In 1625 several priests from the Society of Jesus in France, Jesuits for short, came to the New World and planted Christianity in what is Eastern Canada today. Some were martyrs and are revered today as Canadian saints. Three centuries later Archbishop Casey of Vancouver invited Jesuit Fathers in the east to come west and establish a new parish in Dunbar, Vancouver, then an undeveloped area.
Immaculate Conception Church was completed and blessed December 12, 1926. “The Immaculate Conception”, a beautiful title of Our Lady, means she was preserved by God from the stain of original sin so she could become a worthy dwelling place for Christ, the Son of God.
Father J. Keenan, S.J. was the first permanent pastor of this church, 1926-1941. Older parishioners may remember other pastors: Rev. R. Kennedy, 1941-1951; Rev. T. Mullally, 1951-1959; Rev. C. Hinphy, 1959-1969; Rev. J. McCaffrey, 1969-1972; Rev. H. Seasons, 1972-1974; Rev. J.B. Cloran, 1974-1980; Rev. P.J. Boyle, 1980- 1981; Rev. W.R. Feeley, 1981-1982; Rev. C. Hinphy, 1982-1984.
Beloved Father Leahy came as an assistant priest in 1946 and remained in that position until 1984 when the Jesuits, due to lack of manpower, withdrew from the parish. In 1957 he and other Jesuits began to serve the First Nations at Musqueam. In 1969 he celebrated his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood. Father Leahy was an ardent pro-lifer and had great compassion for the sick. His fastidiously kept journal of names and events during his tenure in the parish has been a source of parish history under the Jesuits.
A school with four classrooms in the church basement was blessed and operating in 1926 with the Religious of the Sacred Heart teaching fifty children. Later two more classrooms were added, the Scout Hall in 1932 and the C. Y.O. Hall in 1940. The Sisters taught for more than twenty years. In 1954 the present school was opened and staffed by the Sisters of St. Ann. When they left in 1980, lay teachers continued the same standard of excellence at Immaculate Conception School.
From the inception of the parish hall, all the clergy received strong support from the people of God in the parish, spiritually, financially and as readers, organists, choir, servers, ushers, youth leaders. Organizations formed in the earliest days included the Altar Society, the Holy Name Society (1929), and the St. Vincent de Paul Society (1933). During the forties and fifties, parish youth were involved in Cubs, Brownies, Scouts, Girl Guides and Catholic youth organizations. Also, vocations developed, nine to the priesthood and seven to the sisters. In 1942 the Catholic Women’s League was born in the parish, replacing the Altar Society, and employing the feminine genius to accomplish many good works through the years. Other organizations now serving the parish include the Knights of Columbus, Parish Council, Parish Education Committee, Legion of Mary, Pro-Life Committee, and Cub Leaders.
During World War II, 1939-1946, eight-nine people from the parish joined the Armed Forces of Canada, seven of whom gave their lives.
The Mayfair was inaugurated in 1961 when Father Hinphy was pastor. Since 1969 thousands of dollars raised by the Mayfair have been sent to the poor parish of St. Vincent de Paul founded by Canadian Jesuit Missionaries in Hatighisa, Darjeeling District in India. The generosity of Immaculate Conception Parish has been put to good use there fighting poverty, educating children, healing the sick and fostering vocations. At one time, Father Joe Brennan S.J. from Regina was pastor there and now it is Father Philip Xalxo S.J., a native priest.
In 1984, the Parish’s 6Oth anniversary was celebrated with a special Mass outdoors and luncheon after in the hall. This event coincided with the departure of the Jesuits and the arrival of new pastors from the Archdiocese: Father Stephen Jensen in 1984, Father Frank Landry in 1986 and Father Donald M. Potts in 1994, bringing their gifts to build on the past and revitalize the parish in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Church in the year 2000.
In August 1998, Father Paul Than Bui was appointed pastor. He continued the tradition of his predecessors by bringing the parish community and the school together and by working on building a new Parish Center and a new church. In 2006, Father Paul leaves and our parish is blessed with the arrival of the “new” Father Paul Smith, OFM.
Our parish continues thrive and change as does the little community of Dunbar we call home.