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A Brief History of the Catholic Community at the University of British Columbia
Between 1930s and 1950s, pastoral responsibility for the Campus of the University of British Columbia and the Endowment Lands belonged to the Redemptorlst Fathers at the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The first Catholic students’ organization was called the Aquinas Club. In 1932 it became the Newman Club, a club that continues to this day.
In 1956, St Mark s College received its charter from the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Founded by the Basilian Fathers and affiliated with UBC, the College contributed to the residential and spiritual care for the students, staff, and faculty and the St Mark’s Chapel became the centre of Catholic life on the campus. For more than 50 years, the Basilian Fathers supported the teaching mission of UBC, Among them, Fr. Jim Hanrahan, the longest serving Principal of the College, taught in the Department of History. The South wing of St. Mark’s (Hanrahan Hall) currently commemorates his service to St. Mark’s College and the University.
St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish was founded In 1967 by Archbishop Johnson with the pastoral responsibility for the University Endowment Lands west of Bianca Avenue and as far south as 20th Avenue. Fr. Albert Zsigmond, the founding pastor, initiated a relationship with St. Anselm’s Anglican Church to host the Sunday Eucharist for the community. The parish reached a high point of 150 families before the beloved pastor died In late 1991. In 1997, the arrangement for space at St. Anselm’s had come to an end and search for a new
home for the parish started.
In 1998, St. Mark’s College opened a new chapel. An agreement between the College, the Parish and Archbishop Exner, OMI, opened the door for the St. Ignatius Parish community to celebrate Sunday Morning Eucharist in the new St. Mark’s Chapel under pastoral guidance of Fr. Leo Klosterman, CSB. The leadership of St. Mark’s College worshiping community and chaplaincy remained the responsibility of the Principal, with Fr. Klosterman serving as the Registrar of St.Mark’s College, in addition to his role as pastor of St. Ignatius.
In 2005, the General Council of Basilians terminated their institutional commitment to both St. Mark’s College and the pastoral position at St. Ignatius Parish. After St. Mark’s College appointed its first lay Principal, Dr. David Sylvester, the Parish Council, in collaboration with Dr. Sylvester, presented the growing pastoral needs of the Catholic community at UBC to the Archdiocese which resulted in the appointment of Fr. Brian Burns, OFM, a Franciscan priest, as the new pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish. Fr. Burns was also invited by Dr. Sylvester to work as Director of UBC Catholic Campus Ministry. During his time as pastor, Fr. Brian inspired all around him with his fresh and vigorous approach to the Gospel message. His unexpected death in June 2007 was a great loss to the whole community.
Between 2007 and 2011 Fr. James Sheppard, a Jesuit priest, was appointed Parish Administrator of St. Ignatius Parish. Fr. Jim greatiy enriched the community with his deep spiritual insights. Fr. Jim’s presence at St.Ignatius Parish initiated the association between the parish and the Society of Jesus, setting the stage for the Jesuits to accept the appointment to be the pastors of St. Marks Parish. The Parish of St. Mark was established in January 2012. The plan to bring together the two Catholic worshipping communities at UBC, St. Mark’s College and St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish, was originally communicated by Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB, in a meeting with parishioners in the Fall of 2011. The Parish of St. Mark inherits the mandates of St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish and the St. Mark’s College faith community, including the duty to serve the residents and students at UBC and
the university hospital system.
In January 2012, Fr. Robert Allore, SJ, was welcomed as our new Pastor, and Fr. John McCarthy, SJ, who had been acting as chaplain in the Campus Ministry, became Assistant Pastor. Later that year, Fr. John was summoned to Toronto to become the Assistant to the Provincial for the Jesuits in English speaking Canada. In early 2013, Fr. Michael Stogre, SJ, was appointed as Assistant Pastor. The parish community is fortunate to benefit from their dedicated spiritual leadership, friendship and generosity.