The Vatican Council’s new understanding of mission was embraced early in the Diocese of Calgary. Mission Council was established in 1970 according to the wishes of Bishop Paul J. O’Byrne, with Fr. Joseph Toole playing a pivotal part. The immediate concern of the Council was to activate the relationship of the people of this Diocese with Fr. Malo in Peru and to take a complete look at the Diocese and its mission commitments as a whole. The first need was to conduct a mission education program and this was started in Fall 1971 with the aid of the Scarboro Foreign Mission Fathers.
In 1972 negotiations started with the Spiritan Fathers to promote joint efforts towards Mission work. Fr. Louis Connelly and Fr. Patrick O’Donoghue volunteered together with Fr. James M. Hagel, a diocesan priest. In March 1983 Fr. Toole was the Director of Mission Council and John Stoeber was Chairman of the Board of Directors. The Council worked with a National Mission Council and a Western Regional Council.
In 1969 the Council sent Fr. Louis Malo to assist in an Alberta-sponsored mission in Lima, Peru. He was the first native Calgary diocesan priest to enter missionary work. A small group of lay people formed a committee, the Alberta Mission Committee, to act as a liaison with Fr. Malo in Peru to assure him of moral and financial support. This major initiative was nurtured and overseen by Fr. Joe Toole. In 1980 Fr. Malo returned to the Diocese but was missioned again to South America in 1982 to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where he remained for the rest of his life.
In 1974 Mission Council established a partnership with the Diocese of Chikwawa in Malawi. It was chosen because it lacked personnel – there were 19 priests for 61,000 people, and it was a young diocese. This was the first time in Canada that a Catholic diocese had joined an overseas missionary community in sending and sponsoring missionaries to the Global south. In the 1970s Spiritan priests served for the Diocese and in the 1980s Fr. Jim Hagel and Fr. Larry Bagnall served there. When the missionaries withdrew from Chikwawa in 1985 it was because the young diocese could now stand on its own.
In 1982 Mission Council gave a grant of $10,000 to CCIS to support the ‘mission’ work being done for refugees and immigrants who were temporarily housed at Cabrini House. In 1983 Mission Council committed itself to supply a counselor for the Calgary Interfaith Welcome and Recreation Centre.
In 1973 Mission Council became involved in fundraising, principally in October (Mission month) and Advent, which concentrated on Diocesan projects.
As mission awareness increased it became clear that home missions particularly the Indian reserves deserved attention. As of May 1976 the Council accepted responsibility of the financial support to the reserves in the Diocese as well as the Drop-In Centre, then known as the Inner City Project under the Council of Social Affairs. Mission Council helped sustain faith on the Tsuut’ina Reserve largely since 1980. In 1996 Sr. Annette John was parish administrator at Our Lady of Peace Parish.
In 1986 the Father Latour Native Pastoral Centre was established at 216 – 18th Ave. SW, Calgary. This was a year of new beginnings. The first lay missionaries, Patricia and Luis Flores were missioned by Bishop Paul in June to the Diocese of Tehuacan, Mexico. The family was involved in parish ministry in the rural area of Los Reyes Mezontla. A lay missionary formation program was created. Funding was also given to some ethnic communities – the Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese and to a Native Leadership Training Program.
Aims are to assist and advise the bishop on mission matters, to coordinate all missionary efforts outside and inside the Diocese, foster greater lay involvement and raise and distribute the necessary funds for mission work in the Diocese. It differed from all other services in the Diocese as it had to raise its own budget.
As the Mission Council evolved its constitution was revised in 1978 and 1985.
Two missionaries were sent to the North West Territories (the MacKenzie Missionary Project) on July 1, 1989, prospective seminarian Roland and Mount Angel seminarian Hans Englehart.
Funding was obtained by asking groups like the Knights, Church Extension, Teachers’ Association and making general appeals. It also received an allocation from the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, $85,000 in 1993.
Sr. Cecily Graves FMM was working as a Native Catechist in 1993. In 1992 she was listed as being on Mission Council staff, and as Coordinator of Religious Instruction on the Reserves.