‘BEA­CON OF HOPE’

Dio­cese cel­e­brates ded­i­ca­tion of Our Lady of the Rock­ies shrine church

Calgary Herald - - FAITH+REASON - CHRIS NEL­SON

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.

PHO­TOS: YUAN WANG

“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.

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