A Brief History of Holy Child Parish Summerland, BC
As was the case with many a thriving faith community in Western Canada, in Summerland too, the seeds of faith were first planted by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. These 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 gathered 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 served by the Oblates from Penticton and Summerland, along with 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 did not remain small much longer and in 1948 Summerland was raised to the status of 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 Mass celebrated there was the Christmas Midnight Mass. No wonder the parish was named Church of the Holy Child.
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. Then Father William Laurie became our parish priest in 1978 and was succeeded by Father John Koenders in 1980. Soon Father John began the preparations for the building of our present Church since the congregation was growing rapidly. On May 29, 1988, the new building 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 guided our Parish from 1997 to 2002. When Monsignor Mulvihill retired in 2002, Father Sebastian Puthenpura was appointed in his place. Father Sebastian Puthenpura Left in 2008, appointed to Oliver’s Christ the King Parish and we welcomed Father Ferdinan Wagner Nalitan as our Parish Priest. Fr. Ferdinan was called back to his home in the Philippines in 2012 and Fr. Jim Ratcliffe was appointed our new Parish Priest. Unfortunately, he had to leave us after only one year due to health concerns and so retired from active service. In 2014 we welcomed Br. Matthieu Gombo as our Parish administrator until our new permanent Parish Priest, Fr. Gerald S. was assigned to Summerland in July 2015.
We also would like to acknowledge the many dedicated Sisters who have enriched our parish over the years. A regular feature of the early years of our parish was the annual Summer School Catechism classes conducted by the Sisters of Charity from Kelowna. Later in 1974, the Sisters of Charity opened Seton House of Prayer on Fosberry Road in Summerland. They provided retreats, seminars and spiritual counseling for anyone who desired these services. In 1986 the prayer house was transferred to its present location in Kelowna.
Even after the transfer of the prayer house the parish had the benefit of service from different Sisters at various times. Among them was Sister Barbara Prior CND, our Pastoral Assistant from 1989-1997 and Sister Yvette Beford SSA from 1998-2001
This is only a brief overview of our history. For those interested in a detailed history of the parish please contact the Parish office at (250) 494-3110.
God bless all the Priests, religious and lay people, both living and dead, who made our Parish what it is today.