Nestled in a mountainside in the City of Coquitlam (originally “Kwayquitlam” from the T-Kamanynu language spoken by the Indians of Burrard Inlet. The name means “little salmon by the river”) lies a piece of land so Franciscan in its nature that the parish to be established there could not be named for any other than St. Clare of Assisi.
The rectory is situated on the corner of Johnson Street and Delahaye, and from there, on a clear sunny morning, the glorious view of the City is superceded only by the majesty of Mount Baker in Washington State, resplendent in its year-round covering of snow. The mountain was originally named ‘La Gran Montagna Carmelita’ by Spanish explorer Manuel Quimper in 1790 because it reminded him of the flowing white robes of the Carmelites. (In 1792 Captain George Vancouver renamed it Mount Baker after Lieutenant Joseph Baker who spotted the mountain from the deck of Vancouver’s ship “Discovery”.)
Another mountain, reminiscent of Mount Subiaso in Assisi, rises beyond the property to the north-east. The lush forest on the property, with its seemingly mile-high walnut and pine trees, blackberry bushes and assorted varieties of other greenery, provides homes and sustenance for the deer, the raccoons, the chipmunks and squirrels, and the occasional bears and cougars that choose to wander through the area.
Purchased in 1990 with funds provided through Project Advance, the Archdiocese of Vancouver maintained the property until the population and circumstances in the area became such that a new parish was deemed viable. On June 24, 1999, Archbishop Adam Exner announced the establishment of the new parish, and named Father Craig Scott as its pastor.
With no building of our own to hold a large group of people, the first parish meeting was held July 13, 1999 in the neighbouring All Saints’ Parish gymnasium. One hundred and seventy-four people attended. A number of names for the new parish were suggested, and the top three choices were submitted to the archbishop.
On August 11, 1999, Archbishop Exner announced that the new parish was to be named “St. Clare of Assisi”. As Francis and Clare were companions in life, this was to be a companion parish to Vancouver’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish, which has existed since 1924. Coincidentally, perhaps, and to the surprise of many, including the archbishop, August 11 is St. Clare’s Feast Day, a most appropriate date for such an announcement.
Our first parish Masses were held on September 18 and 19, 1999 at Eagle Ridge United Church, with approximately 300 people in attendance at each Mass. Our Financial and Building Committees met later that same month, and since our property was not yet zoned for public assembly, their first priority was to begin the process to change the zoning. Little did we know the process would take more than two years.
October 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Clare’s mentor and closest friend. Our first ‘Blessing of the Animals’ was held on this weekend in 1999, a celebration we continue on an annual basis.
By the summer of 2000, our parish numbers had grown so much that the facilities at Eagle Ridge United Church were no longer adequate in themselves, and a third Mass was added in September, in the gym at Bramblewood Elementary School.
Our parish has a history of supporting those who diligently give their time and talents to make possible the building of our new hall, church and school. Our fundraising efforts have proven to be successful, and the parish support of Project Advance has been phenomenal. We appreciate the efforts, the sacrifice and the generosity of others who have supported Project Advance in past years, and have made the purchase of our property by the Archdiocese of Vancouver possible.
St. Clare of Assisi Parish will become a focal point for those living in the area, and for those driving by. Our plans include a park-like setting beckoning visitors to “Come and rest a while. ‘I’ am here.”
On Friday, October 4, 2002, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Father Scott offered our first Daily Mass in what used to be the meeting room at the rectory. 18 parishioners were welcomed to this first ever Mass on our property, and we even had one altar server.
Work on the property commenced immediately, and parishioners and the general public were welcomed to an Open House on October 3, 2003, the day before the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.
On October 11, Archbishop Adam Exner blessed the new St. Clare of Assisi Parish Hall that temporarily functions as our church.
Over the years, our parish has continued to grow in numbers and in the services provided to our parishioners and the community. The parish received an “Accessibility Award” from the City of Coquitlam in 2004. We now have a CWL, Knights of Columbus, Childrens’ Liturgy, a choir at each of our four Masses, a Mothers’ Prayer Group, a Bible Study Group, Stewardship Committee, Parish Council, and the list continues. With a full house at almost every Mass, and an overflowing parking lot, the sacrifices of our parishioners, the outpouring of volunteers sharing their talent, and the overwhelming generosity of donors to both the parish and through Project Advance, we have paid off the mortgage on our hall. We are now beginning the process of saving to build St. Clare of Assisi Church.