‘BEACON OF HOPE’
Diocese celebrates dedication of Our Lady of the Rockies shrine church
The Calgary diocese successfully dedicated its first shrine church last weekend in a livestreaming event that attracted thousands of followers across the world.
Bishop William Mcgrattan visited Canmore last Saturday to officially dedicate the 18,000-squarefoot Our Lady of the Rockies — the culmination of 15 years of planning and a two-year build, under the majestic shadow of the Rockies.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, original plans for a large-scale gathering to celebrate this unique event had to be curtailed. But Father Nathan Siray, the parish priest, said it was still a marvellous moment, witnessing so much hard work and devotion finally come to fruition.
“It went very well despite not having many people here, which was indeed a sadness for us. But that we could still follow through with the dedication was wonderful,” he said.
The building, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is a shrine church, and as such is expected to attract pilgrims and the faithful from across the world. Its final cost is expected to be in the $16 million range, with almost half that amount still to be raised.
Mcgrattan noted this new church’s opening was timely as Pope Francis was leading the major shrines worldwide in praying for Mary’s intercession and protection amid the pandemic.
“We should have a place in which people, not only in our own diocese but throughout the world, can come as they come to the Rockies to see nature’s cathedral,” said Mcgrattan in his homily during the dedication.
The live streaming of the dedication went off without a hitch; something Siray admits was a huge relief.
He added that the fact Our Lady of the Rockies was opened only a month later than an original opening date was also a blessing, considering the current emergency health measures in place across Alberta, which made final construction difficult.
“I would say we were very happy. This was a beginning. We needed to have the dedication of this church in order for us to move forward and start having people come to visit. That was part of the motivation to get this building open sooner rather than later,” said Siray.
Gatherings are still limited to no more than 50 people, so the church is busily taking online bookings for upcoming masses. Anyone wishing to attend can check availability at: www.rockiesparish.com
That same address also hosts highlights of last weekend’s dedication — something Siray believes was witnessed by a huge number of people.
“The numbers are saying in the thousands of views. That was encouraging, plus we’ve been getting lots of email congratulations from people who were tuned in,” he added.
One of the church’s most prominent design features is a beautiful stained glass window — the result of collaboration between artisans in England and Atlanta — depicting Mary sitting on a throne, while her young son Jesus leans against her legs.
Two Calgary brothers installed the artwork.
“They said they’d never done a project that big. But they did fantastic work. I had the privilege of watching them put it in, piece by piece. It was incredible,” said Siray.
Once the current health restrictions are lifted, Our Lady of the Rockies will seat about 425 worshippers in the pews, with space for another 150 at a gathering spot just inside the building.
It is the third Catholic church to be built in Canmore. The first was constructed after oblate missionaries arrived in 1883 to minister to railway workers. After that rail line opened, many immigrants, mostly from Central Europe, came to work in the nearby coal mines.
Sacred Heart Church was then constructed in 1893 to house about 50 worshippers and was expanded in 1960 to accommodate the burgeoning population.
The location of this latest church — visible to motorists travelling along Highway 1 — is deemed exceptional.
“We really got a tremendous gift in having such a prime location, so visible, for this new church to be built upon,” said Siray.
“You couldn’t ask for a better location. We hope it becomes a beacon of hope for people: that there’s something good and beautiful and it wants to welcome as many people as it can,” said Siray.
“We should have a place in which people, not only in our own diocese but throughout the world, can come as they come to the Rockies to see nature’s cathedral,” Bishop William Mcgrattan said his homily.
The dedication of Our Lady of the Rockies church in Canmore marked the culmination of 15 years of planning and a two-year, $16-million build.