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New Westminster is one of the oldest towns in British Columbia. It is here, where Slovak Church dedicated to Sts. Cyril and Methodius is located.

The beginnings of our church started long ago, with the arrival of the first Slovaks on the West Coast of Canada. At the request of the Slovak people, especially the members of the "First Catholic Slovak Union" in Vancouver archdiocese, the Archbishop William M. Duke, D.D. of Vancouver asked the Slovak Jesuits of Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario, for Slovak Missionary. In April 1958 the Slovak prayers were answered the arrival of Fr. William S. Lacko S.J. Slovak families belonged to various parishes, but once a month attended Mass in Slovak at the Holy Ghost Church in New Westminster. This Church built by Slovaks become religious center for Slovaks living in the whole lower mainland. It soon became too small to hold many people who came for the Divine Services.

In 1960 the Archbishop established a Slovak Mission in his archdiocese, the approval arrived from Rome and they rented a small Church of St Michael's in New Westminster. This is a central location for the lower mainland districts of Vancouver, New Westminster, Delta, Pit Meadows, Haney, Cloverdale, Langley, Richmond, Burnaby and North and West Vancouver.

The parishioners got together, painting and preparing the Church for the Divine Services that begun on Palm Sunday 1960.

Thus began a new chapter in the history of Catholic Slovak People on the West Coast of Canada. They made place to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ so that they could live in the spirit of the Christmas message "Emmanuel - God with us." Since that time, every Sunday we have a Slovak Mass, sing Slovak hymns and pray in Slovak. All Catholic holy days celebrated according to The Old Country customs.

Later on that year Father Lacko negotiated the purchase of the Church for the use of the Slovak community. Father Lacko was also chaplain of Riverview hospital from 1961 to 1974. In 1974 he was transferred to Ontario to become pastor of the Slovak parish in Windsor. In 1981 he returned to New Westminster, he continued serving the Slovak Community. Last year in May Father Lacko suffered a mild stroke that left him poor health. He was recovering slowly and the every day duties were to tiring. So, on October 21 last year, Father Lacko retired and moved to the Slovak Jesuit's Fathers Home in Cambridge,

"He served in the true spirit of St. Ignatius. In his labor for Christ, no sacrifice was too great, no work too small, said Ed Starick, as he expressed the gratitude of Saints Cyril and Methodius parishioners to retiring pastor Father William Lacko S.J. during farewell ceremonies October 11, 1993. He thanked Father Lacko for his exemplary firmness of faith, his kindness and devotion to duty and his unceasing efforts to develop and maintain the Slovak culture, heritage and traditions.

At the same time the parishioners welcomed the new pastor, Father John Kadlec S.J.

Father John Kadlec S.J. was born in 1927 in Pobedím a small village few miles of the spa town Piestany. He left Czecho-Slovakia, as 26 year old in 1953 and went to Austria. He was determined to become a priest in and return to his homeland soon after. He didn't believe that the regime would last.

He spent his early days of freedom in an emigration camp, later on he went to finish the high school and graduated. During his studies he met bishop of a town close to Innsbruck and he has asked him, where he thinks to get the money to study for a priest?

Father Kadlec believed it then as he believes it now and he answered that the god will take care of him. The bishop had offered to pay for his tuition's, but in return he wanted him to stay for a year and work for him. Father Kadlec declined, because he wanted to go home right after he would become a priest. Numerous people, not known to him, helped him in many ways throughout his studies. In 1965 he was ordained to priesthood and in 1966 he was asked to move to Canada by the order of Jesuits. In 1969 he moved to western Canada, Calgary as a missionary father. His territory was vast. There are many communities in the prairies and western Canada with large Slovak population, but no Slovak Churches. Father Kadlec served these communities for the past 23 years, visiting them on regular basis and holding the service for them in the Slovak language. During this time he has seen the Slovak population decline in numbers but not in spirit. He is the last missionary priest of Slovak Jesuit order. During his 23 years of service he only missed one service due to time miscalculation. He likes to talk about his travels, when the God was always his side, as he never been in an accident during the storms and he seems to miss most of the big storms.

Father Kadlec is a priest with a vision for improvement. Since his arrival at our parish many changes have taken place. New windows were installed, the whole Church was painted inside, heating ducts in the crawl space under the Church were insulated, the Church hall painted and kitchen remodeled, the rectory was painted, carpets replaced and the basement of the rectory remodeled to hold a Slovak Sunday school. There is an old Slovak saying the new broom sweeps better. Father Kadlec adds, it would not be possible without the help of many members of the church who donated money, their time and many materials to make all these improvements. He has many more plans for the future improvements and he is thankful to everybody that helped.

The communist regime has accused father Kadlec of not being Slovak enough and they sent him to the mines. 15 years ago they liquidated his brother, who was at that time, director of train station in Leopoldov. When their mother learned of what had happen to her son, she got a stroke and died eight days later.

Father Kadlec suffered greatly for his religious and national beliefs.

I have received a letter from Father Lacko in late September and I am happy say, to all his friends, that he has recovered completely. He feels it is a small miracle. He has no pain, no fever, no swells, takes no therapy, he doesn't take medication. He enjoys lots of walks at the estate, he bicycles. His diet is mostly Vegetarian.

Currently our Church has 120 registered members' families.

We are all looking forward to many more years of service by Father Kadlec at our Slovak parish of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in New Westminster.
Father Lacko passed away in 1997 and father Kadlec has moved to Cambridge in 1999

Our new priest now is:

Fr. Juraj Kopanicky
472 East 8th Ave
New Westminster

Phone: 1-604-526-7351

Color video of 40th anniversary Holy Divine service is available for US$ 44.45

Please send personal check to:

Vladimir Linder
3804 Yale Street
Burnaby, BC, V5C 1P6





Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 1, No. 4, Winter 1993
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1993
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of
Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.