St. Helen's

History

In the first years of the twentieth century, the hill overlooking the cityof Vancouver was barely developed.  This area, known as Vancouver Heights, commands a magnificent view of the City, the North Shore mountains and the sea. 

During the first decade there was just a handful of people willing to brave the the inconvenience of living in a remote area to dwell in such splendor. Among them were ten Catholic families. They dreamed about establishing a Catholic Community, a church and perhaps even a school of their own. They knew it would take hard work and sacrifice to realize their dream. 

In 1912 the Second Narrow's Bridge and several industrial plants were built in this area. Archbishop Neil McNeil recognizing the potential for greater development, requested aid from Toronto's Catholic Extension Society, to help purchase property at the corner of Pandora and Ingleton to build a church. The $6,000.00 construction expense was donated by Mr. Justice Kelly, who requested that the church be named Saint Helen in memory of his daughter, Helen. On August 11, 1912 Saint Helen's church was blessed. 

Twelve years later, a second dream was realized with the construction of Saint Helen's School. The Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul would staff the school for over fifty years, dedicating their lives to the education of thousands of children.

1936 began an era of unprecedented growth under the leadership of Msgr. Daniel Carey. In 1948 despite post-war hardships, he was able to inspire his community to build a new school. He then turned his attention to the over-crowded church and in 1956, to the delight of the parishioners, the new Saint Helen's Church was blessed. By 1973 the ethnic makeup of Saint Helen's Parish had experienced a dramatic change. From the Anglo-Irish parishioners of the early years, Saint Helen's was experiencing a huge increase in parishioners of Italian descent. Archbishop James Carney, realizing the need to better serve these immigrants, asked the Scalabrinian Congregation to take the parish under its care.

The second era of physical growth and development in the parish would come under the direction of these missionary priests. The seventies, with Father Joseph Ponti as Pastor, would see the construction of a new rectory, a state-of-the-art hall/gymnasium, and a fully renovated school. 

Father Joe's dream was the construction of a church and, with this in mind, he began to purchase the necessary land. Succeeding Pastors, Father Angelo Calandra and Father Peter Sordi continued to work towards this dream, accumulating land and initiating the process. Father Claudio Holzer, upon assuming the responsibilities of Pastor, took a firm hold of the dreams of his predecessors and shaped them into the reality of the new Saint Helen's Church. The new Church was dedicated on December 22, 1997. In May 2009 the mortgage was paid in full.

Continuing the dream and tradition in September 2012 the construction of the schools new West Wing was completed. It included 4 state of the art classrooms, 2 LAC rooms and a conference room. After years of hard work by parents, members of the parish and numerous fundraising committees it was blessed by Archbishop Michael Miller.

St. Helen's community continues today on its proud tradition of building a strong faith community that goes beyond the outward signs of bricks and boards to the hearts and souls of our parishioners. We are grateful for those who have come before us and for the legacy that they have left; we pray that they rest peacefully in the beatific vision. Looking forward, we continue to work, to pray and to build, always for the Kingdom of God; in this we are truly blessed.