Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 27, 2006
Parishioners still devoted to St. Stanislaus
Far-flung Round Hill Catholics still respond to the call to worship
St. Stanislaus – April 11
- Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
Crowds gather around St. Stanislaus Church during the church's 2005 centennial celebrations.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Round Hill, Alta.
For a church whose parishioners are widely scattered, St. Stanislaus at Round Hill enjoys an uncommon dedication and attachment to its history and traditions.
Former church members are regularly recalled to celebrate anniversaries on the grounds of the little hilltop sanctuary in its pristine rural setting northeast of Camrose.
The powerful religious heritage of the area is eminently evidenced in two prominent churches along Range Road 191. Within three years of the founding of the nearby settlement of Round Hill, a church had been built to serve Ukrainian Catholics. This, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, built in 1903, was replaced in 1925 by an impressive, domed church which, like St. Stanislaus, .62 km to the south, is visible for many kilometres.
New arrivals in the area of Polish descent anxious to worship in the Roman liturgy and encouraged by Polish missionary Father Francis Olszewski, solicited funds and were in their own building by 1905. First Mass was celebrated by the new pastor Father Paul Kulawy in the church dedicated to Poland's patron saint.
Stanislaus is remembered as one of the first to fight against injustice in his native land and for this reason, has historically been a model for Polish independence.
His birth in 1030 of noble parents enabled him to acquire an education and by 1072, he had been consecrated bishop of Krakow. He gained a reputation as a preacher, reformer and spiritual advisor and did much to aid the poor.
He soon incurred the wrath of King Boleslaus II for his criticism of the ruler's immorality and cruelty. The conflict escalated when, in 1079, Stanislaus excommunicated the king and refused admission to the sovereign to Mass at the cathedral.
Livid, Boleslaus later sought out Stanislaus as he was celebrating Mass in a rural chapel. And when the king's attendants refused to harm the bishop, Boleslaus slew him himself with his sword. Although there are said to be political ramifications in the relationship, the martyred cleric was almost immediately identified as a saint by the people of Poland.
Boleslaus, his country under indictment by Pope St. Gregory VII, fled to Hungary where he later died, a penitent in a Benedictine abbey there.
Patron of Krakow
Stanislaus, canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, is recognized as the principal patron of Krakow and is a much-honoured saint to the people of Ukraine, Lithuania and Byelorussia, as well as in his native land.
His Round Hill church faces west over Demay Lake and, despite the dispersal of its members, occupies well-maintained grounds. In addition to the church, four tiny processional chapels are arranged to be used during anniversary celebrations here. The cemetery to the east of the church has recently been restored so that all markers are now aligned on linear poured concrete bases to uniformly face east.
Rarely viewed now, the inside of the church is dominated by an ornate white, gold-trimmed reredos containing a large statue of the Sacred Heart.
Recently repainted statues of St. Anthony and the parish patron flank the original altar behind two kneeling, lamp-bearing angels. St. Stanislaus is in brightly coloured bishop's robes of white and gold with traditional mitre and crozier.
The early summer parish anniversary coincides with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Last year's event, the church's centenary, focused on Mass concelebrated outdoors by Edmonton Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil and fellow priests.
Then, accompanied by hymns in English and Polish, the Blessed Sacrament was processed around the grounds with flags, colourful banners, flower girls and hundreds of participants before the day ended with a festive meal in Round Hill.