A Brief History
The parish began in June of 1885 when the Right Reverend Louis d’Herbomez, OMI, vicar apostolic of the mainland of British Columbia, appointed Father Patrick Fay to care for the two settlements of Granville (‘Gastown’) and Hastings. Father Fay was chaplain to the Canadian Pacific Railway workers. He said the first Mass on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, 1885.
Regular Masses were held in Blair’s Hall on Abbot Street and in Keefer’s Hall, at Alexander and Water Streets.In 1886 there were 69 Catholic families in the “parish” and the need of a permanent church was obvious. The people decided to build. In choosing a site for the new church, it is said, Father Fay looked south from the waterfront, up the slopes of the uncut forest and simply pointed to the piece of land with the tallest tree. The land was acquired and a wooden church was built. The wooden A-frame structure was built and blessed in 1887. In just two years, it had to be enlarged. This time a bell tower was added.
At Bishop d’Herbomez’s death in 1890, the Vicariate Apostolic of British Columbia was made a Diocese. Rev. Paul Durieu, OMI, was appointed Bishop of New Westminster. With the rapid expansion of Vancouver, the pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, Father J. M. McGuckin, OMI, planned another expansion.
The newly appointed Bishop, Augustin Dontenwill gave his blessings for the construction of a grand church. On July 16, 1899, the cornerstone of the present church was laid. The church doors were officially opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 1900. What was dubbed “McGuckin’s folly” because of the financial strains that accompanied the construction, should be replaced with “McGuckin’s foresight.” Why? Because in 1908, with the growth and importance of Vancouver, the Holy See decreed that the city be established as the seat of an Archdiocese. In 1916, in the time of Archbishop Timothy Casey, D.D. the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was declared a cathedral.