Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 25, 2001
Parish has triple anniversary
Pastor, CWL and parish celebrate 50 years apiece
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, is a combination of the old and the new.
The new is reflected in its modern liturgical practices and in the preponderant role of the laity. The old is reflected in its pre-Vatican II church building, filled with images of the past.
The gothic-style church, at 9808-76 Ave., still has its old kneelers and statues in place and the Blessed Sacrament remains in the tabernacle in the sanctuary.
It's like a well-preserved medieval church. So much so that in 1991 the Edmonton Archdiocese chose it as the place to celebrate the Latin Mass.
But don't tell Spiritan Father John Cunningham he runs a pre-Vatican II parish. "It's an old-style church, not a pre-Vatican II parish," he clarifies. "The only thing pre-Vatican II about it is the Latin Mass we celebrate every second Sunday."
Parishioners will mark the 50th anniversary of their parish July 1. And in the fall, they will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Women's League, one of the parish's first organizations.
In the fall of 1950 the late Mary Hanley, then principal of St. Margaret's School, suggested to Archbishop J.H. MacDonald that a parish be formed to serve the Ritchie, Argyll and Hazeldean areas.
Despite the lack of money to build a church, MacDonald gave the go-ahead for the new parish and appointed Father Joseph Burke as its pastor. He said the first Mass in the one-room St. Margaret School Jan. 7, 1951.
The 300-seat church was built later that year at a cost of $55,000 and MacDonald blessed it May 3, 1953.
The parish began with 182 families but in the mid-1950s numbers increased to the point where there were two priests celebrating four Sunday Masses.
Numbers began to decline when the two Catholic schools in the area - St. Margaret and St. Dustin - closed. As well, the population became more transient with people staying in the area until they found a home elsewhere.
Today the 365-family parish is more stable and its numbers are increasing.
Many young families have joined the parish in recent years, including some from larger parishes who want to experience the smallness of Immaculate Heart. "I guess they like the church and the pastor too," Cunningham laughed.
"It's nice to see that we are attracting so many young families," said parish secretary and CWL president Hope Holst. "I think Father Cunningham is definitely part of the attraction."
Holst is one of them. She followed Cunningham when the priest was transferred to Immaculate Heart in 1989.
Close to 400 people attend each of the two weekend Masses at Immaculate Heart. There are also well-attended weekday Masses from Tuesday to Friday. The Tridentine or Latin Mass is celebrated every second Sunday at 8:45 a.m.
The CWL, which now has 63 members, as well as senior and children choirs, were the first organizations in the parish. Next came the Men's Club whose members, as well as leading Scouts and Cubs, coached little league hockey and baseball.
The parish's main goal at the time was to pay the church debt, a task to which the CWL and the Men's Club, dissolved in the late 1960s, contributed a great deal.
With the debt paid off in 1968 and the pastoral council created the same year, the parish became more focused on helping others.
Today parishioners are involved in everything from sacramental ministries to Food Bank collections to sponsoring foreign missions to supporting Third World development. There is an active youth group with about 20 members.
"This is a good parish," Cunningham said. "The laity are very involved."
The CWL supports women's shelters, visits the sick and organizes social events for the parish, including getting parishioners together for coffee after each Mass.
From 1951 to the present, Immaculate Heart Parish "has stood as a testament to the faith of the early residents of the area," reads a history of the parish prepared on occasion of the 50th anniversary.
"The sense of parish community and spirit of family that was established in the early years is very much alive and well."
How many more anniversaries the parish will celebrate depends on the availability of Spiritan priests.
Cunningham, 77, is hoping to retire within a few months. He says if the Spiritan order can't find a priest to replace him, Immaculate Heart will merge with St. Anthony's Parish.
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