Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
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Ordo Fratrum Minorum

St. Francis of Assisi School, Vancouver

St. Francis of Assisi School, Vancouver

The first parish school in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Vancouver began in 1946, and classes were held in the parish hall beneath the church which had been partitioned off into classrooms. That first year, 82 students attended, divided into eight grades.

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Fr. Boniface Heidmeier sod turning at site of St. Francis of Assisi school, 2 Jul 1946

But Fr. Boniface Heidmeier, the parish priest, had a grander vision and set his heart on building a parish school that could grow and accommodate a greater number of students. In June 1946, he received approval to purchase a piece of land on the northeast corner of Victoria Drive and Venables Street.

On July 2, 1946, Fr. Boniface and Archie Sullivan, the building contractor, headed to the site armed with a shovel for an unofficial sod-turning. Fr. Boniface recalls in his memoirs:

There was no public ceremony; no ‘higher-ups’ attended; no announcement had been made; no speeches were heard, except the Our Father and Hail Mary recited by two lone persons trying to get the rusty shovel into the hard, grass-grown ground.”

Construction of the parish school began not long after, but the project faced setbacks and challenges in obtaining construction materials:

According to all the wise men (and there were plenty of them including men and women of our parish) it was nothing short of foolhardiness on my part to think of building anything during the war.

“Lumbermen were on strike; everything was rationed on account of the war: lumber, sheet metal, nails, furnaces, all electric appliances. . .

“But if God wanted a school for the children of the district. He would provide the ways and means. And He did.”

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Left: Construction of retaining wall for St. Francis of Assisi school, 1947
Right: Construction of St. Francis of Assisi school, 1946-1947

St. Francis of Assisi school was officially opened and blessed on April 13, 1947 in a ceremony led by Archbishop William Duke and attended by many parishioners and friends from all over the city of Vancouver.

Left: Blessing of St. Francis of Assisi school, 13 Apr 1947
Right: St. Francis of Assisi school, 1947