On July 28, 1993, a few days after the Feast Day of St. James the Greater on July 25, 1993, and under the direction of the Archbishop of Vancouver, Adam Exner, OMI, a new parish was created in the Clearbrook area. The first Mass celebrated in the new parish of St. James was held on Sunday, August 1, 1993 in what was then St. Ann's Elementary School Gymnasium. At 4:30 pm in the afternoon of that first Sunday, a small group of parishioners gathered in a very warm gym and praised the Lord while jet fighters from the Abbotsford Air Show swooped down overhead with a great deal of noise! The majority of the Founding Members of St. James had been members of St. Ann’s Parish in Abbotsford. This first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Stephen Jensen, pastor of St. Ann’s (now Bishop of Prince George), who continued to hold Mass each Sunday at 4:30 pm from that time through until a permanent pastor was appointed. lt is not without coincidence, if one has an eye for church history, that a parish under the patronage of St. James the Greater, the patron of pilgrims, was erected on the bank of an old missionary route, the Fraser River, as well as traversing the main road of modern day travelers, the Trans-Canada Highway.
On October 7, 1993, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, the founding pastor Fr. Richard Gagnon (now Archbishop of Winnipeg) moved onto the property of the new parish, occupying the newly renovated mobile home which served as a residence and parish office. With the arrival of Fr. Gagnon, Masses were increased to three per Sunday and daily Mass was established in the living room of the mobile residence and office. Since this humble beginning, St. James Parish has grown to over 450 families and has seen many parish groups and organizations develop. In 1998, through the generosity of two benefactors, a double-wide trailer was acquired and erected on the property adjacent to the residence and parish office. A space for the Sacrament of Reconciliation was constructed inside the trailer and the altar, tabernacle, lectern, and credence table obtained from the de-commissioned Canadian Forces base church in Chiiliwack. Even the hymn books had been garnered by Fr. Gagnon from the same source!
Once final set-up was complete, Fr. Gagnon blessed the trailer and named it Mount Joy Chapel. The Chapel served as the venue for daily Mass. The first wedding in the new parish was performed in Mt. Joy Chapel followed by numerous Baptisms. The name Mount Joy is taken from a real place in Santiago de Compostella in Spain. As pilgrims arrived at this great Shrine to St. James from all over Europe (and they still do), there is a hill where one first catches a glimpse of the spires of the great cathedral shrine, giving hope to the weary pilgrims - this hill is called Mount Joy. For us at St. James Parish, our little chapel points towards the raising of a much larger church in the future a church dedicated to our Patron Saint.
In addition to Mount Joy Chapel, a beautiful prayer garden was built including a large in-ground rosary with a visual meditation on the crucifixion at Mount Calvary and a Grotto dedicated to the Holy Family.
With the financial assistance of the Archdiocese, a house on Townline Road was acquired and became the new rectory into which Fr. Gagnon moved enabling the original mobile home to become the parish office only.
As the parish continued to grow, Sunday Mass changed its Sunday location from St. James School to the High School Gymnasium at St John de Brebeuf Regional Secondary on the same property. A dedicated team of parishioners set-up chairs and the altar, lectern, etc. for Mass every Sunday which, with the move to the high school, now involved rolling out huge floor coverings to protect the playing surface in the gymnasium. And every Sunday evening, everything was put away again. Few realised that this would become the norm for nearly the next twenty years as the parish worked hard to build the financial resources to build a church.
Fr. Gagnon remained as the pastor until July 2002 when he was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. He was succeeded by Fr. Anthony Boniface who was pastor of St. James until June 2005. In July 2005, Fr. Frank Landry was appointed pastor and remained as such until June 2008 when the present pastor, Fr. George Varghese Edattukaran was appointed as pastor of St. James.
On December 23, 2009, sixteen years after the founding of the parish, Archbishop J. Michael Miller CSB, Archbishop of Vancouver, granted Approval in Principle to the building of St. James Catholic church.
On January 10, 2010, Fr. George appointed a Building Committee charged with the responsibility of designing and building the new church.
On November 18, 2012, Archbishop J. Michael Miller CSB, officially broke ground where the new church was to be built.
On May 11, 2014, the building was completed and occupancy granted by the City of Abbotsford to move into the new church. On Sunday, October 4, 2014, the new church of St. James Parish was dedicated by Archbishop Miller.
(Article written by long time parishioner, Malcolm Roddis.)