“Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord.”(Ephesians 2:21)
White settlers were drawn to this area by the 1858 Cariboo Gold Rush. The West End was an out-of-the-way place and of little value compared with the Fraser Valley. It was not until 1862 that three young Englishmen, John Morton, William Hailstone and Samuel Brighouse decided to buy a piece of land in the area. For that action they were dubbed the “Three Greenhorns”. The Greenhorns’ land, now known as the West End, was officially called that in 1887 when the Vancouver School Board built and named the West End school
With the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s plans for a terminus beside the Greenhorns’ acreage, the settlement of Georgia and Robson Streets and the establishment of Stanley Park, the West End’s southern boundary became known and populated as a relaxing beach resort.
Eventually the area, along with the west side of Bute Street, formed the setting for Guardian Angels Parish. It took another Gold Rush in 1898 to swell the West End population and to bring homes, the provision of tram-way transportation along Robson Streen and unpaved Davie Street, and resulting businesses
There were subsequent upheavals caused by two world wars, some people moving out of the West End and others, from Canada and other parts of the world, moving in. A core of residents, some born int he West End, remained. From all of those folk came the diversity that formed the ;congregation of Guardian Angels Church.
When the number of Catholic parishioners in the West End grew large enough, the Archdiocese of Vancouver appointed one of its priests to conduct services there on a regular basis. This saved the parishioners the long walk to Holy Rosary Cathedral for Mass. Not yet having a church building, the priest celebrated Masses in the small building already purchased by the Archdiocese for future use.
The first functioning entity in Guardian Angels Parish was the sixteenth Catholic school in Vancouver, built on property purchased in 1940 from Mrs. Kelly of Kelly-Douglas at the corner of Davie and Broughton Streets. The building, consisting of four classrooms, was completed by late 1941.
Cathedral rector Father John Miles, project overseer, was Master of Ceremonies when the school was blessed and dedicated by Archbishop William Mark Duke on the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, 1941. The school had four teaching sisters, two sisters who were school nurses and one sister who was the housekeeper and cook.
In 1946, St. Ann’s Academy on Dunsmuir Street closed, and the kindergarten class at Guardian Angels was discontinued to allow for the inclusion of the overflow from St. Ann’s grammar grades that could not be accommodated by Little Flower Academy. Enrolment at Guardian Angels then increased from 60 to 130, tapering off by 1951 to an average count of 110 pupils.
In subsequent years the attendance varied, but in the late 60s enrolment dropped from as many as 73 students to as few as 29. Father Gordon, after conferring with the Archbishop, decided that it must be closed. It had never been profitable, but the number of students now decreased each year with the increase in high-rise apartment buildings, which had a policy of ‘no children allowed’.
In 1971, a Day Care Centre was opened in the vacant building and operated for some years.
Guardian Angels Parish has had two priesthood vocations among its parishioners. Father Bruce McCormick, O.M.I., a former altar boy in this parish, was the first priest to be ordained out of Guardian Angels School. Father Marcus (Hector) Macrae, O.S.B., became a priest while a parishioner of Guardian Angels.
There is more detailed information about the school, its students and teachers in the Guardian Angels’ Fortieth Anniversary book.
Shortly after the opening of the school, a chapel was set up in the basement to take the overflow from the Cathedral on Sundays. The chapel area was small, and the overflow such that people sat on the stairs and even inside the confessional. Mrs. A. Cummings described it:
“The school basement was partitioned in two and small altar with a wall-hanging behind a statue of Our Holy Mother, a communion rail, and a number of benches with wooden kneelers furnished the little chapel. A small cubicle at the back served as a vesting place for the priest and was also used as a confessional.”
The partition between the chapel and the school basement was made removable and on Sundays the congregation overflowed into the school basement where there were no kneelers, just the cold concrete floor. Mrs. Cummings had the privilege of kneeling in the front pew to give the Latin responses and to ring the Sanctus bell.
The basement area improved when volunteers carried out the finishing work.
At Easter in 1948, the Archdiocese of Vancouver announced the establishment of a church at Broughton and Pendrell Streets, where once stood an Italian rose garden. It was to be known as “the Chapel of ease tot he Cathedral”. Plans for the building began as early as mid-1948. Construction took place in 1949.
The structure is of stone and brick, fire-resistant, and has a foundation of concrete wall with footings. The pews were made of fir and the windows are of two-toned stained glass. The late Dr. Vincent Moe and his mother donated the tabernacle. On Sunday, May 21, 1950, this church was blessed by His Grace, Archbishop Duke, assisted by the Reverend Francis A. Clinton together with Father James Fagan. It was dedicated to war services personnel and called Guardian Angels Church.
Chuck O’Fallon recalls that the first altar missal was donated to Fr. Clinton by four young men – Bill Pearson, Chuck O’Fallon, Ed Vermeersch and Gerry Jameson – who went out carolling from house to house around Christmas time to raise funds to buy it.
The original reed organ, after many repairs, was donated to the Oblate priests in Hope. A new one was bought by means of contributions from the Royal Canadian Legion in memory of Armed Forces personnel and bears a plaque reading:
“This organ has been placed in our church as a memorial in memory of the members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in the service of their country.”
The original Crucifix was donated by Mrs. Ernest Weeks.
“We had a crucifix which had a plaster corpus glued to the main bar of the cross, about two years after I got here,” Father Gordon recalled in the 1989 parish history book. “With the heat of the church andgeneral wear and tear, the glue came apart and the whole Crucifix came tumbling down. The corpus, made of plaster of Paris, crashed to the floor ina thousand pieces. So we had a new corpus made, designed by an artist in Rome… I got advise ont he size of the cross to hold it and that’s what we have now.”
The side altars were donated by Major Martin Griffin and his mother. They were later reduced in size. The statue of the blessed Virgin Mary was a gift from Mr. mcFarlane at his conversion to the faith, and the stations of the cross were donated by Mrs. Alice Ontkean. The altar bells replace bells that had been stolen earlier and were the gift of Beryl and Roland Daoust to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.
In the spring and fall of 1965, liturgical renovations necessitated by Vatican Council II were overseen by Father Hugh McIsaac and Right Reverend Father Mallon. The altar was turned sot that the priest faced the people and the Tabernacle was installed in a side chapel. They also added a new office ont he northwest corner of the rectory and arranged for access from there, to be closer to the sacristy.
Landscaping and urgently needed renovations began in 1984, under the leadership of Father Leon Kotsko. Helen Bautovich remembers having to place buckets in the front pews to catch the drips where the roof leaked. The original fir pews were replaced, the lectern remodelled, new carpeting installed and the heating improved. Father Leon was also responsible for the arrangement of two short pews in front to allow wheelchair access. By 1986 the sanctuary and reconciliation room were revamped and a washroom added to the vestibule.
The sidewalk was replaced, removing all steps and making the approach to the door accessible to the handicapped and the elderly. The ceiling was painted, with a new three-toned design. In 1989, lettering was set above the entrance to identify the building as Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Church.
New in 1999 were two circular han-painted stained glass windows donated by Gerald Scully in memory of members of his family. One depicts the annunciation and the other a guardian angel comforting a child.
In 1903 Mr. Douglas, co-founder of Kelly-Douglas Foods built the house that is known as the Rectory. Around 1922, Archbishop Timothy Casey purchased this for the archdiocese. It served as the episcopal residence until around 1930. During the ’30s and ’40s it became an aprtment or rooming house.
In 1946, Father Clinton took up residence there and the building became the rectory. During later renovations under Father Kotsko, finished by Father Tritschler, the landscaping mentioned above was done. Also the roof was repaired, and the basement renovated. When the changes were complete, there were new meeting rooms and a kitchen so that the lower level could be used for receptions.
Guardian Angels officially became a parish on April 10, 1996.
Guardian Angels – A Mirror of the Universal Church
Guardian Angels is home to people from more than 30 countries or regions of the world. They each bring different gifts to share and they help in building the faith community.
Even for those born in Canada and raised as ‘cradle Catholics’ before the second Vatican council, it sometimes seems a very different church from the one we remember as children.
Memories remain of Latin Mass and limbo, scapular medals and St. Christopher, plenary indulgences and Gregorian chant, high and low masses.
Now we hear Mass in English, with occasional visiting priests saying Mass in the language of a community, whether Tagalog or Portuguese, French or Spanish. The Indonesian community celebrates a Mass in Indonesian once a month at Guardian Angels Parish. First Nations people offer new ways of expressing faith at diocesan celebrations.
Emphasis on externals may change, liturgical styles may change, but the faithful at daily Mass know that some things never change. The Mass is the same, the Eucharist is the same, the substance of the faith is the same. There is comfort and joy in liturgy, in praying the same prayers that are being said by Catholics around the world each day. It is still the same universal church founded ont he rock of Peter.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
For three years now, the parishioners of Guardian Angels Church have prayed the “Prayer for Reverence for life” as part of the Prayer of the Faithful. The prayer reflects the story of the parish and also our call to live out our baptismal promises as we minister to one another.
almighty God, giver of all that is good, we thank You for the precious gift of human life:
for life int he womb, coming from your creative power , , , , , ,
This particular parish began with a school founded, as Archbishop William Mark Duke declared, “to fill a long-felt want for small children up to four years of age who are too young to make the journey to town.”
. . .. . for the life of children, making us glad with their freshness and promise . . . .
Later, when St. Ann’s Academy closed, the kindergarten class of Guardian Angels was discontinued to allow for the inclusion of the remainder of St. Ann’s grammar grades, increasing enrolment at our parish school to 110 pupils by 1951. throughout the early school years, Guardian Angels youth distinguished themselves on the sports fiels, winning trophies in shot-putt, high-jump, softball, basketball, volleyball and ping-pong.
. . . .for the life of young people, hoping for a better world . . . .,
Guardian Angels Parish contribures, along with other regional parishes, to St. Patrick’s High School, allowing students of this parish to be given priority for admission. Once in University, students may choose to join the Newman Club or other Catholic Associations.
In the Spring of 1988, Father John Tritschler formed a young adults’ group. Meetings, preceded by a potluck dinner, were held in the rectory. Some of the young people also attended Camp Latona on Gambier Island. And the parish gave financial help to train street youth for work in the restaurant business. The restaurant was called the picasso Cafe and the training program began in february 1989.
. .. . for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom . . .
In 1986, the south sidewalk of the church was made wheelchair accessible by removing the steps. This made an easier approach for both the handicapped and elderly.
. . . . for the life of people who are disabled, teaching us that every life has value . . . .
In 1989, the history of the first forty years of the Guardian Angels parish was published as the result of a senior’s project. Father John Tritschler reports in his commending letter, “A committee of seniors under the leadership of Chairman Frank Gray and editor Mary Landry met weekly for months in order that our parish history could be accurately recorded.” He added that it would “be amusing to lend an ear as the seniors of Guardian Angels recall the past 40 years, each from his or her own perspective.”
he credits them as “Faith-filled parishioners” who “wove their lives fhrough…changes, prudently welcoming the golden wheat of true progress while being indifferent to the dead chaff of pretence.”
Recently, Guardian Angels Parish members elected to devote the old school property to a seniors housing project. John Nelson, president of the Knights of Columbus Charities Association, oversees the development, construction and opening of new projects. He explained the philosophy behind this project and others like them, is lifestyle enrichment; to offer a more secure, more vibrant lifestyle to seniors in lower income brackets.
The rectory, built in 1903 by Mr. Douglas, co-founder of Kelly-Douglas, will remain. The hall that was to be part of the project has been reduced to a number of rooms in the project building.
The development will be comprised of self-contained units, some wheelchair accessible. Meals will be included. Dinner will be in the central dining room. This will provide company for seniors who find themselves alone at their table each night after years of family dinners with laughter and loved ones. At this time, it is anticipated that there will be several dinner services and choices of menus. There will be a resident caretaker, but no resident health care workers, and no evening assistance. “It is not intended to be a care facility.” Nelson said.
And so the community life cycle continues. A new mother observed that when she took her baby to be ;weighed and checked by the ;community nurse ar Gordon Neighbourhood House, two blocks from the church, twenty-five other mothers waited with her. And so we come full circle, with young families and children again a frequent sight at Mass.
Guardian Angels reflects the diversity of the community, offering love, shelter and hope to anyone who comes seeking Jesus . . . in the words of the hymn, we strive to be ‘a shelter for all who will call on His name’.
The influx of European immigrants – polish, Czech, Rumanian, Yugoslav, who traditionally prefer to raise their children in close proximity to educational facilities, art and music programs, has once again changed the face of the West End. Refugees from the war in Kosovo, or immigrants seeking a better life for their families, they come bringing their children, creating new lives, broadening their field of influence, filling the streets once again with the beautiful faces of small children.
The West End is always changing, has always been home to new arrivals whether they come as refugees or immigrants or are simply moving to a new part of Canada. may Guardian Angels always be a beacon of welcome to all who visit and all who stay, reaching out to share the love of Jesus ;with these newcomers.
Grant that, like blessed Mary, may we always say ‘yes’ to your gift. May we defend and promote it from conception to its natural end. And bring us at last, O Father, to the fullness of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord…
Guardian Angels Church is located on land where once stood an Italian Rose Garden. At Easter 1948 the Archdiocese of Vancouver announced the establishment of a Church at Broughton and Pendrell Streets in Vancouver’s West End, to be known as the “Chapel of Ease to the Cathedral”.
On Sunday, May 21, 1950, this Church was blessed by His Grace Archbishop Duke, assisted by the Reverend Francis A. Clinton together with Father James Fagan. It was dedicated to war services personnel and called Guardian Angels Church.
Both of the above names apparently still apply to this West End church, though it is now commonly referred to as Guardian Angels Church.(Now Guardian Angels Church has become a Parish).
At the blessing ceremony the Archbishop commented that this new Church would fill a long standing need in this thickly populated West End area. Plans for the building began as early as mid-1948. Construction took place in 1949-50. The structure is of stone and brick, fire resistant, and has a foundation of concrete wall with footings. The pews were made of fir and the windows are of two-toned stained glass.
The church was first equipped with a reed organ, a Tabernacle and a Crucifix. The old organ broke down many times, Father Gordon(Pastor,1967-84), told us, but with occasional repairs did quite well. One day, however, one of the Oblate priests from Hope came by and said to Father Gordon, “If you ever get rid of this organ, can we have it?” Father Gordon said it was his lucky day! “How much could he pay for it? He said he couldn’t afford to buy it, so I gave it to him,” said Father Gordon. We acquired a new organ and it is a good one,” Father Gordon continued. The new organ was bought by means of contributions from the Royal Canadian Legion in memory of Armed Forces personnel, and bears a plaque reading: “This organ has been placed in our church as a memory of the members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in the service of their country.”
An accomplished organist, on examining the new organ, commented, “It’s as close to a pipe organ as you can get.” The Tabernacle was donated by the late Dr. Vincent Moe, Dentist, and his Mother. The original Crucifix was donated by Mrs Ernest Weeks.
“We had a Crucifix which had a plaster corpus glued to the main bar of the cross, about 2 years after I got here,” Father Gordon recalled. “With the heat of the church and general wear and tear, the glue came apart and the whole Crucifix came tumbling down. The corpus, made of plaster of Paris, crashed to the floor in a thousand pieces. So we had a new corpus made, designed by an artist in Rome…I got advice on the size of the cross to hold it and that’s what we have now.”
In time, other donations were made. The two side altars were donated by Major Martin Griffin and his Mother. During later renovations these altars were reduced in size and the alteration cost was a donation from Mrs. Edward Cuddy. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a present from Mr. McFarlane in thanksgiving for his conversion to the faith, and the Stations of the Cross were donated by Mrs. Alice Ontkean. The beautiful altar bells were a gift from Beryl and Roland Daoust to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, in replacement of the bells that had been stolen a short time earlier.
Around the year 1979 Father Gordon had the church roof repaired, and during the mid-1980’s Guardian Angels’ Pastor, Father Leon Kotsko, called for a thorough renovation of the church.When, by 1987, it was completed, Father Kotsko noted in his Sunday bulletin: “Our renovations have been made possible by donations of varying sizes to our parish over the years and put into trust for the improvements we are now making. We are grateful to those who remembered us in their Wills and to those who made contributions in their lifetime, as well as to those who helped and are helping along each day. Without that help we could not have dreamed of the kind of change the church has undergone. May God reward their loving care.”
Renovations began in the Fall of 1984 with the landscaping of trees and shrubs. Inside the church, heating was improved, the lectern remodelled, the rugs replaced and the original pews, at the request of Father Bader, sent out to St. Luke’s in Maple Ridge, where they would be refurbished for the new church being built there. The new pews in Guardian Angels Church further enhanced the new decor.
By the spring of 1986, more work had been done on the interior and soon the architects could report a revamp sanctuary and reconciliation room, along with the addition of a washroom in the vestibule of the church. Outside, the sidewalk on the south side of the church was replaced, removing all steps and making the approach to the door accessible to the handicapped and the elderly.
Not least of the renovations is the newly painted ceiling. Its three-tone design caused many heads to turn upward when it was uncovered. The lettering has been set above the entrance to identify our church.
Last October 2, 1999, Guardian Angels Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary of its founding. The Parish had its Parish Mission with Father Bennett from the Gospel of Life Ministries in Ontario.