Eucharistic miracle in Alberta, Canada
July 18, 1946, Father Gino C. Violini stood before a small wooden church
in a little town nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in
Southern Alberta. St. Joseph's was a forlorn, nearly-abandoned little
A small group of people gathered around this man dressed in mourning.
They said they didn't need a priest; Cowley didn't need a priest, and if
it ever came to pass that they needed one, they would inform Bishop
Carroll of the fact. Furthermore, they didn't want to see him reading
his breviary, and he could get rid of that cassock.
He celebrated his first Mass at St. Joseph's the following Sunday. There
were nine people in the pews. Well, he had to start somewhere, and he
delivered the best sermon ever, in his opinion, to those nine people.
The following Sunday, there were only four who had come to adore their
The next two years were not crowned with success. The collection was
laughable. He could afford a loaf of bread which he'd cut into seven
parts, one part for each day of the week, and feasted on dandelion
salad. Winter is an especially cruel season in Cowley, and he'd find his
blankets snow covered when he awoke in the morning, as the rectory walls
were split open from the many seasons that had dried and shrunk the logs
apart. His first Christmas collection was a dollar and thirteen cents.
The church was no warmer than the rectory, so the water would freeze in
the cruets, even though he placed them on a little coal stove.
Father had had it. One day he sat down and wrote a sixteen-page letter,
addressed to Bishop Francis P. Carroll, the gist of which was — this
town is a write-off, and I want to stamp the dust of it off my feet. The
Bishop rejected each and all of his requests for a transfer, and told
him to stay put. He had full confidence in Father Violini, and he
expected him to bring about a full Catholic revival in this parish,
which had been so long neglected. After the latest of these rebuffs,
Father was ready to pray for a noble death. But he was in for a great
On the feast of Corpus Christi, he awoke early and headed for the church
for morning prayers. As he walked to the church, he noticed the front
door hanging off its hinges. He hurried in and gazed at a scene of great
destruction. The walls were in shambles, the statues destroyed and then
he noticed the tabernacle had been split open and the consecrated Hosts
were scattered down the main aisle. One by one, he gathered them up,
counting each one. They were all there except the large Benediction Host
which he could find nowhere.
It was raining, The gray sky reflected his anguish. He notified Father
Harrington of the Crowsnest deanery who quickly organized a search party
of some two-thousand people. They searched Bellevue and Hillcrest,
Blairemore and Coleman; some came from as far as Michel and Natal in
British Columbia, yet none of the people of Cowley would help. The
search party combed miles of Highway 3. The Royal Canadian Mounted
Police picked up two suspects at Cowley, and questioned them at
Blairemore. They had stolen a pickup truck, and abandoned it down the
highway when the police had discovered them.
Father Gino recognized them as transients from Lethbridge who had been
seated next to him at a baseball game a couple days before, and who were
looking to find work in the coal mines at Crowsnest Pass. He listened to
the questioning by Sergeant Parsons: “Remember, it may not mean much
to you or to me, but you fellows stole his Jesus.” Father explained
the meaning of the Blessed Sacrament to them, and how precious it is to
Catholics. He then offered to drop all the charges if they would tell
him where they had discarded the Host.
Touched by his explanation, they began to show remorse and offered to
help find It. One admitted to having discarded it through the truck
window just before the police took them into custody. He didn't know
what it was, but he knew it was incriminating evidence. The rain had
hardly stopped when they all piled into the police cruiser, the two
suspects still handcuffed. Father calculated that if the Host had been
dropped as these two men had said, the search parties would surely have
found it if the rain had not dissolved it. It was about six o'clock that
evening when they arrived at the spot. The sky was clearing; there was a
bit of blue in the West.
they rounded a corner east of Bellevue, they all saw the Host suspended
in midair beside the highway. Beautiful rays of coloured light shone
from it. Even before the car had stopped, Father leaped from the car and
ran towards this astonishing sight. Sergeant Parsons was right behind
him. Father fell to his knees in adoration, overcome with joy and
wonder. Sergeant Parsons did likewise, and landed in a pool of mud.
stood up and reached for the Host. It looked as white and fresh as the
day he had consecrated it. As he touched it, they heard: “Father Gino,
please take me back to Cowley.”
Here was Christ on the road, asking to be returned to a desecrated
church; to a parish that Father had long wanted to leave. As they
returned to Cowley, Sergeant Parson's eyes constantly left the road to
gaze at the wonder Father held there, beside him. The Bishop arrived the
next day. He told Father Gino that he would be the one to rededicate the
church. The Bishop prayed with him in the devastated sanctuary. As he
finished, he turned to Father Gino to say: “Great changes will soon
take place in this parish.”
Sergeant Parsons came to ask for instruction a few days later. His wife
and children soon joined him, and later two of his constables from
Pincher Creek. As time went on, more and more Catholics began to return
to their church. The parish mission was so popular that the beer hall
shut down when it was in progress. The patrons, many of whom were not
Catholic, would carry the bar stools to the church to listen to Father's
sermons. They even had to take out the pot-bellied stove to make room
The little church, so long abandoned, was now full to overflowing every
This article was published in the August-September, 2004 issue of “Michael”.