St. Mary’s has had an interesting history

pg 45 A Peep into the Past Vol 1 1990 Belle and Gordon Hall

St. Mary’s Parish, Cochrane has had three churches in its history. The first built by Father Comire was erected in 1895. That building can now be found in reconstructed form as a small chapel on the grounds of Mount St. Francis Retreat House, Cochrane. The original first church was heated by an oil stove and its church bells were used on the second church where the library is now. The first marriage to take place in the first church was between George Phipps and Joanne McDonald in 1908 by Father Hermes O.M. They were the parents of Jack Phipps, a longtime resident of Cochrane. 

The first funeral was that of Mrs. M. McDonald, the grandmother of Jack Phipps and the first to be buried in the present Catholic cemetery. For many years Francis Leo Gainer and his daughter Sylvia were the organists of the church. F.L. Gainer was noted for his singing at various functions. 

The second church, which was the building that now houses the library, was opened on March 8, 1959 with Father Edwin Kueffler O.F.M. as the first pastor. At about the same time a new cathedral for the diocese of Calgary was built in Calgary and some of the stained glass windows of the old cathedral were removed to the second church. For a number of years, Mrs. Peggy Robertson was the organist of the second church. Its rectory was eventually removed after a number of skirmishes with trucks and kindred vehicles. It was moved to a lot northwest of Rebekah Hall and was occupied by Martin and Catherine Hansen for a number of years. It was torn down to make way for commercial buildings. 

The Oblate Fathers looked after the parish from 1895 to 1922, Father Hermes of the Oblates had the longest tenure as pastor from 1907 to 1922. Father Hermes was also an avid curler and the little black rocks that he used to use were at the curling rink for many years and it is a shame they were not preserved. 

The Diocesan priests cared for the parish from 1922 to 1940, only to have the Oblates return for the short period 1940-47. 

The Diocese looked after the parish again until 1949, then it was turned over to the care of Franciscan Fathers of the Retreat House up to 1970. For many years the priest from Cochrane would say mass once a month for the people of the Bottrel area, using the old Westbrook School. Father Lessard O.M.I. was the first and Monsignor Le Fort the last. In recent years the third church has been built on the hill overlooking Cochrane.

Deep Dive

Religion in Cochrane Area by Gordon Davies

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