St. Patrick's Parish History

1912 - Our Lady of Lourdes Church

1960 - Saint Patrick's Church

In January 1911, a small group of Franciscan nuns known as the Poor Clares, whose mother house was in New Orleans, secured a piece of property in the neighbourhood of the "Exhibition Building" in Oak Bay.  According to press clippings of the time, the arrival of the nuns seemed an opportune occasion for founding a new Catholic parish with a public church to be built in connection with the new convent.

The monastery and church were constructed under the direction of Father Adrien Vullinghs, a native of Holland who came to minister on Vancouver Island in 1891.   Father Vullinghs was the architect, contractor and foreman.  Our Lady of Lourdes church was modelled, on a smaller scale, after the original in Lourdes, France.  The church was opened for worship on December 15, 1912 and accommodated approximately 200 people.  A Grotto, closely resembling the original at Lourdes was an interesting part of the structure.  In 1914 a rectory was built on the east side of the church.

The parish thrived and grew as the municipality of Oak Bay developed around it.  In 1954 the parish, under the leadership of Father Michael McNamara, who was originally from Ireland, undertook the building of St. Patrick's Elementary School on Trent Street to educate all the children of the expanding parish.  The school was designed by parish member and well-known local architect John Di Castri.  In 1956 the parish proudly opened the school which was the fruition of Father Mac and the parishioners' hard work with planning, fund-raising and construction. 

In the late 1950s it was clear that the original small church was far too small to handle the large parish numbers.  Under the direction of dynamic Father Mac, and the design of John Di Castri, and many prayers and work of the whole parish, a new church was built and named St. Patrick's Church after the patron Saint of Ireland.  The first celebration in the new church was Midnight Mass on December 24, 1960.  

The Poor Clares community moved to Duncan in 1972 and the monastery was torn down.   The land previously occupied by the original church and monastery is now occupied by a parking lot, parish hall, administrative complex and the 24 unit life-lease St. Clare Villa for seniors, which were all opened in 1999. 

Saint Patrick's Victoria Picture of Mary Statue

The History of St. Patrick's Parish

Statue of Mary

In 1907 Father Vullinghs, the founding pastor of our original parish, made a visit to Lourdes, France.  While there, he was witness to some of the medical investigations into reported miracle cures.  As a result, he resolved to bring the devotion of Our Lady of Lourdes to the shores of the Pacific and establish a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes.

One evening as Fr. Vullinghs stood among the thousands at the grotto he was approached by a lady who asked if he wished to have a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Fr. Vullinghs was amazed at the timing.  "Here I was, having just resolved to spread the devotion of Lourdes in the West, and this lady seemed to be inspired to offer me the very thing I wanted."  Father learned that she was of noble Spanish descent and was married to a French Count with a fine castle in France.  The lady selected the most beautiful life-sized statue she could find, and presented it to Fr. Vullinghs.  By special favor, he had the statue carried in procession to the Grotto and placed during the night inside the Grotto rails.  

The statue was shipped to Vancouver Island where its first resting place was at Ladysmith,  Fr. Vullinghs' next appointment was as Chaplain for the Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria where he moved his beloved and much admired statue.  

in 1912 when the new Church was built, Fr. Vullinghs designed it to contain a striking replica of the Lourdes Grotto complete with a rock face and wrought iron grill.  The statue was given its place of reverence in the rocky niche to reside in its serene peace.  It remained there until 1960 when the new St. Patrick's church was built.  At that time the beautiful statue from Lourdes, France was moved to a new place of honour where it is venerated today at the left side of the Main Altar.