The first Mass in the new premises was celebrated by Father Karl Raab at 9:00 a.m. on April 12,1987.

Apart from the statistics and dates, it is very important that the many unnamed individuals be recognized whose hard work, participation and commitment, and talents contributed to the parish.  Buildings go up and buildings fall, but the active faith of the parish community forms the main foundation of the church. With this faith, a church can truly be the living body of Christ.


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