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Catholic Vancouver July 4, 2017

Sacred Heart Parish celebrates centennial 

By Agnieszka Ruck

Children and adults dance during Sacred Heart Parish' centenary celebrations June 23. (Dennis Bellia / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

About 800 people celebrated with Mass, celebrities, live music, and dancing as Sacred Heart Parish turned 100 years old.

“It was really a galvanizing event and brought the community together,” said organizer Mitch Drew, a member of the parish for 18 years.

Sacred Heart Parish, based in Delta, serves the communities of Ladner, Tsawwassen, and the tiny Washington community of Point Roberts.

Special guests at the June 23 birthday bash included former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm and Hollywood actor Neal McDonough, both parishioners.

Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm. (Dennis Bellia / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

“We’re an active parish but we have so many people coming and going all the time,” said Drew. “This event was about fellowship.”

The parish has a unique origin story, said assistant pastor Father Francis Galvan, OSA.

“When it started, it wasn’t the missionaries that came. It was people who were already Catholic, who wanted the sacraments, and invited the priests to come to their house.”

Early settlers would invite travelling priests to celebrate Mass in their homes about once a month. In 1891, as the number of Catholic farmers and fishers in the area grew, they built a small church in Port Guichon on land donated by a French immigrant family.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate celebrated Mass for the community from then until 1912, when the parish welcomed its first resident priest. The parish was officially established in 1917.

“The communities were already existing; it was just a recognition of the parish,” said Father Galvan.

After the Oblates, Sacred Heart Parish was served by Servites, then Benedictines, who in 1931 opened the Seminary of Christ the King in Ladner. That seminary moved to its present location in Mission in 1954.

After the Benedictines came the Augustinians, who arrived in 1943 and still serve there today. Under their leadership, the parish built a school, the current church on Arthur Drive, and a seniors’ facility (see sidebar).

Farmers and European immigrants have continued to be part of this Catholic community over the last 100 years, said Father Galvan, but it has also grown increasingly diverse.

Sacred Heart Parish now welcomes Americans from Point Roberts (where there is no Catholic church), seamen arriving on ships at Deltaport, and migrant workers from Guatemala and Mexico who work on Ladner farms.

The parish has about registered 1,800 families. “It’s a very active parish and very vibrant,” said Father Galvan.

The parish began its 100th anniversary celebration with Mass, celebrated by retired Kamloops Bishop David Monroe, and the blessing of an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tickets for the evening celebration were sold out one month before the event. The 800 revelers heard speeches from Vander Zalm and McDonough, danced to live music by migrant workers and the band Hit Zone, and watched fireworks explode in the sky.

“It was a really great night,” said Father Galvan. “It helped us put an exclamation mark on what’s been a fantastic 100 years.”

Fireworks light the sky during Sacred Heart Parish's 100th anniversary celebrations in Ladner. (Dennis Bellia / Special to The B.C. Catholic)