Currently, there are three Parishes that make up the Catholic Parishes of Penticton: St. Ann’s (on Main St.), St. John Vianney (on Wade Ave.), and Sacred Heart Mission (on Green Mountain Rd – the church building burned down in 2021).
Sacred Heart Mission Church Built in 1911
While Okanagan Mission (Kelowna) was still in existence, Rev. Charles John Pandosy, O.M.I. first called on Catholics during a visit to the Indians in Penticton in 1857. The Penticton Mission was established and regularly visited by Fr. Pandosy, and others. Fr. Pandosy died of pneumonia at the Penticton Indian Reserve. Fr. Pierre Conan was the first resident priest on the reserve from about 1900 to 1916. In 1911, Fr. Conan built the present Sacred Heart Church on the Penticton Indian Reserve.
Original St. Ann’s Church, 1915
On the site where St. John Vianney is now, the original St. Ann’s church was dedicated in 1915.
The Catholic congregation of Penticton held Mass in a downtown rented hall, and members went to the Indian Reserve church at Christmas and feast days. On Easter April 12, 1914, the last Sunday Mass was said in the hall. In less than one week workers constructed a temporary church, which was first used on Sunday, April 19, 1914. The population of Penticton was 1,100 and there were 35 families in the new St. Ann’s Parish. The cornerstone of the new church was laid on Sunday July 26, 1914. (the Feast of St. Ann) by Fr. J. Welch, Superior of the BC Oblate Fathers. The church , at the present site of St. John Vianney Church, was blessed and opened the following Christmas. The dedication was July 26, 1915, by Archbishop Timothy Casey of Vancouver in the presence of worshipers. Assisting His Grace in the solemn ceremonies of the day were Very Rev. Fr. Welch, Provincial of Oblates; Father LeChesne, OMI parish priest; and Father Conan, OMI priest at the Indian Mission.
Many citizens of Penticton, not members of St. Ann’s, but friends nevertheless, gathered to witness the opening of the new building for services.
Address of Welcome at Opening of St. Ann’s in 1915
Father LeChesne’s official address welcome read:
Your Grace, the occasion of your visit in our midst for the solemn blessing of this splendid building, erected to the honour and glory of God by the Catholics of Penticton, is a source of great rejoicing not only for those of the faith but also for every citizen of this beautiful town of the Southern Okanagan. Here, this morning in this handsome edifice, we have representatives of from the district of Similkameen, and everybody, of whatever class of creed they belong it, are most pleased to extend to Your Grace a cordial and royal welcome.
You have come for the first time to this beautiful valley of the Okanagan, the California of Canada, and we have the honour of greeting Your Grace before older and better-established places. We appreciate this favour very sincerely. You have come as the Chief Pastor of this vast archdiocese to see for yourself the work started here over a year ago and to encourage us to continue the good work by your kindness and eloquence, during these very strenuous times.
I profit therefor of this occasion as pastor of this new parish, dedicated to St. Ann, to offer Your Grace in the name of the Catholics of Penticton and district, the firm assurance of our deep respect and sincere submission to the Divine authority conferred upon Your Grace.
I have just mentioned that we have started a new work here. I will explain myself. It is a new work in regard to the white population of this place, as the town of Penticton a few years ago consisted only of a few white settlers; but the work of planting the good seed of the Gospel of Christ and building churches was started nearly 57 years ago this winter at Okanagan Mission, near Kelowna, and here in Penticton 54 years ago, before the New Westminster and St. Mary’s Mission, Mission City, on the Fraser River, by this intrepid band of of Catholic missionaries the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the pioneers of the Gospel on the mainland of B.C.Source: Penticton Herald
The Diocese of Nelson, 1936
On February 22, 1936, the Diocese of Nelson was established by His Holiness Pope Pius XI. The Diocese includes the Okanagan and Kootenay areas of southeastern British Columbia. The charismatic, eloquent Most Reverend Martin Johnson was ordained as the First Bishop of Nelson. He encouraged his people to consider the needs of the aged, families, and students.
St. Ann’s Present Church
By 1957, the population of Penticton, Naramata and Kaleden had grown to 15,000 and there were 500 families at the original St. Ann’s Church on Wade Avenue. Recognizing the inadequacy of the church, construction of the present St. Ann’s Church on the site adjacent to the school began in 1958. Most Reverend Emmett Doyle, the Third Bishop of Nelson, solemnly blessed and opened the new church on May 3, 1959.
Later that year, Bishop Doyle blessed the new addition to St. Joseph School. He blessed the St. Ann’s Convent on March 7, 1961. The Rectory was opened and blessed in 1966. In June 1973, St. Joseph School closed.
St. John Vianney Takes Shape
When St. Ann’s opened in 1959 on Main Street, the original St. Ann’s Church, built on Wade Avenue in 1914 became known as The Chapel of Ease and continued to be used for weekday Masses. By 1964, the population of Penticton had grown to 18,000 and the old St. Ann’s Church was no longer adequate. The city was divided into two parishes. Catholics living north of Eckhardt Avenue and Ellis Creek would belong to the new parish, named St. John Vianney. Until a new church was built, parishioners would continue to share the new St. Ann’s Church building. Thus began the planning and building of the second Catholic church which began in October 1964. While the church was under construction, the parishioners gathered in private homes for meetings and used facilities at the community’s Jubilee Pavilion for Mass.
The new church was built on the site of the old St. Ann’s rectory, and the Christian Education Centre (the parish hall) is on the site of the old St. Ann’s Church. The cornerstone for the new church was laid in December 1965. The church and the hall were both completed by March 1966.
The solemn blessing and official opening of St. John Vianney Church was pronounced by His Excellency, the Most Reverend W.E. Doyle, D.D., J.C.D., the Bishop of Nelson Diocese, on Sunday, March 27, 1966.
Reverend Pat McCarthy, the first pastor wrote:
Rejoice that another House of God is officially opened for divine services: that the anxiety and inconvenience of the past few months is over.
He encouraged people to work together, explained the reasons for the changes to the church which included the altar facing the people and the removal of the altar rails, and was proud of a “liturgically correct” new church.
In 1977, after 63 years of successive Oblate pastors, Fr. H. James Lynch became the first Diocesan priest to lead St. Ann’s.
In 1993, through the cooperation of the local parishes; our Catholic School was reopened with the new name “Holy Cross”.
Sisters Contribute Leadership
Over the years, religious women from the Sisters of St. Ann, Sisters of Service, Congregation of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Joseph of Pembroke, the Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Assumption served in Penticton parishes. They taught in catechetical programs and the school, visited the sick and were leaders in lay development, administration, and liturgy.
Sacred Heart Mission Church Destroyed by Fire
In the early morning hours of June 21, 2021, Sacred Heart church, built in 1911, burned to the ground.