Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
November 5, 2001
Immaculate Heart closes its doors
Collins urges parishioners to 'become one' with St. Anthony's
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Despite resistance from some parishioners, Immaculate Heart Parish closed its doors for the last time Oct. 28, with the congregation expected to join St. Anthony's Parish on Whyte Avenue.
Archbishop Thomas Collins presided at the closing Mass offering the liturgy to pastor Father John Cunningham who couldn't attend due to illness and to all the parishioners who have worshipped at Immaculate over the past 50 years.
The archbishop urged the sombre-looking congregation to continue to serve the Lord faithfully at St. Anthony's and to take to their new parish "the spirit of love and Christian discipleship which has marked Immaculate Heart Parish."
"We pray that Immaculate Heart and St. Anthony become one, that you can continue your life of service to others as one."
Collins also urged younger parish members to ensure that everybody, old and young, can attend the celebrations at St. Anthony's. "You can help in that."
During a closing ritual near the end of the Mass, the archbishop blessed several symbols of the parish's faith that will accompany the congregation to St. Anthony, including the baptismal font, the confessional, the ambo, the Stations of the Cross and the altar.
The archbishop presented the chalice, the Stations of the Cross and the Book of the Gospels to three parishioners so they can present them to St. Anthony. The altar vestments will be used at the Marian Centre, the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be sent to Ephphatha House and the original altar cloths will be returned to the Sisters of the Precious Blood.
Following the singing of the final hymn, many parishioners came forward to kiss the altar or to offer a bow as a final gesture of leave-taking. Others posed for photos in front of the statues to take a final memory with them.
Rosalia Gail, who attended the Latin Mass at Immaculate Heart, sat alone at the back of the church looking numb.
"This is wrong," she told the WCR. "The archdiocese has no right to close this church. This is the people's real estate. The people paid for it and no one has the right to take it away from them."
Is Gail alone in her grief? "It's not just me," she said. "The whole church is upset. The archbishop broke our hearts."
At a reception in the church hall, Gail looked agitated as she explained her position to Collins, who spent most of the reception talking with parishioners.
To Veronica Hecker, a parishioner for eight years, the closure is simply unfair. "There was no need to close this church," she said. "There are more parishioners here than there are at St. Anthony's."
Hecker will attend Mass somewhere but will not join a parish community. Her fear is that as she gets comfortable in a new community the archdiocese will come and close it.
"This is unfair," the woman said calmly. "The closing of the church doesn't close down our faith or our relationships but makes us feel cheated, like we are insignificant to the archdiocese."
Anthony Feist and his wife Margaret are disappointed too but are committed to join the St. Anthony's community. "We are not happy at all," he said. "It's unfortunate more priests aren't available."
"It's seems a fact of life that smaller parishes are disappearing," added Margaret. "But bigger is not better. We lose that family spirit."
Pat Hunt had tears in her eyes. "I feel empty," she said. "I've been coming here since I was eight years old."
She was expecting the archbishop to change his mind about the closing. And when it didn't happen, her heart sank.
"I am very sad," she said. "But I'm also thankful about the gift of faith I received from this parish." She is committed to take that gift to her new parish.
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