Recently, the Catholic community of Powell River celebrated three significant anniversaries. Sliammon Sacred Heart Mission celebrated its 115th anniversary, Assumption Parish celebrated its 100th anniversary and Assumption School its 50th anniversary.
Father Chaleuse’s first visit to the Sliammon people was in 1875. In the 1880s missions were established in Squirrel Cove and Church House. Later, Sacred Heart Church was built in 1896 in Sliammon by the community. The original church was destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday, 1918. The present church was built on the same site and is adorned by the original Sacred Heart Statue, the only item to survive the fire. This beautiful church still serves the Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nations people and many assumption parishioners.
Assumption Parish was first known as St. Joseph’s. Its first mass was celebrated in the mess hall of Powell River Company’s cook house, 1911. St. Joseph’s Church was later built on the corner of Sycamore Street and Ash Avenue in 1916. The church served the Catholic community until 1982 when it was sold. In 1940 Queen of Angels was built on Joyce Avenue in the growing community of Westview. In 1957, St. Gerard’s Church was built to serve the community of Wildwood. In 1961 Assumption School and Church were built on Glacier Street under the watchful eye of Father John Collins.
In October 1961 the Missionary Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth arrived from Malta to teach at the school. Since that time hundreds of young students have received a solid education, both academic and spiritual. Sister Claire Sapiano was the last of the sisters to retire in June 2008. Today the school continues to thrive with over 200 students from preschool to grade nine.
Weekend festivities began with mass at Sacred Heart Church followed by a salmon barbecue at Assumption School gymnasium. Memorabilia from the past 50 years of the school was on display. Saturday morning parishioners gathered at St. Gerard’s Church for mass and the living rosary led in the native languages of different ethnic groups that make up the parish.
Saturday evening a holy hour was offered for the intentions of the parish and school communities. The evening wound up with a wine and appetizer night in St. Joseph’s Hall where historical memorabilia was displayed.
The weekend activities culminated with a Sunday morning Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Reverend Michael Miller, Parish Administrator Father Edwin Neufeld, Assistant Pastor Father Dass, past Pastor Father Bruce-John Hamilton and past Assistant Pastor Father Paul Than Bui. Over 200 parishioners then gathered with honoured guests in the school gym for a formal luncheon to celebrate this historic milestone.