219 19 Avenue SW

Photo courtesy of W. DeBoni.

Mission-Cliff Bungalow Francophone Century Homes

The area currently known as Mission, was first settled by the Oblate missionaries who were also the first non-natives to live permanently in Calgary. It was the vision of Father Lacombe to create a permanent French-Canadian settlement, complete with church, school, convent, community hall and hospital “surrounded by the homes of the French speaking faithful” (his description of the residential subdivision). Some families moved from Québec, and “Cheminots”, railway labourers from Québec, came west in 1883-84 to work on the westward construction of the C.P.R. line. Most of the French-speaking immigrants settled here, in what was later to become Rouleauville, and is now known as Mission.

Many of the residents who settled in the community founded, fostered or lobbied for francophone cultural and economic services for the citizens of Southern Alberta. In 1884, almost immediately after Father Lacombe obtained their land grant, the Oblate fathers had their land surveyed into residential streets and lots, and sold the lots for $60, $100 for corner lots. They began recruiting colonists in 1887, often from Quebec. The street names depicted the French and Catholic origins of the area (Notre Dame, Doucet, Rouleau, St. Joseph, etc.). A small residential community developed along Seventeenth and Eighteenth Avenues by the 1890s and a few blocks of land which were acquired by speculators.

St. Mary’s Convent 219 19 Ave. SW  1893

The order of the Fidèles Compagnes de Jésus (Faithful Companions of Jesus) was founded 1820 in France by Marie Madeleine d’Houet. Mother Mary Green and a group of FCJ sisters arrived in 1885 from Saint-Laurent, Manitoba in response to an invitation by Bishop Grandin. Their bilingual order, composed of French and Irish women, assured the education of the children and the care of the sick. This courageous group of women established the very first educational structures in Calgary. The sisters were well versed in European languages, music and culture and were able to provide a good school and classic French Education for the Mission’s growing community. The sisters named the former mission Sacred Heart Convent after their old convent in Saskatchewan. By 1888 the number of pupils had grown to 90, and there was need for a larger convent and school. The earliest wing of this convent (west wing) was built 1893 and has been a home to the FCJ sisters since that time. In addition it has been a school and also a residence for girls, although after St. Mary’s School was constructed in 1909 the convent was used solely as a residence. Today, the sisters open their home to offer conference space, retreats and spiritual and social services.