HISTORY OF ST. STEPHEN PARISH, OLDS, ALBERTA
Catholic religious activity in the Olds area goes back to about 1838, when Fathers Francois Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers passed through the region with the annual Hudson's Bay Company Express, on their way to the vast Oregon Mission. Other missionaries followed over the years but the most notable was that of Father Albert Lacombe, who visited shortly after the railroad was built. The first child recorded to have been born in the settlement of Olds was Mary Shannon who was baptized by a visiting priest in 1891. In the early years, the Shannon home was used as a home base by visiting priests while Mass was celebrated in various private homes.
It was in 1902 that construction began on the first Catholic church located on the corner of 48th Street and 51st Avenue. However, since it was not finished until 1926, a visiting priest continued to minister to the spiritual needs of the people in the interim. 1926 was a landmark year for this parish community; it saw the arrival of the first resident parish priest, the first celebration of the sacrament of confirmation in Olds, and it marked the very first Midnight Mass to be celebrated in the officially completed church. Tragedy struck though when this church was destroyed by fire in 1940 - six years later a new church was built, and shortly thereafter the rectory was renovated.
The post-war years saw the Catholic community of St. Stephen continue to grow to the point where, in the early 1980's it became apparent that the facilities were inadequate to the meet the parish's needs, and plans were put in place to build a new larger church. The prayerful planning took some time, but began to bear tangible results with the signing of a contract on August 23, 1983 between the parish and the architect. Coincidentally, diocesan approval of the loan for construction came through on August 20th, the feast of patron saint, St. Stephen of Hungary. The next milestone was the official sod-turning, presided over by Archbishop J. N. MacNeil, in October of '83. Actual construction began on October 23 and while progress did not always go according to schedule, the new church was completed enough so that the first Mass could be celebrated there on October 20, 1984. The church of St. Stephen underwent a major renovation in 2006 in order to accommodate the still expanding parish community and it was in 2009 that, Holy Trinity, our first Catholic School was opened.
The parish of St. Stephen has always been very active and over the years various organizations and ministries have contributed to its life and development. In 1926, an Altar Society was organized and a few years later the Olds branch of the C.W.L. was formed. The men of the parish formed the Holy Name Society which evolved into the Father Forsythe Council of the Knights of Columbus in May of 1958. The formation of a Parish Council under the guidance of Father J. Reitmier (1967-69) promoted greater lay involvement in parish activities. St. Stephen has also been fortunate to have had for many years a vibrant music ministry. The talent and hard work of both its choir and choir directors was rewarded with the opportunity to sing at the Papal Mass in Edmonton in September of 1984.
It is with the help of innumerable members from the tri-parishes that the legacy of active ministry continues here at St. Stephen. Parishioners live out their faith by serving in a wide variety of ways, whether in a liturgical capacity or with the various committees and programs that continue to enrich and reward this parish and its members.