Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 24, 2005
A pastoral welcoming place
St. Paul Cathedral offers bilingual, weekday Mass
St. Paul — January 25
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
St. Paul, Alta.
It is the archetypical conversion story. Saul of Tarsus, dedicated first century enemy of the new Christian Church, was thrown to the ground and blinded en route to arrest Christ's followers in Damascus.
He heard Jesus speak to him, saying "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9) and his sight was only restored three days later through the touch of Ananias. Immediately baptized, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Each year, these events are commemorated in the celebration on Jan. 25 of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In Alberta, this pillar of the early Church is remembered in the names of the thriving town of St. Paul, the St. Paul Diocese and the active parish there.
Appropriately, the readings for the feast day concern spreading the word of God and begin with one of two descriptions of the saint's conversion, one in the text of Acts of the Apostles (9:1-22) and the other, a verbatim account by Paul in an address to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 22:3-16).
In the Gospel for the day, Christ admonishes the Apostles in an appearance after the resurrection to "proclaim the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15-18). Paul went on to become, with Peter, a stalwart of the early Church.
Visionary Oblate missionary Father Albert Lacombe would be astounded to see the progeny of his dream of a new settlement in the central Parklands of Alberta. In 1894, his plan was to establish a home for his mixed-blood flock in the new settlement of St-Paul-des-Metis.
Although his concept didn't work out as anticipated, the result a century later is a flourishing municipality with solid French, Ukrainian and native roots and a cathedral, the seat of the youthful diocese in St. Paul.
Acknowledged founder of St. Paul was fellow Oblate Father Joseph-Adeodat Therien. As first director of the colony, he worked on the ground to build a church, school and other facilities and to acquire agricultural equipment to get new settlers started on their 80-acre plots.
Then, despite having to see the demise of the settlement scheme in 1908, he predicted that his parish would some day become a diocese and actually lived to see his prophecy fulfilled 40 years later.
When the Metis colony was opened to general settlement in 1909, the new hamlet was named St-Paul-des-Metis. It became a village in 1912 and the Town of St. Paul in 1937.
Until 1913, it was part of the Diocese of St. Albert, but is now a suffragan of the Edmonton Archdiocese from which it was separated in 1948.
Extending across the width of the province north of Edmonton, the 18 parishes and 54,000 Catholics of the St. Paul Diocese are led by Bishop Luc Bouchard who, in 2001, succeeded present Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins to the see.
St. Paul Cathedral faces north on the town's main thoroughfare, 50th Avenue or Highway 28 and the parish serves some 3,800 Catholic residents. It was built as the parish church in 1930 to replace a 1904 edifice.
Sharing the bilingual weekday Mass with two or three dozen parishioners at the cathedral is a relaxing way to begin the day. It's a spacious building, but not ostentatious, as befits its Depression-era beginnings.
The church grounds are a relaxed, almost pastoral, place where after daily Mass, weather permitting, Rector Father Roger Sicotte joins the cathedral staff for relaxed coffee and conversation on the broad, shaded wooden porches of the vintage rectory.
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