The History of Holy Family ~ Notre Dame Parish
Holy Family ~ Notre Dame Parish is two parishes that have come together as one. In 1969-1970, the two separate churches amalgamated.
A Brief History of the Our Church
by Winston Joseph
The Spanish were the first Catholics reportedly to set foot on the shores of the Alberni Inlet. The first church built in this area was the Church of St. Leo built under the guidance of Fr. Brabant close to the Sarita River.
The first priest to take up residence in Alberni proper was Fr. Francis Verbete. By 1893, Fr. John Nicholas Lemmens had journeyed here to administer the sacrament of confirmation for the first time in the Valley.
By 1910, the old church was then in the first stage of collapse and masses were being said in private homes. A church site was finally produced in the Calgary District, and a mission church was built in 1913
In 1924, Fr.John Leo Bradley was appointed the first resident pastor at Port Alberni. Fr. W.G. Smith took over from Fr.Bradley in 1930. He continued in the post for twenty years. Smith Memorial School was named after him. Fr. Arthur E. Leonard assumed Fr.Smith’s duties. During his pastor ship, the parish school was founded. Around the same time the Franciscan Fathers started the Parish of Notre Dame.
Fr.Wilfred Brazeau was the founder and first pastor of the French Parish. Smith Memorial School was staffed by the Sisters of St. Ann. There were 154 pupils in grades 1- 8 in September 1951.
Masses were said at the Alberni Athletic Hall on November 1955, and for the next twenty five months until the brand new church was opened in Christmas 1957.
Fr.Sig Lajoie took over the parish in 1957. He departed for Victoria in 1982. When Fr. Brazeau left in 1967, Lajoie was appointed pastor. When the two cities of Alberni amalgamated, the parishes of Holy Family and Notre Dame followed and amalgamated as well in 1969-70.