Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 13, 2000
Wabamun marks jubilee by building new church
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
While small missions and parishes are being closed or merged due to a lack of priests, Catholics in Wabamun have gotten a new church and perhaps a new lease on life for their parish.
The $150,000 church was officially opened and blessed March 5 by Archbishop Thomas Collins, area pastor Father Stan Blaszkowski and former Wabamun pastor Father Martin Carroll.
St. Joseph's Parish, with 45 registered families, is a mission of Evansburg along with Seba Beach and Wildwood.
Close to 200 people, including guests and parishioners from neighbouring communities, attended the opening Mass, filling the church to capacity.
The building is a 5,000-square-foot, single-storey wooden structure with a sanctuary that can seat 120 and an overflow room that can seat another 100. It also has a small kitchen and a meeting room.
A steeple with a cross will be added in the next few weeks and the landscaping will be completed in the summer.
"It's a very basic building," explained parish council chair Dale Raymond. "We don't need a basilica, just a building where we can worship and teach catechism to our kids."
Most of the furnishings for the new church - pews, tables and chairs - were donated by Mary Help of Christians Parish, the Chinese parish in Edmonton.
St. Joseph's raised most of the initial funding for the church through donations and activities. The remainder, $75,000, was loaned by the archdiocese.
Still standing beside the new building at 54th Avenue and 52nd Street is the old church building, its door locked and windows boarded.
Built at the turn of the century in Duffield, the building was moved to Wabamun in 1930 and transferred to its present location in 1950. Last year it was declared structurally unsound and will be bulldozed and removed in the summer.
"Building a new church has been our special project to celebrate the Jubilee 2000," Blaszkowski declared at the Mass. "The church has been built for the grace of God and for the people of God."
Collins accepted the church's keys and plans from Blaszkowski and blessed the congregation and the building with holy water. In his homily, he called the congregation to participate in all areas of Church life and to reach out to those who are suffering.
In the final steps of the church blessing, the archbishop consecrated the altar and the walls with Chrism oil and later incensed the altar and the building.
Raymond is excited about the new church and said the presence of the archbishop at its official opening gives parishioners hope their parish will remain open.
Several parishes and missions of similar size have been closed in the past two years. Blaszkowski normally celebrates Mass at St. Joseph's once a week, on Saturday evenings.
The 1998 archdiocesan parish restructuring plan called for Wabamun to be merged into the Stony Plain-Spruce Grove parish. That was later changed to include Wabamun as part of a parish cluster, not yet implemented, that will also include Drayton Valley, Evansburg and Mayerthorpe.
John Acheson, coordinator of parish restructuring, noted that a letter was sent to the parish after the release of the restructuring report, saying the building of a new church would not guarantee that parish would still have a priest or regular Masses.
"Our parish may still close but we don't know," said Maxine Halder, chair of the Catholic Women's League. "We hope it won't. We have been praying for a new church for so long. It's a dream come true."
Planning for the new church began 10 years ago, with the CWL helping to raise the bulk of the funding. Mass was first celebrated at the new church at Christmas and, according to Halder, more people are now attending Mass.
"Now that we have a new church people who never came are coming back again," she said. "The church seems to be fuller now."
For parishioner Rhonda Mullins, the new church is an answer to her prayers and to Mary's wishes. While praying at the old church one night she said she had a vision where Mary urged her to build a new church.
"This a wonderful place," Mullins said. "You can just feel God's presence."
Wally Ross and his family moved away from Wabamun 20 years ago. They live close to Stony Plain but decided to return to St. Joseph's two months ago after hearing of the new church.
"The new church brought us back," said Ross, who now plans to join the music ministry at the parish as a guitar and organ player. "I'm very excited. I hope the new church will bring new life to the community."
"I think we are very lucky to have a new church," said parishioner Sandra Little. "We have been waiting for this moment for many years. It feels good."