2024-04-19

Our History

A summary of facts collected by Pat McDonald

In January of 1925, Archbishop O’Leary received from the Catholic Church Extension Society of Toronto, a cheque for $500. The money had been given by the Catholic Women’s League of Ottawa-Hull. The cheque was in memory of the Reverend Matthew Whelan of Ottawa, who had been a chaplain to the CWL, and the condition was that the church be named and blessed in honour of St. Matthew. The land for the church site was donated by Mr. Driscoll, a prominent village businessman.

This donation was then forwarded to Father Joseph R. MacDonald, pastor at Red Deer who administered the Catholic Western Missions. Rocky Mountain House was selected as the site.

Rocky Mountain House built its first catholic church in 1926 and on Friday, August 27, 1926 Archbishop O’Leary blessed the church solemnly and dedicated the church to St. Matthew.  From that date three priests from Red Deer came to Rocky Mountain House on a regular basis to take care of the spiritual needs of the people. They were Father Mac Donald, Father Rupert O’Neil and Father Joseph Sullivan.

In 1960 the Archdiocese of Edmonton purchased property in Rocky Mountain House which included a house for a resident priest. Construction on the present church began in 1976 – 50 years after the first. The site was dedicated May 9, 1976 and the first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Easter Sunday April 10, 1977 with Father Ted Wesolowski. Archbishop Joseph MacNeil blessed the church solemnly on Tuesday, September 6, 1977. The church was packed. RCMP directed traffic and government ministers Helen Hunley and Gordon Towers were in attendance.

Brother Louis Royer O.M.I. is the architect of the carved altar that graced the new St. Matthew’s Church. Born in France, he came to Alberta in the early 1900’s. He was first assigned to Pincher Creek, and later to Edmonton, where he lived and worked at the Provincial House of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. During the First World War when materials were scarce, he, along with an assistant, extended the novitiate at the Provincial House to accommodate 60 young seminarians, and in 1915, he built the lower part of this beautifully carved oak altar.

 

Fundraising for the addition of a new foyer began in 2010 and the project was finished in 2012.

Historical list of priests who served Rocky Mountain House:

  • Fr. Desmet SJ, 1841, missionary priest
  • Fr. Albert Lacombe, 1861-1871, missionary priest
  • Fr. Constantine Scollen, 1871, missionary priest
  • Fr. Voisin, 1912-1924, missionary priest
  • Fr. Joseph R. MacDonald, 1924-1927; 1928-1933, missionary priest
  • Fr. Rupert O’Neil, 1924-1927, missionary priest
  • Fr. Joseph Sullivan, 1925-1927; 1928-1930, missionary priest
  • Fr. Maurice Harnett, 1927-1928, missionary priest
  • Fr. D. Augustine MacLellan, 1930-1932, missionary priest
  • Fr. Wilfred McNabb, 1931-1932, missionary priest
  • Fr. Francis Gillis, 1933-1940, resident priest
  • Fr. Neil MacKenzie, 1940-1947, resident priest
  • Fr. Sydney Stewart, 1948-1949, resident priest
  • Fr. Henry Duffy, 1949, resident priest
  • Fr. Patrick McCorkell,  1949-1950, missionary priest
  • Fr. Wilfred McNabb, missionary priest
  • Fr. Basil Butts, 1951-1954, missionary priest
  • Fr. Anthony Dittrich, 1954-1955, missionary priest
  • Fr. John MacNeil, 1955-1956, missionary priest
  • Fr. Finlay MacDonald, 1956-1960, missionary priest
  • Fr. Duncan MacDonnell, 1060-1962, missionary priest
  • Fr. Alex Prendergast, 1960-1962, missionary priest

Resident priests from 1962 to Present:

  • Fr. Anthony Dittrich, 1962-1969
  • Fr. Thomas Kroetch, 1969
  • Fr. Joseph Reitmeijer, 1969-1974
  • Fr. William O’Farrell, 1974
  • Fr. Ted Wesolowski, 1974-1981
  • Fr. Matthias Kueffler, 1981-1989
  • Fr. Theodore Rozmahel, 1989-1992
  • Fr. Leo Hofmann, 1992-1995
  • Fr. Clement Gauthier, 1995-1999
  • Fr. Andrew Bogdanowicz, 1999-2003
  • Fr. Paul Payapillay, 2003-2007
  • Fr. Kazimierz Kubat SDS, 2007-2012
  • Fr. Christian Nwaigwe, 2012-2016
  • Fr. Leon Kler, 2016-2023
  • Fr. Rajesh Jesuraj SAC, 2023-Present