The history of Holy Rosary Cathedral is closely aligned with the growth of the city of Regina. Construction of the building started in June 1912, just before the infamous cyclone hit the city. A new church was badly needed at that time, as the sole existing Catholic church (St. Mary’s on Scarth St., renamed Blessed Sacrament in 1933) could no longer accommodate the growing Catholic population of the city. Olivier Mathieu, the first Archbishop of Regina, started the project a year after arriving in Regina from Quebec; the building, which cost $135,000, was designed by Joseph Fortin of Montreal , and constructed by Smith Brothers and Wilson of Regina.
The first Mass took place in the basement of the incomplete structure at 8:00 a.m. on December 8, 1912, and the building, though not completed until 1917, was dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in June 1913.
The Romanesque-revival cathedral is in the shape of a cross, and has two graceful 161-foot spires, the east-facing one holding a large bell donated by the Altar Guild in 1915. Measuring 200 feet by 90 feet, the building has seating capacity for approximately 850. Of the many stained glass windows which grace it, thirty-three were designed by Andre Rault of Rennes, France, and installed by Paul Hanley of Burns-Hanley in 1949. An earlier one, that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, was donated in memory of the first Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan, the Honourable Amédée Forget, after his death in 1923, by his widow Henriette. Most prominent are the three Rose Windows: two on either side of the altar, a larger one at the front, between the spires. This latter one can be seen only from the outside, as it is now covered by the pipes of our unique and magnificent Casavant organ. Built in 1930, thanks in large part to a donation from the CWL, and extensively refurbished through the generosity of Don and Claire Kramer in 1992, the Sister Marion McGuigan organ is central to the preservation of traditional liturgical and religious music, as has been the Cathedral choir for the past 70-some years.
Large murals in the apse and the ceiling, focusing on Mary, Queen of Heaven , were painted in 1933 by Monsignor Charles Maillard of Gravelbourg; eventually peeling and fading, they were painted over during the renovations in 1968. In keeping with the spirit of Vatican Council II, that year also saw the removal of the marble High Altar and communion rails, the creation of an opaque screen made of steel wires and tiny wood blocks, and of a simple altar closer to the congregation.
A devastating fire in April 1976 necessitated extensive restoration, and the congregation moved to generous neighbouring church, Westminster United, for liturgical services. In 1988, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese, then-rector Fr. Jim Weisgerber commissioned a ceramic mural from Regina artist Lorraine Mallach; standing at the curved end of the sanctuary, it depicts the Five Glorious Mysteries of the rosary. Redecorating took place in 1992-93, and again in 2012-13. The wire screen was removed , the altar moved a little further back, and slate flooring installed in the first instance, painting in the second. It is interesting to note that during these last two periods of renovations, Mass was celebrated in the basement of the church, as was the first Mass in 1913.
The Cathedral stands as a testament to the generosity and faith of several generations of Reginans. The make-up of the congregation has changed dramatically over the eleven decades since its construction, but it remains a vibrant place for liturgical and social celebrations of its faith community, a place for friendship, joy and solace. It continues to serve as the mother church of the Archdiocese, and as the seat of the Archbishop.
Written by Samira McCarthy, Chairperson, HRC Pastoral Council