Our Diocese » History


A Short History of the Diocese

In the late 1830s French Canadians in the Oregon Territory petitioned the Quebec bishops to have missionary priests sent beyond the Rocky Mountains. In response to this plea, Fathers François-Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers were sent West to a remote part of the Quebec diocese referred to as New Caledonia by the Hudson’s Bay Company. While at Boat Encampment on the Columbia River (Mica Dam area), Blanchet and Demers celebrated Mass on October 10th 1838 ‑ the first Mass celebrated in what later became the Diocese of Nelson.

During the years of westward expansion and settlement, the spiritual needs of the region presently administered by the Diocese of Nelson came under the jurisdiction of various bishoprics:

  • Vicariate Apostolic of the Oregon Territory, 1843-1846
  • Diocese of Vancouver Island, 1846-1863
  • Vicariate Apostolic of British Columbia, 1863-1890
  • Diocese of New Westminster, 1890-1908
  • Archdiocese of Vancouver, 1908-1936

On February 22nd 1936, His Holiness Pope Pius XI erected the Diocese of Nelson to cover the Kootenay and Okanagan regions of southeastern British Columbia.

Bishops of the Diocese: 

Martin Michael Johnson (1936–1954) (Deceased)
Thomas Joseph McCarthy (1955–1958) (Deceased)
Wilfrid Emmett Doyle (1958–1989) (Deceased)
Peter Joseph Mallon (1989–1995) (Deceased)
Eugene Jerome Cooney (1996–2007)
John Dennis Corriveau (2007–2018)
Gregory John Bittman (2018 - present)

The Geography of the Diocese

This map shows the towns where parishes and missions of the diocese are located.



  1. Golden (Sacred Heart Parish)
  2. Invermere (Canadian Martyrs Parish), Akisqnuk (formerly Columbia Lake) Native Reserve Mission, Windermere; Radium Hot Springs (St. Joseph  Mission),  Shuswap Native Indian Reserve
  3. Sparwood (St. Michael Parish), Elkford (St. Bernard’s Mission), Fernie (Holy Family Parish Mission)
  4. Kimberly (Sacred Heart Parish), Canal Flats (St. Anthony Mission), Jaffray (St. Joseph Mission)
  5. Cranbrook (Christ the Servant, St. Mary Parishes), St. Mary's Native Reserve (St. Eugene Mission), Moyie (St. Peter Mission), Tobacco Plains Band/Reserve, Grassmere
  6. Creston (Holy Cross Parish), Riondel (Most Holy Redeemer Mission), Lower Kootenay Band/Reserve, Creston
  1. Castlegar (St. Rita Parish); Slocan, (St. Mary Mission), New Denver (St. Anthony Mission),
  2. Fruitvale (St. Rita Parish), Salmo (Sacred Heart Mission), Rossland (Sacred Heart Parish Mission)
  3. Nelson (Cathedral of Mary Immaculate), Kaslo (Sacred Heart Mission),  Proctor (Sacred Heart Mission)
  4. Trail (Holy Trinity Parish)
  5. Grand Forks (Sacred Heart Parish), Greenwood (Sacred Heart Mission), Christina Lake (Our Lady of the Lake Mission)


  1. Revelstoke (St. Francis of Assisi Parish), Nakusp (Our Lady of Lourdes Mission), Fauquier (St. John the Baptist Mission), Edgewood (St. Agnes Mission)
  2. Lake Country (St. Edward Parish)
  3. Kelowna (Corpus Christi Parish, St. Charles Garnier Parish, St. Pius X Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish)
  4. West Kelowna (Our Lady of Lourdes Parish), Westbank Native Reserve (St. Patrick Mission)


  1. Summerland (Holy Child Parish), Penticton Native Reserve (Sacred Heart Mission), Okanagan Falls (Our Lady Of Lourdes Mission)
  2. Penticton (St. Ann & St. John Vianney Parishes)
  3. Princeton (St. Peter Parish), Keremeos (Our Lady Of Lourdes Mission), Hedley, Upper Similkimeen Band/Hedley Native Reserve
  4. Oliver (Christ The King Parish), Inkameep/Nk'Mip Native Band (St. Gregory Mission)
  5. Osoyoos (St. Anne Parish), Lower Similkimeen Band/Chopaka Native Reserve
More information:
For more information, contact the diocesan Archives.
Our forefathers ... all passed through the sea.
(1 Corinthians 10:1)

God, ...penetrating the woven fabric of history with its tales and events…The divine is therefore present in human events which, through the action of the Lord of history, are inserted in the greater plan of salvation for “everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth”

(XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops)