Parish History of Holy Name of Jesus, Vermilion
Compiled and/or written by Geraldine Collins, 2010
(Please let me know of any errors or items of interest to add)
Early Beginnings (1908-1953)
Denis Noonan and his wife Mary, along with bachelor Raymond Mercier, arrived from Quebec in 1907 to find the town of Vermilion with several businesses but without a Catholic Church. In response, Dennis, Raymond and a small number of parishioners sawed and hammered together a small building which would become the first church, with Mary as it’s organist. It was served about four times a year by Fr. Bernier of Vegreville. Other early parishioners included:
These early pioneers must have liked their social events and laughter as we do, for The Vermilion Standard reported on November 3, 1909, that “the ladies of the Roman Catholic Church will give a ‘fowl dinner’ in the Rutherford Hall on November 11th, a week from tomorrow. Admission, Adults, 35￠ and children 15￠. Watch for bills.”
In 1909, Fr. Henri Goutier was appointed by Mgr. E. Legal to “take charge of the parish of Vermilion” and he became the town’s first resident Catholic priest. As for the building itself, a few years after it opened the Church was enlarged, secured with a new stone foundation, and enhanced with a tower and bell. Eventually a sanctuary was added to the east end, along with a sacristy. The missions of Mannville, Islay and Dewberry were attended in private homes as there were as of yet no churches.
The missionary service of Fr. Henri reached far and wide, and in 1923/24 included parishioners in Mannville, Islay, Dewberry, Kitscoty, Marshall, Vanesti and even Lloydminster! The Financial Statement of 1923 reported a nearly-balanced budjet, with $2801.90 coming in and all but $51.35 going out.
Fr. Henri served Vermilion and the surrounding missions until 1925.
Other priests to serve the parish until the building of the second church in 1953 included:
The Second Church (1952-1975)
Under the guidance of Rev. Fr. Landrigan and driven by the need for a larger building to support the growing community of Vermilion, the new Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church was blessed and officially opened on April 12, 1953 by Most Reverend J.H. MacDonald, Archbishop of Edmonton. Costing $65, 000 and with a seating capacity of 350, the church boasted new pews, a tiled aisle leading to the altar, and a full-sized basement with a “well-equipped modern kitchen” (p. 17). Wm. J. Pettigrew “was in charge of construction of the fine ediface and the finished building [was] a great credit to his abilities both in design and craftsmanship” (p. 17).
In addition to Fr. Landrigan, pastors to serve in this building included:
Highlights of this time included, firstly, Vermilion’s first ordination on July 3, 1955 when Fr. Henri Goutier’s nephew Maurice jointed the priesthood. Second was an invitation by Archbishop Jordan in 1965 to the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron to open a convent in Vermilion. The sisters responded favourably and Rev. Fr. Keenan, parish priest and founder of St. Jerome’s, welcomed Sr. Helene Levasseur, Sr. Monique Beaudoin, Sr. Rosanne Favreau and St. Louisa Theroux on August 28th of that year. The sisters served faithfully as teachers at St. Jerome’s school and as nurses at the Municipal Hospital. Finally, 1974 marked the 65th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Vermilion, and the ensuing celebration led by Fr. Purcell was blessed with the presence of other priests from Edmonton, Vegreville and Clandonald. Mass was held and then followed by a pot luck supper at St. Jerome’s, presentations and some entertainment.
Unfortunately, the church only stood for 22 years before being claimed by a fire of unknown origin on March 1, 1975. The building itself and all its contents were completely destroyed. “We couldn’t even save the Blessed Sacrament”, said Fr. Purcell, “the heavy smoke forced us back and we just couldn’t go in”. Firemen were, however, able to save the adjoining rectory which was separated from the church by a fire wall.
The Present Church (1975-)
On the day of the Official Opening and Dedication new church in 1976, Fr. Purcell was quoted as saying the following regarding the devastating fire of the previous church:
Insurance in excess of $100, 000 helped to build the new church, along with a special building fund which was set up to cover the rest. Designed by architects Dupuis-Donahue from Edmonton, the new church took on a more ‘modern’ square design than the long and narrow churches of the past.
In 1990, the parishes of Vermilion and Clandonald were amalgamated and served by one priest. Lay involvement was increased to take some of the workload off the priest, including once-a-month lay-led services and more involvement in ministries such as preparation of the sacraments, religious instruction of children, adult education, youth ministry and financial and moral support to Third World Missions. At this time each of the two parishes maintained their own parish councils.
This was to change, however, when in 2006 Fr. Stan Lasko facilitated the joining of the three parish councils of Derwent, Clandonald and Vermilion into one. The mission statement currently reads:
The parish of Vermilion currently has an active Knights of Columbus Council and Catholic Women’s League. The parish council has placed a strong emphasis on stewardship and continues to ask people to use their time, talent and treasure in the service of God and our parish community. St. Jerome’s school maintains strong ties to the church through monthly Masses. In 2008, Archbishop Richard Smith appointed Deacon Kenneth Noster of Derwent to assist at Holy Name of Jesus, St. Joseph's and St. Columba's.
Pastors and clergy who have served since Fr. Purcell include:
May God continue to bless our parish community with new members, enthusiastic stewards, strong leadership and holy and zealous religious men and women.