Saturday, July 8, after celebrating Mass over a hundred people gathered in the Family Center to enjoy a potluck dinner to show appreciation to longtime residents Dr. Colm Nally and wife Alice, and Father David.
I was given the honour of being master of ceremonies so when everyone was seated, I welcomed and thanked them for joining in the evening’s celebration.
As Dr. Colm Nally, wife Alice, and Father David will be relocating to Vancouver Island it was decided that there needed to be a formal thank you to all three for their tremendous service to our church and to community.
Theresa Smith and her helpers organized the event and attendees brought such a large variety of food dishes that they covered four tables.
After dinner I spoke about Alice and her work in the church. On behalf of the parish, I wanted to express our sincere thanks to Alice who has taken on a long list of responsibilities over the past years. I don’t think there is any job Alice hasn’t had a hand in doing, from helping with altar linens, to candle ordering, setting up for mass, taking communion to shut ins, serving as eucharistic minister, I mention these few duties to indicate just a fraction of all she has contributed over the years. Her work and pleasant manner will be missed in the parish. She has contributed to the parish in so many ways, it will be challenging to replace her.
It was nearly thirty five years ago that Dr. Nally read an advertisement that Fernie hospital was looking for a surgeon. He checked to see where Fernie was located, and soon local doctors Graham and Clark contacted him. When Dr. Graham was visiting Ireland, he, and Dr. Nally met. That was a time without today’s technology so the story of the meeting and how an Overwaitea bag full of brochures describing Fernie was presented to him was comical. However, it did pique his interest, he and Alice came for a visit and a year later they immigrated.
21 years ago, a change to provincial government brought about many negative changes to the health care system. At a time when the government closed hospitals and downgraded others it was Dr. Nally’s tenacity in wanting to keep OR services in the Elk Valley along with residents and medical personnel who were diligent in wanting to keep as much as possible in the local hospital that kept the OR viable. Residents organized demonstrations and wrote countless letters but still if Dr. Nally and the other doctors did not have the determination to push back to IH these efforts would not have been successful. It was his constant refusal to move to the hospital in Cranbrook that kept that valuable service.
This community and the entire Elk Valley owe a great deal to this soft spoken, gentle man who cared so deeply for the people in this area.
There are no words to adequately thank Dr. Nally, he will be remembered as one instrumental in saving our operating room service, this is a great legacy to leave in this area. He will be missed at Holy Family Parish and in the community but best wishes to him and Mrs. Nally for a long and happy life in their new home.
Father David John, who has served our parish for the past seven years has been appointed to the North Island Mission area of Vancouver Island where he will serve the communities of Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Alice, and Alert Bay.
Father David was born in the south of England, adopted at birth by a father who was a school principal and a mother who was a teacher. He had an older brother and a sister both also adopted. Of his adopted parents he said their “aim was to give him and his siblings the best possible start in life through love and guidance and a lot of patience.”
He says that “After ordination he had five years of real fun as an assistant priest in various parishes across the diocese of Plymouth that covers the far South-West of England. And then another formative and fulfilling five years in charge of three, then four and then five scattered church communities in rural Cornwall.”
In 1999 his Bishop asked him to move to Canada to assist the Prince George diocese in northern B.C. that were short of priests. He said the “next ten years serving in Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Hudson’s Hope, and most particularly the First Nations’ communities in Moberly Lake were simply wonderful years. In 2009 he left northern B.C. to start 14 years in the far South-East corner of British Columbia, firstly, covering the most beautiful Slocan Valley, then the spectacular Elk Valley.”
Father loves the outdoors especially “in the middle of nowhere”. Who can forget during Covid, Father and Thumper saying midnight mass somewhere in the bush or giving mass to a stunning sunrise or Father’s beautiful videos of the Elk Valley. Many times, mass would begin with a spectacular aerial video of animal and vegetation life in the Elk Valley. He said, “through having access to this space in solitude, he was able to recharge his inner batteries for the many varied and sometimes difficult tasks asked of our priest today in increasingly complex parishes”.
To Father I said his amazing masses in the outdoors and videos of the aerial views of the area recharged not only his inner batteries but those of us who had the privilege of listening to the mass and watching the videos. I told him he was a priest uniquely and beautifully different, we appreciate the humanness he brings to mass, the way he involve us in it, his informative and interesting homilies, the way he shows appreciation to little children, the way he treats everyone with respect and consideration. And yes, we even like the way he goes barefoot, although I am in awe of how his toes don’t freeze during winter.
All kidding aside, Father David has been amazing to all three parishes, keeping each one distinct instead of just homogenizing all three, somehow no matter how busy he is he accommodates those that need him. When my stepmom Francesca was dying I called him and although he was out of town he prayed for her over the phone and called back the next day. He has touched the lives of many people here, many that aren’t of Catholic faith and still love and respect him. Father David is a caring, compassionate, and understanding priest, approachable and friendly and most of all has shown love to this entire community. He will be greatly missed not only by our parishes but by all the community. I then thanked him for the seven years of service and wished him the best in his new post.
A beautiful cake was made especially by CWL member Diane Slyka and was cut by Father, and the Nally’s together. A presentation of a painting of Thumper, Father David’s dog by Pat Moore on behalf of the choir, and special CWL books were presented to the Nally’s and to Father David.
Father gave a lovely speech and Dr. Nally spoke of when he and Dr. Graham met. It is hard to say goodbye but as nothing stays the same forever we wish them the very best and welcome our new pastor Father Thomas who will soon be joining us.
By Mary Giuliano
Mary arrived in Fernie in May of 1953 and has lived here ever since, by choice, because she loves the Elk Valley and everything it stands for. Read more from Mary here.