Founded in 1967
Celebrated 50 Years in 2017
Canadian Martyrs is celebrating its 50th Anniversary as a Roman Catholic Parish during 2017. The Parish began its journey shortly before Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967, and, has largely followed the ebbs, flows and changes of its neighbouring communities. Over its first fifty years, the Parish has been largely a family-centric Catholic community, recognized as one of the Calgary Catholic Diocese’s smaller parishes serving, at different periods, from 200 to 400 families. Most recently the Parish is again experiencing growth in numbers and an evangelical spirit.
The leadership, dedication, and spiritual guidance of a number of pastors have blessed Canadian Martyrs parish over the years. They are as follows:
1967-1981: Monsignor Joseph E. Le Forte
1981-1991: Fr. John Weisgerber
1991-1994: Fr. Jaime De Los Angeles
1994-2001: Fr. Gordon Kennedy
2001-2003: Fr. Andrew Pyon
2003-2006: Fr. Ronaldo Badiola
2006-2009: Fr. Inno Cambaling
2009-2014: Fr. Wayne Poile
2014-2016: Fr. Jos Tom Kalathil Parambil
2016-present: Fr. Vincent TuanHa
Forming the Parish
The late Bishop Klein realized that the density of the Catholic population in the northwest quadrant of the city required the building of a church to meet the needs of the growing population in Calgary. There was interest in developing Nose Hill for single-family homes and, even with the development of nearby Corpus Christi, the belief was that the nearby parishes would still have difficulty meeting the needs of the Catholics in these surrounding communities. On August 20, 1967, Bishop Klein constituted the new parish of Canadian Martyrs with the very Reverend Joseph E. Le Fort as its first pastor (later Monsignor Le Fort).
The Parish was formed during the Canadian Centennial Year in 1967, so it seemed fitting that the choice of saints who were to guide us should be associated with Canada. The name “Canadian Martyrs” was embraced. There was a small parcel of city land that was available but two residential lots had to be purchased to be able to start construction. Another house was purchased on nearby Carol Drive to serve as parish offices, chapel, and rectory until the church was built. A parish census was completed reflecting 534 families that the new church would serve.
In the fall of 1967, the architectural firm of Stevenson, Raines, Barrett, Hutton, Seton and Partners were engaged to draw up plans for the new church, parish centre, and rectory. Many meetings took place between the Parish Building Committee (whose members were Mr. Ben Ronellenfitch Chairman; Mr. Victor Bathory, Vice-Chairman; Mr. George Alloro; and Mr. Ernest Tetreau) and the architects over six months until the plan was finalized. The construction of the church building started on July 29, 1968. The cornerstone of the church building was laid on a brisk minus 35° F day on December 29, 1968. The final blessing of the church building occurred on July 27, 1969 by Bishop O’Byrne, followed by a concelebrated Mass.
The Early Years
From its early years, active with the support of strong parish leaders and the guidance of Monsignor Joseph Le Fort, Canadian Martyrs flourished with liturgical programmes: the CanMar Kindergarten, a Montessori Pre-School, Folk Mass, annual parish brunches, weekly coffee hours, yearly raffles, dances, and socials. A CanMar Bridge club and Travel Club also served the membership. The active programmes and calendars not only served the social and spiritual needs of parishioners but also gave the parish numerous opportunities for fund raising and additional revenue sources. Within 10 years, the mortgage on the Parish was paid and a mortgage burning party occurred at St. Francis Retreat in Cochrane.
The Next Few Decades
Initially as the neighborhood and families grew, so grew the numbers at Canadian Martyrs parish. By the early 1980’s the community surrounding Canadian Martyrs started to change. The creation of Nose Hill into a park and not a residential development limited the opportunity for more growth in the area along with the proximity of other churches. The children of the original residents in the neighborhood grew up, moved away, and overall the age demographic shifted to increasingly older residents. By 1996, the parish had more families than when it started, but the families typically were smaller and younger families that were attracted to the parish. The CWL continued to contribute to Canadian Martyrs by funding the Church bells, vestments, sacred vessels, furnishings, and the sound system for the church. A banner making committee was started in 1992.
Starting in the early 1990’s, the parish experienced growth in new liturgical committees formed with increasing numbers of young people invited to become Eucharistic ministers and lectors. In 1993, Bishop O’Byrne invited the Congregation of St. Basil to care for the parish. In addition, new committees and programmes were formed such as scriptural study groups, sacramental preparation, parish and family life, and social events, with a focus on the parish’s young people. A Wednesday Evening Devotion was established addressing the needs of the adult community at Canadian Martyrs. The RCIA program was established in 1994 and, under the Social Action Committee, they started to provide the Christmas Hamper Program associated with families from the Interfaith Food Bank and the Drop-In Centre. Yearly, the parish sponsored two dinners at the Mustard Seed and, with the help of the CWL, one year it donated $2,000 to help with St. Mary’s “Feed the Hungry” dinner.
Beyond the needs of the parish and surrounding community, the parish looked toward the developing world to see if Canadian Martyrs could help. The parish supported the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Development and Peace initiatives and in October 1996 raised $10,000 towards aid for families wishing to immigrate to Canada. A family from Sudan was sponsored in 2000.
The parish encouraged interfaith gatherings and invited various religious leaders to offer homilies and discussions at Canadian Martyrs such as an Anglican Archbishop, a Minister from the Nazarene Church, a Minister of the Baptist Church, and the Executive Director of the Mustard Seed. These discussions helped garner a greater understanding and appreciation of other faiths and organizations. On the departure or transfer of a number of pastors during the 1990’s, the parish held farewell dinners widely attended by parishioners to express their gratitude in their stewardship.
Starting the New Millennium
In August 2001, the Diocese implemented a plan to merge Canadian Martyrs with the Korean parish of St. Andrew Kim. The Korean congregation stayed with Canadian Martyrs until July of 2003 when they relocated to St. Ann’s Church in Calgary. During this period, the Canadian Martyrs’ council of the Knights of Columbus was formed to provide men of the parish a structure for their service to the parish and the community.
As one of the Diocese’s smaller parishes, Canadian Martyrs was recognized as a welcoming and spiritual place for the tenure of older priests nearing the end of their service to the church. Starting in 2003 until 2015, a series of priests provided spiritual stewardship for the parish and its faithful. Parish activities were focused on and accommodated an older parish demographic. In 2004, the Canadian Martyrs’ conference for the Society of St. Vincent DePaul was formed and began its active charitable works in the community.
A New Direction
At the beginning of 2016, Canadian Martyrs pastorship was passed on to the relatively younger pastor in Father Vincent TuanHa. The parish’s demographic was shifting again to include younger families, parishioners from different cultures, and those from other neighborhoods. Once again, there was a growth of new ministries finding their ways to serve parishioners and provide avenues for parishioners to serve others in the practice of their Catholic faith.