Faith of our Ancestors in this Diocese
It is easy to forget that we the People of God of Nelson Diocese are enjoying the shade of trees planted by our ancestors in the faith who planted the seeds of Catholicism in south-eastern BC. Some of those who seeded the faith are well known – Father Pandosy, for example. But most of those sowers were just ordinary men and women whose faith meant so much to them that, along with building a life in the Kootenays, Okanagan, and Boundary region, they built the physical infrastructure of the Church. Without them, the faith would not exist in this corner of Canada. They are lay men and women, religious sisters, and priests. These ancestors in the faith continue to care about their descendants, and intercede for us in our journey as the People of God.
We feature first: three of the pioneer priests of the diocese.
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REV. JOHN A. ALTHOFF
b. 5 May 1853, Haarlem, Holland
d. 30 December 1925, Nelson, BC
After receiving his education at Louvain University’s American College in Belgium, Father Althoff was ordained in June 1878. He immediately left for the Diocese of Vancouver Island and in May 1879 was appointed to Alaska as its first and only Catholic missionary priest. He later wrote that “the Alaska years were singularly free from all that seems worth telling. It was lonesome, lonesome, lonesome in a superlative degree.” After Father Althoff left Alaska he served in the Victoria cathedral parish for a number of years until transferred to Nelson in 1902 where he found a parish deeply in financial arrears. Using his own personal, inherited wealth he helped to reduce the debt and under his capable administration the parish flourished. He was appointed Vicar-General (VG) of the Archdiocese of Vancouver in October 1911. Although Very Rev. Monsignor Althoff “loved his pipe and hated a cheap cigar next to mortal sin,” he never hesitated to provide for others and assist those in need. His unassuming demeanor, kindness and generosity, particularly to the sick and poor, are fondly remembered.
REV. NICOLAS COCCOLA
b. 12 December 1854, Corsica.
d. 1 March 1943, Smithers, BC
Born and raised on the French island of Corsica, Coccola entered the Oblates of Mary Immaculate seminary at the age of nineteen. The Oblates quickly recognized Coccola’s adventurous spirit and identified him as a prime candidate for the difficult missions in British Columbia. After ordination in 1881 at St. Mary’s Mission, BC, Father Coccola was assigned to serve both the Kamloops region’s railway construction camps and the aboriginal peoples. His facility to learn native languages was a distinct asset and his self-taught medical skills became legendary. By 1887 he was reassigned to St. Eugene Mission near Cranbrook. His missionary territory included many scattered communities throughout the Kootenay region: Fernie, Creston, Ainsworth, Kaslo, Sandon, Nelson, Rossland, Trail. With the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the East Kootenay, Fr. Coccola encouraged his native flock to discover similar claims; and, as a result, the St. Eugene deposit near Moyie Lake was staked. With the sale of this claim the discoverer, Pierre, was endowed with a house, cattle, farm implements and a lifetime stipend of $5 per month. This sale also provided funds to construct a beautiful Gothic Church at the St. Eugene Mission site. In 1905 Fr. Coccola was reassigned to Stuart Lake in northern British Columbia. Later in life, under the vow of obedience from his superiors, he penned his life’s Memoirs, but he continued to champion and support his beloved native peoples until death in his 88th year.
MSGR. ARCHIBALD KENNETH (A.K. )McINTYRE
b. 10 September 1888, Bayfield, NS
d. 4 November 1974, Rossland, BC
Archibald Kenneth McIntyre, after graduation from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS, and studying theology in Quebec, moved to Cranbrook, BC, where he taught school for one year (1910). For health reasons his doctor recommended a higher altitude so he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado. After ordination in May 1912, Fr. Mac was appointed Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Rossland where he remained for 60 years ‑ a Western Canadian record. In 1932 he was appointed Vicar-General and served under five bishops: Archbishops T. Casey and W. M. Duke of Vancouver, and Nelson Bishops M. M. Johnson, T. J. McCarthy and W. E. Doyle. Mons. McIntyre was well known and revered in Rossland where he was named Freeman of the City, He was also renowned as a man of wry wit, five-minute sermons, punctuality and a ready smile. His last days were spent in his beloved Mater Misericordiae Hospital [Rossland] where he had been a frequent visitor for six decades.
Fr. Mac’s quotable quotes:
- “When you approach the holy water fountain to make the sign of the cross, do not use your hand as a fly swatter ‑ make a proper sign of the cross.”
- When appointed Apostolic Prelate in 1949, he remarked that in Rome he “would have certain privileges, but in Rossland it simply means shovel more snow!”
- “When you visit anyone in the hospital be brief and begone.”
R.J. (Ron) Welwood
8 Dec. 2010
And what of your saintly ancestors? They too truly believed and lived the Beatitudes. They made the presence of Jesus visible and credible by their lives. Only this living witness, sustained by great charity and evangelical zeal, can explain how the Church could grow…
(John Paul II)