Communicantes: November 2001

The apostolate of the Society of St. Pius X in British Columbia
Father Emmanuel Herkel

The apostolate of the Society of St. Pius X in British Columbia owes its establishment to the valiant work of two traditional priests.  This apostolate took a huge step forward this September with the grand opening of the first priory of the Society, in Vernon, BC. Yet, our present occupation is little more than to continue the apostolate established by Fr. Paul Greuter, in the Okanagan valley, and the itinerant missionary work of Fr. Yves Normandin, who did much good in preserving the traditional faith of Catholics during the late seventies and early eighties.

Christ the King church in Langley


Every Sunday, the traditional Mass is offered at Queen of Peace Church, in Vernon, BC, at 9am.  This church building is unique in the possessions of the Society of St. Pius X, by having a large dome. The acoustics are much profited. This building was constructed by the Ukranian Catholics of the region, two generations ago. The church is fairly full with 60 parishioners, so the Ukranians sold it to build something larger. In 1986, Fr. Greuter was able to purchase this church from them, and it became the center of the first traditional Catholic “parish”1 in the Okanagan valley, to be established since the Second Vatican Council.  Here, for many years alone, Fr. Greuter preserved the faith of his growing parish, and administered the sacraments to souls.

Close-up of the main altar in Langley


In 1997, thinking ahead to his retirement, and the eventual establishment of a priory of the SSPX in Vernon, Fr. Greuter built a large residence, next to the church and parish hall.  This is now Our Lady Queen of Peace Priory, which opened this Autumn.  It is a spacious house, with kitchen and dining area, three offices at the front entrance, bedrooms, and guest rooms.  Fr. Greuter, by such wise foresight regarding the expected expansion of our apostolate in British Columbia, succeeded in luring priests here, rather than to Langley.

Saint Joseph Chruch in Oliver


This good work was not confined to one city; fervent Catholics, alarmed by the modernist changes, sought him out, and so Fr. Greuter had many small missions across the valley, which he visited regularly.  In one of these missions, south, close to the US border, Fr. Greuter was able to purchase a church in 1999.  This is St. Joseph’s Church, in Oliver, BC.  Much work had to be done to renovate this formerly Protestant church.  The interior is now recognizably Catholic, with pews, a high ceiling, and dominated by a beautiful marble-like altar and a statue of the patron.  The pews will accommodate 100 people – room to grow.  Mass is offered there every second Sunday, in the afternoon.

Our dear Fr. Greuter had also established a domestic chapel in Kamloops, at the house of a traditional Catholic family.  They maintain in their home, a room dedicated as a sanctuary, and well decorated with an altar, short pews, and an attached sacristy.  Until such time as the parish grows to require a proper church, Mass is offered in this humble setting every second Sunday in the afternoon.

If you are good at logistics, you may already realize that one priest remains in the Okanagan valley each weekend, to offer Mass at Vernon, and then at Oliver or Kamloops.  The second priest travels each weekend to the West Coast. For years, Society priests were flying into Vancouver, each week or two, from Winnipeg or Calgary. It was inconvenient, and terribly expensive, but there was no other way to bring the Mass to our faithful by the sea-side, and also to those on Vancouver Island.  This situation has been much improved by the residence of two SSPX priests in Vernon, and the retirement of Fr. Greuter to Nanaimo.

Our Lady of Good Counsel church in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island


First Nanaimo; Our Lady of Good Counsel Church is especially dear to me, as my former “parish”2 .  It was there I learned to serve the Latin Mass.  Or rather it was not there, but in Lantzville, a small ocean-front community north of Nanaimo.  This building was constructed as a Catholic Church, but abandoned after the Council, and sold, to be used as a … day care center.  Fortunately this business venture failed, and it was sold again to a club next door.  The men of the club wanted to use the land where the church was for a horseshoe pitch, and so they happily sold us the building for $1000, on the condition that we remove it.  Land was purchased in the city of Nanaimo, and the building was moved there and enlarged in 1989.  So Our Lady of Good Counsel Church was restored to use for true Catholic worship, and of course we revived the original name.

The largest “parish”3 of the Society of St. Pius X, in British Columbia, is in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver.  The Church of Christ the King was purchased in 1990.  The sanctuary suffered from a destructive fire in 1992.  But thanks to much hard work and careful craftsmanship, the church has been restored, a replica of the original tall wooden altar constructed, and the final effect is more beautiful than the beginning.  The interior is very attractive, with a high peaked interior ceiling, a fifteen foot tall wooden main altar, supporting a statue of Christ, our King, and two matching (smaller) side altars.  Mass is now offered every Sunday morning at this church near the metropolis, and the same priest will sometimes also visit Nanaimo on Sunday afternoon.  Recently, catechism lessons after Sunday Mass have been well attended.  Such education is necessary to strengthen our faith, which is continually assaulted by a godless world.

In all of “super natural British Columbia” there are only four churches dedicated exclusively to the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass.  All are served by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X, with the continuing assistance of Fr. Paul Greuter.  The faith, which was once a bright beacon in this Province, has been reduced to a flicker by the terrible synthesis of heresy in our days.  But the light of faith will never be extinguished, and we are confident that under the patronage of our lady, Star of the Sea, we will again enkindle the faith in the souls of our neighbours.

1. One should rather use the expression "quasi-parish", or "supplied parish", because from the canonical point of view, strictly speaking, our chapels are not parishes. Nevertheless, it is in these traditional chapels, as opposed to the Novus Ordo parishes, that our faithful can find the true Catholic Mass, the genuine Sacraments of the Church that surely convey grace, and the authentic and true doctrine of the Catholic Church, all of which compounds a healthy and strong spiritual food, which is not poisond by error and heresy, and which baptized Catholics have the strict right to receive.

2. See note No. 1

3. See Note No. 1

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