St. Mary's Church, Banff, Alberta, Canada

This should have been added to the Banff posting. But since I forgot, here it is!
I talked about Saint Mary’s church in an earlier posting. When we were camping at Lake Louise we drove 45 minutes to church in Banff. Saint Mary's is the closest church to Lake Louise. A week later we returned from Jasper and were camping in Banff and attended Saint Mary’s church again. 10 minutes before mass a parishioner gives a talk about the history of Saint Mary’s. So we were able to hear it twice.

The present church was designed by Rev. Robert McGuinness who was pastor from 1936 to 1961. He was born in Liverpool, England, of Irish parentage, on June 20,1886. The family immigrated to Canada in 1890 and settled in Belleville, Ontario; where he received his early education. He then attended St. Lawrence College, in Ampleforth, Yorkshire, England, St. Servan, Rheims, France and completed his studies, in Edmonton, Alberta, graduating from the School of Engineering. He found a position with the Canadian Government, as a structural engineer, which he held for 20 years. His work was interrupted by World War I, during which he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Engineers and served for four years in France. After the war he traveled extensively, and had an interest in studying the construction of old Gothic, Romanesque churches.

Always a deeply religious man and probably inspired by the grandeur of the mountains around Banff, at age 42, he responded to God’s call to a vocation in the priesthood. In 1926 he entered the Beda College seminary in Rome, Italy, and was ordained four later.

In 1936, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption (lovingly called St. Mary’s by the local parishioners), Banff. The church he had come to serve was the original Our Lady of the Assumption church, built in 1888. Upon his arrival, the building fund for a new church had reached $1000; by 1950 this had escalated to $75,000. It became his dream, his vision, to design and build a new church. The present church was built in 1951.

During WWII there was a prisoner of war camp in Banff. Because most men from the town were away in the military, some prisoners were used to help out around the town. One prisoner, a wood carver, Walter Bacher of Innsbruck, Austria, helped out around the church and became good friends with Father. After the war, when Father was ready to build the new church, Walter contacted father and told him he would like to carve the the Stations of the Cross. Walter carved himself into the third and seventh stations in the left hand top corner. The man with what appears to be a helmet and glasses.


The church was built in the Romanesque Style; stone work and windows with rounded arches.
Fr. McGuiness designed the church and all the windows. The background and many details in the windows are of Banff National Park.


The church is very unique; there is only a center aisle in the main seating area, no side aisles.
They left the Communion Rail intact, but do not use it.


Our Lady of the Snows window: At the top of the window is a Guardian Angel. Below is Mary, holding the infant Jesus, who holds the world in his hand, in her lap. She is showing concern for the safety of skiers. She is seated in an ice grotto that is somewhat like those that decorate the Bow River in the winter. She holds a ski pole in her hand. By the angel are the apostles Peter (with the keys) and Paul (with the sword). Beside Mary are the skiers Hans Schneider and Rudy Matt, well known skiers during the time of Fr. McGuiness. In the background is Cascade Mountain looking north along Banff Avenue.

And of course, there are also moose and Elk.

The Nativity of Jesus. No sheep, cow or donkey. We see moose and deer. Jesus is resting on Alberta wheat. The view is of the Bow River. There was a local Jewish man who was a friend of Fr. McGuinness. Since there was no synagogue in Banff, he prayed in the old St. Mary’s. He donated the cost of this window in memory of his family killed in the Holocaust. Fr. McGuinness thanked him by putting the star of David in the sky.

The third station.

The seventh station.

The Immaculate Conception (Mary born without sin).
She is hovering over Lake Louise, with Victoria Glacier and snowcapped Mt. Lefroy.


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