The story of the founding of St. Ignatius Parish in Winnipeg, MB is one of great sacrifice and determination, which speaks to the faith and resolve of a Catholic community of worship still very active and vibrant more than 100 years on.
The parish’s humble beginnings go back to February 16, 1908, when Mass was first celebrated in a rented store on Osborne Street. A borrowed table served as an altar and 140 parishioners used camp chairs as pews.
Within two months, a property was acquired from a Baptist congregation. Soon after, the site of the present church and school, was purchased. Excavation began in September 1910 and the school opened with just 19 pupils in January 1912. Starting in March, Mass was celebrated in the church basement because parishioners knew the grandiose project of building a beautiful church needed major financial support.
The Ladies Aid, later the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), contributed greatly to the growth of the new parish. The Sacred Heart League was set up, an ushers’ group and boys altar society was formed, hockey and tennis clubs were also started. The social life of the community revolved around the parish. The basement church and hall were a focus of both spiritual and social life. Plays, bazaars, musical performances, and card parties were frequent. St. Ignatius was the lifeblood of the community with so many people actively involved in prayer, work and recreation together.
No one anticipated the financial strain triggered by Two World Wars, a crippling Depression, the Spanish Flu and building debt. But the parish community survived.
The old and elaborate church design of 1912 was exchanged for a smaller Gothic one which was completed in 1929, and the parish bazaar became the most successful way to raise funds for the building debts. The bazaar included a tea room, a fish pond, doll booth, games, home cooking, and the raffling of items from gold to a side of beef.
Much has changed in society and within the Church since the 1900s but today, St. Ignatius’ community still includes a school, with the addition of an adult education centre, and continues to be a place to develop a greater spiritual relationship with God.
Along with traditional ministries found at most Catholic parishes like the CWL, Knights of Columbus, choir, Sunday School, and youth ministries; some of the unique ministries at St. Ignatius Parish include prison ministry, healing ministry, prayer shawl ministry, Bat Kol, and El Sitio. Ministries that allow participants to learn more about St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises in daily life are also key.
The Jesuits currently serving St. Ignatius Parish are pastor, Fr. Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, associate pastor Fr. Con Mulvihill, SJ and Fr. John Perry, SJ.
For more on St. Ignatius Parish, please visit them online www.stignatius.ca.
Source: St Ignatius Parish and the St. Ignatius Centennial Book, Who We Were, Who We Are.