Built in 1937, St. Patrick’s Church in McBride, British Columbia, is today without a resident priest, but two missionary priests travel from Prince George and Valemount to celebrate Masson three Sundays most months
Because there’s no running water at St. Patrick’s church in McBride, British Columbia, one of the tasks before liturgical celebrations is to make sure that water has been carried into the church from the rectory. Nestled in the Robson Valley between the Cariboo and Rocky Mountains in the Diocese of Prince George, McBride is home to 660 people and the2, 000 residents of the surrounding area. The community dates to days when the Canadian Pacific Railway first headed west toward British Columbia. With the railway came sawmilling, farming, trapping and prospecting initiatives, although, with downturns in the forest industry and mill closures, many families have now left McBride to seek employment elsewhere.
Built in 1937, St. Patrick’s Church is today without a resident priest, but, as Detta Smith, pastoral life director at St. Patrick’s, reports, the parishis fortunate. “Most months, we can still celebrate Mass on three Sundays.”
Father Richard Beaudette, O.M.I., travels 218 km from Prince George on the first two weekends, and Father Emil Sasges travels about 90 km fromValemount in the Diocese of Kamloops on the third weekend.
“Other times,” says Detta, “we meet to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word with Communion. The highway isn’t always good for travelling in winter, but Father Richard and Father Emil are committed to serving this community. They’ve both been known to travel to us in less than ideal conditions!”
And parishioners are dedicated to their community. Many are over 70 years of age, and, as Detta says, “this group of wonderful elders do not allow age to restrict their involvement and participation.”
On Sundays when there’s no snow on the ground, she says it’s not unusual to see four or five walkers “parked” at the church door, with some of the elders having walked five or six blocks to come to church on Sunday. “They lift my heart,” says Detta.
Parishioners hold yard sales and bake sales throughout the year to help fund the operations of their church, and there’s the ever-popular St. Patrick Day Festival that’s attended by many in the larger McBride community.
Funding from Catholic Missions In Canada assists in the day-to-day operations of St. Patrick’s and helps cover the heating bills for the church and rectory. “Without the kindness of your benefactors and donors, this parish would have real difficulty,” says Detta. “You help keep our doors open!”
Anne Hanley is publications and communications officer with Catholic Missions In Canada. With files and photos from Detta Smith.