Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 6, 1999
Parish produces colourful history
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
In 1956, when Archbishop John Hugh MacDonald said he was not going to sign a note for a mortgage to build a new St. John's the Evangelist Church, parishioner Paul Norris said, "Well, Your Grace, there is more than one way to skin a cat."
When then-Father Emmett Doyle came down from the attic after checking a leaky roof one afternoon, parishioners assumed he had gone up there to hide Sunday's collection.
When the church opened its daycare/kindergarten, a good-natured father bought plywood and made six tables and benches and painted them different colours.
When Pope John Paul visited the city in 1984, parishioner Fred MacDonald served as the pope's personal physician.
These are memories which have been captured in a book, Sharing the Journey, and serve as a reminder of St. John's 57-year history.
The book started as a millennium project two years ago. It was a way to share with newer parishioners the memories of the inaugural Mass in the first church building on Christmas Eve, choirs, CWL pie sales, and even the parish-sponsored hockey team.
"We tried to condense it into 96 pages," said Elmar Abele, a member of the parish's history committee who helped with the research. "That's over 50 years we tried to put in there.
"It's memories for people who've been here awhile and an eye opener for people who have been here 10 years or less."
The book, written by freelance writer Lella Cucinelli Blumer, is filled with black and white photos of parishioners past and present. It includes facts and figures of special events that flourished in the St. John's community throughout the past 50 years.
But most importantly, it includes personal anecdotes from parishioners and former pastors, some who remember how it was from day one.
St. John Parish has grown to more than 900 families and its stained glass windows are worth taking an afternoon to sit back in the pews and admire. But its beginnings, where Masses were celebrated in the barn of Timothy and Doreen Melton, was a truly humble one. Its first church was a building moved from Boyle. The second and present building was erected in 1956.
"We've had so many great priests here over the years," said Abele trying to recall some of the highlights of the church's history. "There was the campaign to build the church. We were running around, going out to the total area, we had to make a complete census of the area.
"We didn't have money to hire someone to do it. We'd go out and do it ourselves. Of course we were much younger then."
Abele recalls the first family the parish sponsored from Vietnam. He opens the book to page 70 to reveal a portrait of the Diep family, father Kim, mother Wai Nhi and son John, all beaming with smiles.
"They were the first family," Abele said of the Diepes who arrived in 1980. "They have two more children now. . . . The little boy is now doing a master's at the University of Alberta.
"The father still comes to visit us sometimes."
Like many parishes, St. John's prides itself on its family atmosphere and its many events and church groups. It has become a distribution centre for the food bank. The parish still donates its entire Christmas collection to charity every year. Its RCIA, Catholic Women's League and Knights of Columbus remain active.
"We certainly kept busy with the things we did," Abele said as he flips through the book. "There was a lot that we did."
The book is available through the parish office or by calling 452-3988.