Fr. William O'Boyle
1908 – 1909
On September 27, 1909 the first group of pioneers arrived, recruited by Fathers William O’Boyle and Theodore Theroux, to work at the Fraser Mills sawmill on the North Shore of the Fraser River. By June, 1910 between 200 and 400 French-speaking families came west to make up the new community that answered the call to meet a labour shortage which threatened to close the mill.
Check out this great video that covers the rich history of Maillardville.
It started when the first French-Canadians who settled in what was to become Maillardville crossed Canada all the way from Rockland, Ontario, and Hull and Sherbrooke in Québec. On September 27, 1909, the first group of pioneers arrived, recruited by Fathers William O’Boyle and Theodore Theroux, to work at the Fraser Mills sawmill on the North Shore of the Fraser River. By June, 1910 between 200 and 400 French-speaking families came west to make up the new community that answered the call to meet a labour shortage which threatened to close the mill.
Religion held a very important place in the hearts of the pioneers and in September, 1909 they founded the French-speaking parish called Paroisse de Fraser Mills – Parish of Fraser Mills later changed to Our Lady of Lourdes. The congregation of Maillardville attended Sunday Mass in the school classroom on the top floor of the Fraser Mills General Store. Management at Fraser Mills offered the settlers the site and materials needed to build the church and by 1910, thanks to everyone’s efforts, the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes (the French “Notre Dame de Lourdes” was originally used) were able to celebrate Christmas Mass in the church they had erected on Laval Square. The new Church was blessed on December 11, 1910, by Archbishop Neil McNeil, Secular.
The school began in October, 1909 and for two months Miss. Blancard taught the 30 children in a room above the Fraser Mills General Store. In December of the same year French-speaking Sister Marie Amélie (Superior) and Sister Marie Alix, Sisters of the Child Jesus, take over teaching the pioneer children. They had been asked by the Oblate Fathers to come and teach. They lived at St. Louis College until the convent was built by the parish and would walk part of the way through the forest every day.
Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School opened on the church grounds on August 26, 1911. It was situated on the northwest corner of the present Church parking lot on Laval Square. The convent and rectory were also opened at the same time. It operated there until 1960.
The name Maillardville was chosen by the settlers to honour the founding Our Lady of Lourdes Pastor, Father Edmond Maillard. The name is a reminder of the early and close ties between Coquitlam’s francophone pioneers and the Catholic Church. The francophone influence remains highly visible in street names such as Delestre, Teck and Vanier, all of which commemorate parish priests.
The first post office was established in the “George Proulx Store” on the northwest corner of Pitt River Road (Brunette) and Laval Street in 1913. The Postmaster General granted the village a post office under the name of Maillardville. The postmark Maillardville was in honour of Father Maillard.
When the second church at St. Anne’s Hall had become too small for the growing congregation it was moved to a temporary structure built over the first church’s foundation. This was used from December 15, 1929 to 1938. St. Anne’s Hall was used as classrooms from the 1930s to 1960s. In the early 1930s, the baptismal font was built by a parishioner, Bartholemew Lambert, for the baptism of one of his children. It was replaced in 2008.
The community kept growing with new institutions such as the Caisse Populaire de Notre-Dame de Lourdes opening on April 6, 1946. The name was later changed to Caisse Populaire de Maillardville. It is now Van City.
As the population increased, a third Catholic parish in Coquitlam is formed and All Saints Parish is founded in 1949. This same year Father Joseph Fouquette, a child of the parish, is ordained in May. The Knights of Columbus started in July.
Our Lady of Lourdes High School on Hammond Avenue was built by Father Vanier and opened in September, 1950. It was sold to the City of Coquitlam in 1973 and is now Maillard Elementary School.
Celebrations were held in 1959 for the 50th Anniversary of the founding of our parish. To commemorate this milestone Father Fréchette renovated the inside of the church.
A new convent and Elementary School was built on Rochester Avenue in 1960 and operated until 1996. In 1983 Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima and All Saints parishes join together to run two schools. Fatima teaches French students and Lourdes English. The parish no longer operates a school, and the site on Rochester Avenue is being rented out to the Traditional Learning Academy, a private school.
Over the years, great efforts have been made by the francophone descendants to maintain their French heritage through parish and community events, societies, organizations and a senior’s home. On November 21, 1963, the Societée Bi-Culturel de Maillardville is founded. A home for French-speaking seniors, Foyer Maillard, opens May 1, 1969. The first Franco Fête, an annual family funfair, is held in 1974. Maillardville Unis is founded on January 18, 1979. In 1982 the choir Les Échos du Pacifique started. The first “Festival du Bois” is held on April 23, 1983.
Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the parish in 1984. A rare and unique high relief sculpture designed by Roy Lewis is unveiled at the celebration. The artist is a Professor of Arts at U.B.C. and a member of the Artists Association of B.C. In 1987 vinyl siding is installed on the church, rectory and St. Anne’s Hall, and the steeple is added to the church on December 8th of the same year.
On June 24, 1999, Archbishop Adam Exner announced the establishment of the new parish St. Clare of Assisi in Coquitlam. The first parish Masses were held on September 18, 1999, at Eagle Ridge United Church. On October 11, 2003, Archbishop Adam Exner blessed the new St. Clare of Assisi Parish Hall that will function as the church until further notice.
On February 8, 2009, Our Lady of Lourdes has celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the parish. To mark the occasion of this milestone centennial celebration Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, officiated in the Solemn Consecration of the new altar and pillars and provided a Blessing Mass of Thanksgiving.
Over the 100 hundred years the community has changed but the town and streets still bear the name of many of our pastors and the Church is still a reminder of the rich history. For a century the parish has been blessed as we remember today the many men and women through the years whose faith, vision and sacrifice have helped build this house of prayer, this dwelling place of God, this Church. Let us come together to celebrate the continued building of a family of faith, rejoice in our faith in God, our gratitude for those came first and our pride in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Thank you to Michele Smillie who sent us this wedding photo of her parents here at Our Lady of Lourdes church in October 1, 1955.