HOLY CHILD PARISH HISTORY
Our humble beginnings...
In Summerland, British Columbia, like in the case of many thriving faith communities in Western Canada, the seeds of faith were first planted by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The pioneer missionaries came initially from Kelowna and then from Penticton, to preach the Word, celebrate the Sacraments, and take care of the spiritual needs of the early settlers. The faithful would gather in homes, in the local Anglican church building, and even in the community hall until 1928 when our first Church was built on a piece of donated land. This mission church was carried out by the Oblate missionaries from Penticton and spread out in the whole Okanagan Valley, belonging to the Archdiocese of Vancouver at that time.
On February 22, 1936, the new Diocese of Nelson was created and the small mission of Summerland was part of the new Diocese. However, Summerland Church, just like any planted seed on the ground, was nurtured, nourished and grew as a people of God. In 1948 Summerland gained the status of a Parish with Father Anthony Meulenbergh as the first resident Pastor. Soon, plans were underway to build a new Church to accommodate the increasing number of parishioners. The new building was completed by December of 1948 and the first Holy Mass celebrated in the newly built church was the Christmas Midnight Mass.
Father Meulenbergh was succeeded in 1962 by Father Michael Guinan who in turn was followed by Father Frank Flynn in 1972. It was during Father Flynn's time that the present Rectory was built in 1975. father Flynn was replaced by Father William Laurie as parish priest in 1978 and was succeeded by Father John Koenders in 1980. Soon, Father John began the preparations for the building of a new Church since the congregation was growing fast. On May 29, 1988, the new Church was blessed and dedicated by Most Rev. Emmett Doyle, Bishop of Nelson.
Monsignor Charles Mulvihill took over from Father John Koenders in 1997 when Father John retired and returned to Holland. Monsignor Charles led our Parish from 1997 to 2002. When Monsignor Mulvihill retired in 2002, Father Sebastian Puthenpura was appointed as Pastor. Father Sebastian Puthenpura finished his pastorship in 2008 and was appointed to Oliver’s Christ the King Parish. Holy Child Parish welcomed Father Ferdinand Wagner Nalitan as the new Parish Priest. Fr. Ferdinand ended his term in 2012 and Fr. Jim Ratcliffe was appointed as the new Parish Priest. Unfortunately, he had to leave the parish after one year because of health concerns and so retired from active service. In 2014 we welcomed Br. Matthieu Gombo as Parish administrator until a new Pastor was appointed.
Eventually, Fr. Gerald Sekanga became the new Pastor appointed by Bishop John Correavue in 2014 until July 2016. In July 2016, Father Gerald was transferred to St. Pius X Parish in Kelowna and also to work in the Diocesan Tribunal Office. Father Ruben Buela replaced Father Gerald and became the Pastor until July 2023. Father Ruben was appointed to Holy Trinity Parish, Trail and Father Gabriel Chinnaperiannan was appointed to Holy Child Parish.
Holy Child Parish recognizes too the dedicated Sisters of Charity from Kelowna who enriched and took care of our parish in its early years of existence. Through their initiative, the parish would hold the annual Summer School Catechism classes. Later in 1974, the Sisters of Charity opened Seton House of Prayer on Fosberry Road in Summerland, to cater to the needs of our parish, especially teaching catechism to our children.
Furthermore, they also facilitated retreats, and seminars and offered spiritual counselling to the parishioners. In 1986, the prayer house was transferred to Kelowna; however, the sisters continued their service to the parish. Sister Barbara Prior CND, became our Pastoral Assistant from 1989 to 1997 and Sister Yvette Beford SSA, succeeded her from 1998 to 2001.
Holy Child Parish continues its service in Summerland despite a decline in its members. The church continues to stand tall in spite of the many trials that we have to face. Parishioners are actively taking part in different ministries and offer what they can for the good of the parish.
God bless all the Priests, religious and lay people, both living and dead, who made our Parish what it is today.