Father Leonard Van Tighem
Father Leonard Van Tighem was Lethbridge’s first resident Catholic priest. Father Van Tighem held the first mass in Lethbridge in 1884 when he was asked to come from Fort Macleod to administer the last sacraments to Michael Sheran, brother of Nicholas Sheran. He was later officially appointed the first Pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Lethbridge.
In addition to his work as a priest, Father Van Tighem was also highly skilled in stonework and did a great deal of the work on St. Patrick’s Church himself. In 1889, St. Patrick’s Church in Lethbridge was the first Roman Catholic Church consecrated in what would become the province of Alberta. In order to be consecrated a church had to be built of stone or brick and free of all debt.
But Father Van Tighem didn’t stop with the church. He worked tirelessly to build the church, as well as a house, a convent, a churchyard and a school. And he spent years planting trees and caring for his garden.
And that was just in Lethbridge. He also worked to build churches and congregations throughout southern Alberta.