The history of St. Henry’s Parish began in 1906 with the arrival of the early settlers into the community of Melville and the surrounding districts.
The pioneers brought their faith with them from Poland, Germany, Hungary, France, England, Ireland, the Czech Republic & Slovakia. They had different customs, traditions and ways of doing things but they all had one common bond; their "Catholic" faith.
The first priest, Father Henry Kuegener OMI came to Melville from Ituna to look after the spiritual needs of the new settlers. In the Autumn of 1908 Father Henry held regular monthly services and served the spiritual needs of the Catholic community. In spite of the differences in language and culture the parish grew in faith and numbers. This growth required the services of a resident priest. There has been a resident priest in Melville since April 1911. The Missionary oblates of Mary Immaculate were the pioneers and, with the exception of Fr. Pander’s pastorship (1915-1928), still are the spiritual pastors of St. Henry’s Parish.
The faith community flourished under the direction of these pastors. The people of St. Henry’s have shown their dedication and commitment to their faith by supporting their parish’s growth and expansion, not only in the building of churches, schools and a hospital, but also in fostering the spiritual life as well. The pioneers have handed down the St. Henry’s Parish tradition of involvement, commitment and strong faith to our present day parish family. Faith, cooperation and prayer will be needed to carry on that tradition.
The First Church
The Rectory and church were situated on Main St.
Rev. M. J. Kasper, OMI arrived in July, 1911 to serve the needs of the Catholic community. During Father Kasper’s term a small rectory and church, 24' by 60', were built. In 1914 he saw his dream of a separate school fulfilled when a two-room separate school was built. The parish had grown to a hundred families. Ninety-eight children attended the new separate school. The church and school were both named St. Henry after the priest, Father Henry Kuegener, OMI who first administered to the Catholics of Melville and district. Fr. Kasper was followed by Rev. Francis Pander who was pastor until 1928. During the early part of his term, a second floor was added to the separate school. The old rectory was sold to Dr. R. Livingstone on July 7, 1918. Father Pander used part of the basement of the separate school as a rectory. In the fall of 1918, the church building was sold to the Salvation Army for $740.00, and the upper story of the separate school began to be used as a church.
The Second Church
Rev. Stanley Wachowicz, OMI started a new era in the history of the parish. Although discussions about building of a new and adequate church had been going on for many years, he was able to enthuse and activate the people to such an extent that within his first year, plans for a beautiful new church were drawn and preliminary work was begun. Construction of the new church began on June 8, 1939. Work advanced so quickly that the Most Rev. P.J. Monahan, Archbishop of Regina, was able to bless the corner stone on July 23 of the same year. However, the church was not completed until the early months of 1944. On March 26 of the same year, Archbishop Monahan blessed the new church. The cost of the structure was $30,000. Since a great amount of labour was voluntary, the cost was considerably reduced. Rev. Frank Kosakiewicz, OMI appointed pastor on Feb. 14, 1940, not only completed the new church but also, with the very willing cooperation of the people, was able to pay off the debt. The Rosary Sodality and the Altar Society contributed very considerable financial assistance to the parish.
Fr. Thomas Novak, OMI the new pastor, arrived in Melville on Sept. 21, 1958. Only 16 months after his appointment, On Jan. 14, 1960, fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the nativity scene and caused extensive smoke damage. The work of repairing and redecoration was completed in May. Divine Providence permitted this work to last only five months. The parishioners were grievously saddened on October 17, 1960, when fire completely destroyed their beautiful church, for which they had so willingly made so many sacrifices.
A great love for the Eucharistic Christ was demonstrated by Mr. Joseph Engel and Mr. Theodore Molnar. At the risk of their lives, they entered the flaming building and successfully removed the tabernacle, containing the Sacred Hosts. Immediately after the fire, the auditorium at the new and modern 8-room Separate School became the temporary chapel wherein Mass was said from Oct. 23, 1960 until Aug. 4, 1962. In the meantime, plans for the construction of a new church were begun.
The Present Church
During the winter and early spring, following the fire, many of the parishioners volunteered to remove the debris and ruins of the church. On May 17, 1961 the Architects were instructed to proceed with the working drawings at a cost of $132,900. Preliminary work began on September 8 and construction was in full swing the following week. Snow came early and the following winter months were unusually cold. Work slowed down, but the tempo picked up again in the spring.
The quality of workmanship compensated for the more lengthy period of construction than was expected. The opening and dedication of the new St. Henry’s Church was held on September 9, 1962.
Parish Center and Bell Tower
Prior to 1982 some discussion on building a parish centre had taken place as early as 1977. The "Growing & Building Together" committee met many times to make plans for the Centre in 1983 and 1984. The committee finalized the plans for construction in 1987 and fund-raising began. Construction of the centre began in July, 1988. Very Rev. Marcello Zago, OMI Oblate Superior General along with Rev. Rudy Nowakowski, OMI officially turned the sod on August 5, 1988. The construction was completed in June 1989 and the official opening took place on November 5, 1989. On that occasion, Archbishop Charles Halpin, D.D. blessed the new Parish Centre.
The bell tower was erected in the 90th year of St. Henry's Parish to commemorate the many pioneers who, through their sacrifices, have given us what we have today. The bell was donated by the parishioners of St. Stephen's at Saxon Hill and was rededicated and blessed by Most Reverend Peter Mallon, DD. Archbishop of Regina, on October 26th, 1996.