Under the direction of His Excellency Archbishop Duke, Rev. Francis Sutherland OMI of St. Peter’s Parish in New Westminster, celebrated the first Mass on the First Sunday of Advent 1933 in the new parish of St. Francis de Sales. Fourteen families attended in a cabin of the Lily Auto Court on Kingsway. An overflow crowd stood outside on that chilly December morning.
A few months later the fourteen families had grown and they requested permission to build a church and have a pastor appointed. A site on the south side of Kingsway was soon purchased under the supervision of Mr. Frank Dwan and Mr. McKee. A new church was constructed with many of the parishioners, volunteering their time and labour. The depression was in full swing and money was scarce in 1934. The first rectory was a small room, with a cook stove, behind the altar. Upstairs there was a sleeping room and this served as the living quarters for the priests. Archbishop Duke appointed an elderly Australian, Fr. McDonnell, as first Pastor. This location was occupied until the early 1950's.
In 1936, Father Trainor succeeded the Pastor, when Fr. McDonnell returned to his native land. He was followed by Father Csaki in 1940, and by Father Defoe in 1946. In 1947 Father Defoe extended the original church and added a new rectory to accommodate an increasing membership.
But by 1951 it was soon apparent that a larger church and a school was needed to serve the growing parish. Father Peter McGuire was appointed Pastor and devoted himself to this work. By 1954 a parish school with attached auditorium (to be used for Sunday Masses until the Church could be built) was completed on the present Balmoral site. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who lived at St. Patrick's Convent on 12th in Vancouver, came to teach at the school. They continued in this service until the new school was built in 1967.
In 1958, with the untimely death of Father McGuire in June, Father James Edward Brown was appointed pastor and he took up the completion of a new church, from the foundations laid by his predecessor. Our present church was blessed on November 29th, 1959, twenty six years after the first Mass in the auto court.
Shortly after the start of the new term in October 1967, the school and auditorium were burned to the ground and parishioners arriving for Mass on Sunday morning were stunned at the sight of the grey smoldering ruins! Before the day was over plans were being made to replace the old school with a better one. A quick settlement of insurance claims and diligent work by a "re-building" committee facilitated the erection of our present "St. Francis de Sales Christian Education & Parish Center" in time for the new school year of 1968. It was dedicated by Archbishop Martin Johnson. An addition was added to the school in 1993 to accommodate the Kindergarten and Pre-school, which until then was held in the Church Hall. Also added was another classroom and computer room.
Father Brown was named a monsignor and remained Pastor until 1971. He was followed by Fr. John Swinkels, Fr. Nicholas Boomars in 1982 and Fr. Ken Bernard in 1991. During those years changes were made in the vestibule, the choir loft and front of the Church with the addition of a new organ. The sanctuary was modified and new carpets, new sound system and some stained glass windows were installed.
Father Anthony Boniface became Pastor in 1996 followed by Father Gary Franken in 1998 and Father Terry Bileski in 2003. In 2007 the expansion for the vestibule of the Church was undertaken. This gave us another washroom, more meeting space and a larger gathering area to accommodate our growing parish. Father Thomas Smith became our Pastor in 2009.
During the past decades, we have welcomed the St. George's Melkite-Greek Catholic Mission and Father Maximos Basha, who passed away in April 2013, and has been replaced by Father Edward Ibrahim. Their first Mass at Saint Francis de Sales was celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 3rd. 1977. The De Sales Ministry for the Deaf was established in March 2002. Also, the Indonesian community have been celebrating Mass in Indonesian every second Saturday of the month for a while before they moved to Our Lady of Mercy Parish. These missions and ministries have added much to our parish community.
The Catholic Women's League was established in the parish May 1953 and the Knights of Columbus Council #8853 was established in November 1984. They have, along with Couples for Christ, served our parish community faithfully for many years.
In May 1982, the ordination of Father Gary Gordon, one of our school graduates and long time parish member, took place in our Church; a "first" for St. Francis de Sales!
He is now Bishop of Whitehorse, Yukon.
During the past decade, an incredible new extended church vestibule was built under Father Terry Bileski. Additionally, under Father Thomas Smith, Pastor since 2009, a brand new preschool building was added to the property, and a state-of-the-art church hall kitchen was built. Also, magnificent new stained glass windows were installed in the church.
Our parish of St. Francis de Sales continues to be a vibrant one. Over the years we have grown from those first few families who had vision and determination, and who put in hours of volunteering, to have the parish we have today with people from all corners of the world who still continue the vision. We have the great grand children of those first parishioners to the new comers to our country. Our parish organizations, along with various devotional groups, present a wide choice of religious education opportunities and activities for everyone. Looking to the future, we look forward to new members joining our parish, to new activities, and to our continuing community and spiritual growth.