History of St. Theresa's Parish

1940s: In the late 1940's the Sisters of Service, who were teaching catechism to the children of the Municipality of West St. Paul, conducted a survey of the area. The results showed that a church was needed in the area north of West Kildonan.

1950: In 1950, Archbishop Gerald Murray of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg appointed Father James Fitzgerald to serve the Catholics in the area, with a view to establishing a new mission and eventually a parish. Beginning on July 2, 1950, Mass was celebrated for six families in the auditorium of the new West St. Paul School. Within a few weeks, attendance increased to 15 families. By September, Father Eugene Oroskovits, Chaplain at the monastery Home of the Good Shepherd on Scotia Street, began to celebrate Mass at the school and minister to the families. The old West St. Paul School, with its contiguous two acres of land, was purchased for $2,000.00 and renovations were made to the building to add pews, altar, and organ. On September 2, 1951, Archbishop Pocock blessed the church and dedicated it to St. Theresa.

1953: By 1953, St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Parish had increased to 64 families, but the remodeled school only seated 90 people and it was necessary to hold two Masses on Sunday to accommodate the congregation. The church was hot in summer and cold in winter. It was said that in preparation for the Christmas Vigil one year, the ladies decided to wash the church floor, resulting in a 'skating rink' by the next morning - which then had to be melted down with boiling water!

1961: The CWL Council of St. Theresa's Middlechurch was first established on March 7, 1961 in the home of Mrs. M. Skuba, as the 'Catholic Ladies Society of St. Theresa' became Charter #2271, the 161st Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada. At this inaugural meeting, chaired by Miss Olga Herdy, 40 charter members joined. The first president was Mrs. Helen Pelissier, the first secretary was Mrs. Richard Obirek, and the first spiritual director was Reverend E.L. Obirek from the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. Other executive members were Mrs. C. Smith, Rose Grimshaw, Rosemary Dearman, Mrs. F Bohncke, Mrs. J. Fulsher, Mrs. M. Hlady, Mrs. G Schreyer, and Mrs. K. Lyss. Also present were Miss Anne Herdy and Mrs. Jean Kiazyk. This initial council was very active, and was responsible for organizing numerous fundraising functions. Proceeds were used to support of the Sisters of St. Benedict's social action programs, and for the payment of the church debt. Unfortunately, in the 1970s the CWL became inactive and was disbanded.

1961: The pioneers of St. Theresa's worked hard, and sacrificed to build a suitable church. Several 'Building Fund' drives were carried out in the parish under the direction of committee members George Schreyer, Bob Dearman, John Overwater, and Alfred Pelissier. By 1961, $27,000.00 was in the fund, and together with a $42,000.00 loan from the Archdiocese, plans were put in place to build the existing St. Theresa's church. After tenders were let, a contract for construction was signed on March 6, 1961 with Kuwada Construction Co. Ltd. for the grand amount of $81,000.00, and parishioner Joseph Janssen provided the excavation and installation of the septic field and waterworks for the new church. By the fall of 1961, the parishioners of St. Theresa's had their new church, and Father Oroskovits' dream had come true. On October 1, 1961, the Feast of St. Theresa, Archbishop George Flahiff blessed the church and celebrated the first Pontifical Mass, assisted by Reverend Fathers Campbell and Sabo. According to church records, the first Baptism in the new church took place on November 5, 1961.

Left: current Church circa 1961;

Right: original Church (former school house)

1962: Father Oroskovits left the parish, and on Sunday, July 22, 1962, Father Edward Morand was installed as pastor of St. Theresa's until 1966. Over time, the following priests were appointed to St. Theresa's Parish:

  • Father Eugene Oroskovits 1950-62

  • Father Edward Morand 1962-66

  • Father Charles Vachon 1966-72

  • Msgr. Maurice Cooney 1972-82

  • Msgr Ward Jamieson 1982-85 and 1987-88

  • Msgr. Norman Chartrand 1985-86

  • Father Wayne Morissey 1986-87

  • Msgr. Maurice Comeault 1988-92

  • Father Robert Polz 1992-94

  • Msgr. Gorgonio Zapatos 1994-97

  • Msgr. Louis McCloskey 1997-2008

  • Father Michael Wollbaum 2008-2015

  • Father David Kowalski 2015-present

Throughout the history of St. Theresa's Parish, many people have contributed to its success. Women especially have played a major role in organizing and leading parish activities. Beginning with the 'Ladies Parish Society', and later the Catholic Women's League (CWL), a tremendous amount of good work was done. Early records indicate the same family names appeared over and over again in executive, committee, and convenor positions: Andrews, Bohncke, Dearman, Emes, Fulsher, Geurts, Hansen, Herdy, Hlady, Janssen, Kiazyk, Lundy, Lyss, Nazarewich, Obirek, Pelissier, Schreyer, Smith, Truijen, Turney, Von Schie, and many others. These women, along with more 'recent' members of the CWL, have contributed to the good of the church by fundraising through 'fowl suppers', teas, penny parades, bake sales, etc.

1976: On July 3, 1976, St. Theresa's founding member Fred Pelissier was ordained to the order of Deacon by Cardinal Flahiff at St. Mary's Cathedral. This marked the first such ordination in Western Canada.

1979: Through various fundraising efforts, along with the annual Bavarian and Hawaiian dances, and sale of Grey Cup tickets sponsored by the social committee, headed by Ted Creran, funds were raised towards the building of a rectory. A committee under the leadership of Walter Paley, was able to raise additional funds and proceed with plans for construction of a parish rectory adjacent to and behind the church. By the spring of 1979, Msgr. Cooney was pleased to occupy the new rectory built by Aldingher Construction at a cost of $52,000.00, providing our parishioners with a resident pastor for the first time.

1983: In June, 1983, a committee was struck to investigate changes that were needed in the interior structure of the church. A reconciliation room was added, along with a new altar, an altar of repose, an ambo, and other new sanctuary furniture. Upgrading of church facilities is ongoing, with kitchen renovations, new appliances, basement ceiling finishing, partitioning of the rectory, plumbing upgrades, and the addition of an elevator to accommodate parishioners with disabilities.

1984: On September 16, 1984 a most memorable event impacted not only St. Theresa's parish, but all of Manitoba, with the visit of Pope John Paul II to celebrate Mass at Bird's Hill Park. We were especially honoured, as our Pastor Msgr. Ward Jamieson helped to coordinate this special event and was named 'Prelate of Honour' by the Pope. Many of our parishioners also volunteered their help. As recommended by the second Vatican Council, a Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) was established in 1984, and remains active to this day. In earlier years, pastoral activities were coordinated by what was known the as 'St. Theresa's Central Committee'. As intended by Vatican II, the purpose of our PPC is to enhance the quality of parish life, and develop and implement pastoral programs and activities, with cooperation from all members of the church.

1986: On May 22, 1986, Robert Behnke was instrumental in the formation of a Knights of Columbus Council. St Theresa's Knights of Columbus Council #9425 was granted a charter as a regular constitutional council with 33 charter members. The First Charter Officers were: Grand Knight, Br. Ted Creran, Deputy Grand Knight Br. Robert Behnke, Chancellor, Br Tom Kraemer, Recorder, Br Jason Molinski, Financial Secretary, Br Peter Herner, Treasurer, Br Orest Mical, Advocate, Br Ed Forkheim, Warden, Br Ed Baker, Guards, Br Gerry Goodrich and Br Clarence Kowerko, Trustees, Br Mike Kwaitkowski, Br Peter Rybuck and Br Tom Preachuk, Chaplain Father Wayne Morrissey.

1992: After a number of years of inactivity, the CWL was reactivated on December 8, 1992 as Charter #2272, with Charter Officers: President: Jacqueline Camier, Vice-President: Linda Lucciola, Secretary: Caroline Meseric, Treasurer: Wanda Wachal, Spiritual Director: Father Robert Polz.

1993: In 1993, Sister Alice Arnal M.O. joined St. Theresa's as a Pastoral Worker, and was active in many parish activities. For many years she was our organist, directed the senior choir, instituted and directed a children's choir, and conducted adult Bible Study classes. After 14 years of dedicated service to St. Theresa's parish, Sister Alice retired in 2007.

2001: In 2001, the Reliquary of St Therese of Lisieux, our patron saint, embarked on a Cross Canada Tour. Rev. Msgr. Louis McCloskey, of St. Theresa's Parish, was the Chairman of the St. Therese Relics Tour for Manitoba, and the Knights of Columbus looked after the physical transportation of the reliquary containing some of her remains. The Manitoba State Council transported her reliquary throughout the province, with the Knights from St. Theresa Council #9425 being responsible for transportation during their stay in Winnipeg. While in Winnipeg, the relics were first viewed at St. Mary's Cathedral, then moved to St. Benedicts Monastery for the night vigil. On the way, the Knights stopped in front of St. Theresa's Church for a picture with the relics. The relics then travelled to St. Theresa Point, returning in the evening to St. Boniface Cathedral, after which they left the province.

2011: 50th Anniversary Celebration of St. Theresa's Parish: Hundreds Gather Again!

That was the headline, "Hundreds Gather", when St. Theresa's Parish's "new" church in West St. Paul, was solemnly blessed on October 1, 1961. In October 2011, hundreds gathered again, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our church with two social events held to honour this momentous occasion. The organization of both celebrations, truly was..."A Labour of Love".

The first "formal" affair was held exactly 50 years to the day from when St. Theresa's Church was first blessed by Cardinal (then Archbishop) George Flahiff. On Saturday, October 1, 2011 the most Reverend, Archbishop James Weisgerber presided over an Anniversary Mass, assisted by three of our pastors Monsignor Ward Jamieson, Monsignor Louis McCloskey, and Father Michael Wollbaum. His Grace gave an inspiring Homily, where he spoke about "Stewardship", reminding us that "We are the vineyard of the Lord" - with a call to be ready and willing in opportunities to serve, to listen, and to be welcoming. Following Mass, a delicious catered supper was held in the church hall. In attendance were many former pastors of St. Theresa's Church; Sisters of St. Benedict's Monastery (who have always played a active part in our Parish's history); many pioneer families, and numerous parishioners - former and current. The Church looked beautiful and was adorned with roses both upstairs and down. In the parish hall, also on display, were many poster-sized pictures of church events held over the last 50 years as well as other mementos. There was much excitement over the exhibit displaying the time capsule contents from October 1, 1961. After dinner and speeches, a video presentation to music was also presented, showing over 500 pictures. It was a great evening of reminiscence, enjoyed by all.

The second festivity was held the weekend after Thanksgiving. On Sunday, October 16, 2011 a packed congregation attended another "Thanksgiving" mass followed by an "Anniversary Come and Go Tea", in the parish hall. As this celebration was held during the day, many more of our pioneers could grace us with their presence. The Tea was also open to the community at large. Once again the decorations were beautiful - this time in Fall decor. Both upstairs and down, the church was alive with activity, and buzzing with conversation. As people enjoyed visiting downstairs, partaking in the delicious refreshments and light lunch, a video presentation was playing upstairs for people to enjoy at their leisure. Other highlights of the day were: the delectable Anniversary Cake ("3 tiered" - one vanilla, one chocolate and one red velvet - not one crumb remained); the many pictures and other memorabilia on display throughout the church; and a Huge Fun Auction or "Penny Parade" (as it was known in the '60's as an important and historical part of our church)! The Penny Parade provided all with a chance to win a wonderful array of prize packages (77 in total). Each prize package was worth between $50 to $600. This exciting auction would not have been possible without the generosity of many businesses; parish families and organizations.

Except for purchasing tickets for the Penny Parade, there was no cost to attend the Tea. This was gifted by the Parish in celebration and in the Spirit of St. Theresa's Jubilee year. Also, all monies raised from the sale of tickets for the Penny Parade were given to charity. In total $2,475.00 was equally shared between Our Place/Chez Nous Drop-In Centre and Rossbrook House.

It really was a fantastic day! It was a day of Gratitude and of sharing many wonderful things - Church, Faith, Family, Fellowship, and Fun. Happy Anniversary St. Theresa's - May God Bless our Parish with many more!