After 100 years, life at St. Augustine in Taber remains vibrant.
TABER - St. Augustine's Parish in Taber is now celebrating its centennial year.
The town of Taber started with a bang with abundant coal mining in the area. In 1909 its population was 3,400. But then the coal dwindled and Taber almost became a ghost town.
Taber and surrounding area rebuilt itself because of the many immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to work in the irrigated agricultural industry.
Catholic services began in 1908, when Oblate Father Bertrand came from Medicine Hat to celebrate Mass in the upstairs room of French Pete's restaurant. As the congregation increased, it was apparent a church was needed.
The women of the parish began fundraising and the men helped physically and financially in starting the project. The church was completed and was blessed by Bishop Emile Legal July 21, 1911 with St. Augustine as its patron.
In 1940 Father C.J. Lyons became parish priest. Under his direction a new church was designed and built. The new church was blessed by Calgary Bishop Francis Carroll May 25, 1950.
The parishioners were active and many organizations were formed. The Catholic Women's League charter was received in 1928. The men belonged to the Holy Name Society which was later replaced with the Knights of Columbus.
The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary was incorporated for the spiritual guidance of adolescent girls. Young people participated in the Catholic Youth Council and enjoyed many social and cultural activities. The present youth group has seen participants travel far and wide to celebrate World Youth Days with the pope.
The first St. Mary's School was built in 1956 with the Sisters of Providence and the Brothers of Our Lady of Lourdes teaching the students. This was followed by St. Patrick's School, which became the elementary school and St. Mary's the junior and senior high school.
Parish functions and activities have changed and multiplied. In the earlier years the CWL operated a clothing bank for the community. But now the Society of St. Vincent de Paul serves the needy.
The RCIA offers instruction to adults wishing to join the Church or parishioners who want to enrich their faith. At one time, the St. Monica's Mothers Group helped young moms with their spiritual and nurturing development.
Many parishioners serve as liturgical ministers, sing in the choirs, visit the sick, keep up the altar, bring the Eucharist to shut-ins and the sick, create seasonal decorations, help with sacramental preparation and in other activities.
In addition to serving in Taber, our priests have travelled to missions in neighbouring villages. Some of these have been Cranford, Wrentham, Vauxhall, Grassy Lake and Retlaw.
Our parish has enjoyed many happy times, we have great memories of chicken suppers and international food fairs. We will not forget the Knights' Hardtime dances, their countless picnics and Sunday breakfasts, and the schools' sports activities, Christmas concerts and graduations.
Our parish consists of many nationalities and is spiced up by the many ethnic priests who have led us. They too will not be forgotten.
We are thankful to our Heavenly Father for the 100 years he has blessed us with and the dedicated, inspiring priests he has sent our way. But most of all we cherish the wonderful feeling we have when we gather as a family of God's people in our little country church.
We began our centennial year on Nov. 27. Our 100th anniversary celebration will be July 9 and 10. We welcome all to join us. A link to the celebrations is on our website, www.catholicparish.ca.