Until the year 1913 the diocese of St. Albert comprised the whole Province of Alberta. In the summer of that year, the district was divided, the southern partion comprising the diocese of Calgary, Edmonton being made an archdiocese. The boundary was fixed as the line between the 30th and 31st townships, commonly known as the correction or pole line. Up until this time, the exiled priests of Tenchebray (Peres de St. Marie) had charged of the vast territory north of the Red Deer River. When the division was made, Hanna was still in the diocese of Edmonton, the southern boundary being just two miles south. Hanna is therefore the most southern parish in the archdiocese of Edmonton.
It was in the year of 1910 that a priest first set foot in what is now the parish of Hanna. A certain Mrs. Kiernan, living near what is now Rose Lynn, some thirty miles south of Hanna, was taken violently ill. Rev. Fr. LeConte, PSM of Castor, fifty miles north, was called. On the thirty-first day of May 1910 Father LeConte set forth for the south. It was a typical Alberta summer day. On the first day he covered about thirty miles and arrived at the farm of Mr. Stephen Wagner, some four miles south of what is now Garden Plains, the northern boundary of what is now the parish of Hanna. This was the first time this family had seen a priest since their arrival in the West from Prince Edward Island. The next morning the Reverend Father said the first Mass, as far as records show, in the present parish of Hanna. Assisting at the Mass were the Wagner family and a family by the name of McCafferty who lived in the parish of Castor but whose farm, at that time, was about a mile west of that of Mr. Wagner. Father LeConte also baptized Harold McCafferty, this being, of course, the first baptism in this parish.
The next day, June 1st, the weather suddenly changed. A terrible blizzard arose. Undaunted however, the priest continued on his way. After an almost impossible journey, the good father arrived at his destination about five o'clock in the afternoon. Here he was held up for three days on account of the storm.
Toward the end of October he made a second trip to this part of the country. A good congregation awaited him.
About this time the Post Office of Copeville was founded. More Catholic families were moving into the area. A delegation called on Father LeConte at Castor and asked for the visit of a priest. In the spring of 1911 this devout missionary set forth on a round of the Villages on what is now the Goose Lake Line of the C.N.R. between Calgary and Saskatoon. This journey occupied six weeks and was repeated in the fall. In 1912 Father LeConte and Father Renaut made several visits to these centres. The divisional point of the new C.N.R. line became known as Hanna. Due to the fact that it became a railway terminal, it increased in population very quickly and soon out stripped other towns along the line. The first Catholic families to locate were the three LeBlanc brothers; a certain J. McDonald and a family of Leferte. New Catholic families were now coming in rapidly. The Black Brothers opened a restaurant; William English, a Belgian of Irish descent, became manager of the Union Bank.
On the first Sunday of November 1912, Father LeConte celebrated the first Mass in the town limits of Hanna in the Harness Shop of J.E. Jones on the north east corner of second avenue and second street west. Only twelve persons were present. The second Mass was celebrated the following April in the Herald Hall. Thirty five Catholics were present. Shortly after this the Mass became a monthly institution being celebrated either in the Herald Hall or at the home of Mr. De Jurkowski, an architect. It was this man who started the social gatherings of the Catholics of the town, which did much to preserve the faith. In the meantime the town was growing at a remarkable rate.
Plans were now beginning to be made for the building of a church. The first sod was turned in the Autumn of the year 1915. Before winter set in the basement was dug. In the following spring the work proceeded under the direction of Henry LeBlanc. On the first Sunday of June 1916, Mass was said for the first time in the new church. It possessed a bell donated by Mr. Brunner and an organ.
On the 29th of June in the year 1917, His Grace Archbishop Legal made his first visit and blessed the church under the title of St. George. On this occasion twenty-five children received the sacrament of Confirmation.
The next great event in the parish of Hanna was its formal canonical erection into a parish. On the 24th day of July in the year 1921, the first parish priest in the person of Rev. A. Darvell, an ex-Franciscan from England, arrived in the parish. He came by car from Castor, being met on the way by a number of the parishioners. There was no rectory and the good Father stayed at the homes of some of the parishioners until July 1st when he moved into a rented house owned by Mrs. Buchanan.
On the 2nd of July Archbishop O'Leary made his first visit to Hanna and was given a civic reception, a dinner being held at the National Hotel.
Undoubtedly a major event in the life of the parish was the coming of the Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception from St. John, New Brunswick to establish a foundation at Hanna. So in August 1946, the first three sister to come were Sister Mary Evangelista Superior; Sister Lucia Marie and Sister Mary Jean Patrick. The convent not being ready, they took up their abode in the rectory. July 2, 1947, the official opening of the convent took place, receiving the name of "Our Lady of Perpetual Help".
On September 1947, the Sisters opened a Commercial school with five pupils in attendance. The sisters also taught Music besides their Catechetical work, both at Hanna and the Missions. The school closed in the late 1960's.
On April 27, 1954 Father Harnett received permission from the Archbishop to build a church and was authorized to raise money for that purpose. Preparations were made in 1954 and in 1955 the actual construction took place.
The first week in July, on Sunday, the first sod was turned for the erection of the new church by Father Harnett. On July 12th, the old church was moved to Delia. The new church was blessed by His Grace Archbishop McDonald.
Text courtesy of The Hanna Herald
Picnic at Bum Lake, 1914 on the scow