St. Joseph's Basilica Parish
A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration
What began as a humble "crypt" church on Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue in 1925, was transformed between April 9, 1961 and May 1, 1963 into the regal edifice and landmark known to all as St. Joseph’s Cathedral, flagship of the Edmonton Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The newly minted structure was "dedicated to the glory of God on the feast of St. Joseph the Workman".
On June 29, 2003 his grace Archbishop Thomas Collins celebrated a mass of thanksgiving commemorating 40 years of service, celebration, holiness and prayer within the parish of St. Joseph's Cathedral (later Basilica). The anniversary celebration of the parish represented years of dedication and prayerful attendance upon the kaleidoscope of events on both a global and local scale. "Together in faith", all within St. Joseph's community, personified the parish as "a place of joy; a people of hope".
St. Joseph’s parish took its place among the parishes of Alberta in the shadow of the pioneering French Catholic community of Saint-Joachim built by Fr. Leduc in 1899. Although the need for an English speaking parish was recognized as early as 1913, it would still take another 12 years for the necessity to become a reality.
Once constructed however, the basement church became a crossroads and centre for a community of believers.
As wars raged in other lands, parishioners prayed for and mourned their sons and daughters serving their country while local women formed the Catholic Women’s League to house and employ newly arrived refugees. The years were witness to the consecration of new bishops, pastors, and lay ministers. Both Church and country grew in numbers and ideals.
Planning was begun for the fulfillment of a dream: a fully completed cathedral worthy of its rank as "the seat of the Bishop". Construction began in 1961 with a proposed price tag of 1.7 million dollars; two years later the parishioners of St. Joseph’s had a new faith home.
A Success Story
After its dedication in May 1963, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, as the archdiocesan centre, became the hub of all archdiocese events and noteworthy occasions. With the advent of Vatican II lay participation became an integral cog in the wheels of change within the parish. Liturgical music was supported by magnificent instruments and creative artists. Leadership from such worthy personages as Archbishops MacDonald, Jordan, McNeill and Collins led the way to innovations in worship and attitudes. Pastors and associates played key roles in organizing historic and important parish milestones with a Papal visit (and a change of identity from Cathedral to Basilica), bishopric installations, priestly ordinations, World Youth Day initiatives, and a hockey icon’s nuptials.
The building has survived fires and vandalism with resulting renovations to correct the damage. Structural innovation and remodelling became necessary with the relocation of the altar and changes to the sanctuary. Bells that peel out hymns of praise now have pride of place on top of the north spire mount. The beautifully renovated O’Leary Hall now regularly hosts ordinations, Easter Vigil, and funeral receptions to name just a few important events. Social activities have become church centered with parishioners celebrating together as they welcome the New Year and other annual festivities.
At the parish level, lay ministries flourish and the everyday business of St. Joseph’s community was sustained with dedicated volunteers leading new groups of aspiring Catholics in RCIA, instructing young parents in the importance of the Baptismal rites, shepherding young minds through the children’s liturgy, assisting extensively in liturgical celebrations, helping brides and grooms survive their big day and managing the all important financial and administrative aspects of the parish to name some but not all contributions.
The Basilica has reached out to the community at large to host ecumenical gatherings with representatives from many faith groups joining in the parish hall for dialogue and understanding.
Today’s parish of St. Joseph’s Basilica is comprised of many people striving to make a difference in the world. Caring volunteers have formed strong initiatives to foster stewardship support from all in the community. Organizations within the parish support third world causes, human rights, help for the helpless, parish functions and a faith network for all its parishioners.
A great deal has occurred since that day of dedication in 1963. With the strength of the people behind it, the congregation of St. Joseph’s Basilica will continue to grow and lead the faith community of the Archdiocese of Edmonton well into the future.
Margaret La Riviere