· Before the official establishment of St. Mary’s parish on September 6, 1964, members of the clergy from Sacred Heart Church in Red Deer arranged to provide spiritual guidance to the parishioners living within the bounds of what was to become Red Deer’s second parish. In the beginning it was unofficially known as St. Thomas parish, probably because Masses were celebrated in the gymnasium of St. Thomas School.
· The full and proper name of St. Mary’s Church is the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr. Werner Merx was appointed the first pastor and superintended the construction of this unique building.
· Planning for the Church began in the fall of 1964 by commissioning Douglas J. Cardinal as the architect.
Mr. Cardinal was born and raised in Red Deer and St. Mary’s was the first major project of his professional career.
· Mr. James T. Morrisroe donated the land for the Church.
· The sod was turned for the beginning of construction on June 26, 1966 with completion of construction in November of 1968.
· The total cost of the Church, exclusive of land and fees, was approximately $360,000.00. Over the years improvements and upgrades have been needed to maintain health and safety standards of the building including the removal of the asbestos coating on the ceiling and replacement with the existing sealant. The parapets and roof have also been replaced.
· The church has a seating capacity of 650, which can be augmented with additional chairs for seating capacity
· Most Rev. Anthony Jordan, O.M.I. Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Edmonton blessed the Church on
December 8, 1968 on its official opening.
· The church has been described as being warm, sheltering, protective, inviting and free flowing.
Father Werner Merx, then pastor, was quoted as saying, “The intention is to bring everyone closer to the altar and closer to each other.”
· In the early 1990’s parishioners began the task of raising funds for a parish center. The needs of the faith community went beyond celebrating the Mass together on a daily and weekly basis. It was decided that in order to accommodate the growing needs for meeting space and gathering space for social and educational opportunities, a Parish Centre was needed. After considerable deliberation, the contract for design of the project was awarded to Group 2 Architects with the explicit instructions that the new design must compliment and blend with the original architecture. In 1995 construction began on the project which was completed and blessed on December 17, 1995.
· The parish center has added a new dimension to the life of the parish and helped the community to grow and prosper. Meetings, social gatherings, education and catechetical instruction make the parish center a beehive of activity throughout the week and the year.
· German artist and sculptor, Alois Marx, added permanent artwork to the church over the course of 3 summers.
The Great Crucifix took about 400 hours to create. The cross is made from two fir logs. The body or “corpus” was fashioned from two large yellow cedar logs. It is 6.5 meters high and weighs about 3500 lbs.Mrs. Jeanne Depalme and family donated the materials for the artwork in memory of her husband, Frank Depalme.
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil blessed the completed artwork on September 13, 1997.
· The parish has been blessed with the presence of the Order of Mary Immaculate (Oblates), Holy Cross Fathers
and the Pallottine Fathers as leaders and guides through the years. Pastors have included Fr. W. Merx, o.m.i.,
Fr. Norman Bordage, c.s.c., Fr. Paul Kingston, c.s.c., Fr. Hugh MacGillivray, c.s.c., Fr. Gottfied Seifert, sac,
Fr. Erik Riechers, sac and Fr. Joseph Dephoff, sac., Fr. Paul Kavanagh, Fr. Les Drewicki, Fr Len Cadieux.
· The design of the church enhances the worship space by bringing all members of the congregation into close proximity with the altar which is the centre and focal point of our liturgy and the prayer life of the community.
· The parish continues to grow due to the hard work and dedication of the clergy and the committed members of the parish who treat church not as a building but as a family of believers. As we continue to grow in faith and love the church building takes on the aura of the community it houses. The love of the parishioners of St. Mary’s welcomes all who enter and hopes they will share in the veneration of the Lord in a worship space provided for that purpose.