On November 20, 1985, Bishop Paul O’Bryne wrote to Father Pat Gorman or Lethbridge, officially appointing him administrator of the Catholic community of West Lethbridge. It was to be known as St. Martha's Catholic Community in a “… lasting and fitting tribute to the Sisters of St. Martha who have for so many years given of themselves to serving the people of Lethbridge and area.”
Father Pat, showing energy and enthusiasm, wasted little time. Seventy people attended the first organizational meeting on December 9, 1985 and on the weekend of January 4 and 5, 1986 they celebrated their first Mass at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in West Lethbridge.
January 8, 1986 marked the first meeting of the provisional Parish Council and the first item on the agenda was to establish a future site for the new church building. The most ideal location was the present day site, kitty corner to the Children of St. Martha’s School. A Building Fund Committee was organized on February 11, 1986 and immediately began sponsoring various events and pledge drives to raise monies to obtain the 40% of the total project cost before construction could commence.
During this time several other groups also took shape within the parish including our first youth group, social committee, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Women’s League. As the community continued to grow, there was a need for more help. Sister Nora Whelan was welcomed early in 1986 as a pastoral worker who played a big role in the development of a strong liturgy committee for the church in addition to assisting other various groups such as the archive, constitutional and banner committees.
On June 21, 1987, we formally said farewell and thanks to Father Pat Gorman who left to serve as Chaplain of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC. Father Pat felt he needed to retire from our parish as he believed his health would not allow him to keep pace with our young and vibrant parish. Many who worked closely with him however, felt that he had things reversed – they had a tough time keeping up to him!
On July 16, 1987 Father Jim Hagel came to St. Martha’s and on October 4, 1987 was inducted as its first pastor when St. Martha’s officially became a parish. Father Jim brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience and a strong faith that he promptly put to use helping the parishioners grow spiritually and to begin the process of constructing a new church. A large duplex was rented at this time at 164 Laval Blvd. so as to offer Father Jim his own living quarters and provide the parish with meeting rooms and office space.
In December of 1987, Parish Council decided that for the sake of convenient Mass times, financial savings and a greater awareness of the need for a church building, it would be best to move to the Children of St. Martha School upon the school’s opening. In September of 1988, St. Martha’s Parish celebrated their first Mass in the school’s gymnasium. This auditorium would be the home for St. Martha’s parishioners for the next five years. Dedicated church-goers set up and took down chairs, hosted coffee after Mass each weekend and helped to create a worship space for the people of St. Martha’s Church.
During all of this, the Design Team, formed in September of 1987, continued to work diligently and presented the first design plans, with the architect, on June 27, 1989, to the parishioners. It gave everyone a tremendous feeling of accomplishment as they gathered in the school gym looking at the model of a church which, directly or indirectly, they each helped to develop.
On Sunday, July 11, 1993, St. Martha’s Parish celebrated Mass outside our church property at 355 Columbia Blvd., followed by a sod turning ceremony to officially start the construction of St. Martha’s Roman Catholic Church. Actual excavation took place on July 28 with the cement truck arriving on August 12, 1993 to pour the first concrete footings.
Over the next eight months the church started to take on new dimensions. It gradually rose up above the ground to become a building of character and modern design. The first Mass in the new Church was celebrated on Saturday, May 7, 1994 with Father Jim Hagel presiding and Deacon Anthony Organ assisting. It had been eight years and four months since the inception of St. Martha’s Parish.
In the summer of 1996, Father Jim retired to Longview, Alberta and Father Dennis McDonald was appointed as our new pastor. Father Dennis joined the family of St. Martha and quickly came to love and enjoy the youth and energy of the Parish. In the fall of 1996 the Parish purchased a house on Purdue Court and designated it as a rectory; a home for our pastors.
Clayton Twigg was appointed Deacon to our parish in 2005. In 2008, Clayton resigned as Deacon to St. Martha’s. Fortunately for our parish, Michael Pollard was enrolled in the 3 year diaconate program and we officially welcomed him as our Deacon in October of 2010. He has been kept busy assisting our Pastor with his liturgical duties ever since.
In August of 2013, Father Roque Pereira was appointed chaplain at the University of Lethbridge and resident at St. Martha's Parish. With this wonderful addition, in the spring of 2014 the parish purchased a new house to serve as rectory for both the Pastor of St. Martha's and the University Chaplain.
The Pastors of St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church:
Reverend Patrick Gorman - 1986-1987 Reverend Jim Hagle - 1987-1996 Reverend Dennis McDonald - July 1996 to August 2008 Reverend Eulogio Estaris - August 2008 September 2008 to June 2013 - Reverend Fernando Genogaling July 2013 to August 2018 - Reverend Salvador Ahumada August 2013 to present - Reverend Roque Pereira (University of Lethbridge Chaplain in residence at St. Martha's Parish) August 2018 to present - Reverend William Monis