Eighty-five years ago, in 1926, the first priest was assigned by the Diocese of Kamloops to cover the Lower North Thompson area, including Barriere. That priest was Father Michael Phelan, known as the “Shepherd of the Hills”.
Father Phelan traveled throughout the North Thompson for 23 years, often on foot, searching for lost souls. Some of his missions were 200 miles apart as his area actually covered from Merritt to Red Pass Junction, from there west to the Cariboo, and south down the Fraser Canyon to Boston Bar; consequently he sometimes hopped freight trains to get to the people of his widespread flock. Few of these parishes had churches back then, so Masses were said in fields, in people’s homes, or other available spaces.
From 1938 to 1941, Father Phelan was away from the area, and three priests shared the duties of serving the area in his place: Father G. Beauregard, Father John Stule (or Steele, depending on the source), and Father W. G. Cullenan.
Father Phelan returned to the area in 1941. He passed away in 1949 and was succeeded by Father James A. Quigley, whose main mission was at Little Fort. Father Quigley died on December 31, 1980, at the age of 79.
Fifty-six years ago the first Catholic church in Barriere was built in 1955 at the corner of Carlstrom and Airfield Roads.
Father James A. Quigley was the priest covering the North Thompson area at the time, and he was instrumental in the building of churches in Squam Bay, Barriere, Heffley Creek, Avola, Valemount, and Blue River.
Thirty years ago on July 4, 1981, there was a fire that destroyed the church. For the next few years, Mass was said at parishioner’s homes until the current church was finished being built. During this time, the parish had several different priests: from 1981 to 1982 there was Father M. Cropley; from 1983 to 1985 there was Father A. Vella; and from 1985 to 1988 there was Father T. Flannery.
Twenty-five years ago the new church, built at 5024 Barriere Town Road, was dedicated on April 4, 1986. Since the dedication, the parish has had many different priests: Father Tom O’Neill (1988-92), Father Charles de Campigneulles (1992-1994), Father Thomas Fernando (1995), Father Jim MacDonell (1996-2002), Father Nicholas Forde (2002-2006), Father Wladyslaw Karciarz (2007), and currently Father Donal O’Reilly.
Parishioner’s of Saint George’s Church and members of the Lower North Thompson C.W.L. will be celebrating the history of the Catholic Church in Barriere and the Catholic Women’s League on June 11, starting with Mass at St. George’s Church at 5 p.m., and with a Pot-Luck dinner following at 6 p.m. at the Ridge gym. All Catholic’s from the communities of Barriere, Chu Chua, Little Fort, Squam Bay, Brennan Creek, Heffley Creek, and Louis Creek are invited to come with their families and join the celebration.
If you are planning on attending the pot-luck, please call Margaret at 250-672-9330 to register, as organizers need to know numbers for setting up the tables and chairs.