Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish

Going down 111th Avenue, right on the corner northwest corner of 113th Street, you will notice – or perhaps fail to notice – a rather unremarkable building. It houses Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish, a Spanish Parish, and it lacks the visually impressive architectural elements commonly found in other Catholic churches in and around Edmonton and elsewhere. It used to be a Baptist Church.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish does not fit the conventional standards of history or historical places by any stretch of the imagination. Not architecturally impressive, it is also not old –at least not in its current incarnation as a Spanish Catholic Parish. As a parish, it is not too different from other Catholic Churches, offering, among other things, weekly services as well as youth programs, and a yearly free tax clinic. However, I believe that the story of this church and of its people deserves to be told, if only because it likely never be told otherwise, except perhaps in the records of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.

The Guadalupe Parish is one built by immigrants and for immigrants. It started in the 1970s, and served back then mainly to Chilean immigrants and refugees fleeing from the Pinochet regime. Later on, in the 1980s and 1990s, it became the spiritual home of a large number of Salvadoran refugees fleeing from that country’s civil war. Today, it serves people from all over Latin America and Spain, many of which came as temporary foreign workers who sometimes stayed after becoming permanent residents, or returning to their native countries after a few years. It is a highly mobile population. What the Guadalupe does is provide a space for social interaction and opportunity to meet people of similar and at the same time different backgrounds, in other words, to combat the loneliness and isolation that often characterizes recent immigrants or highly mobile populations. In other words, the history of the Guadalupe Parish is important for Edmonton’s history precisely because it has been and continues to be important for the history of its parishioners.