Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 17, 2004
Warmth welcomes worshippers
St. Michael-Resurrection Parish celebrates 50th anniversary
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Parishioners at St. Michael-Resurrection Parish are in a festive mood these days as they mark their parish's 50 years of service to the Catholic faithful on Edmonton's east side.
History, nostalgia and appreciation were blended with prayer and fellowship as the parish began the celebration May 8 with an afternoon Mass followed by a brief ceremony and reception. Archbishop Thomas Collins and Father Roger Keeler, the pastor, concelebrated at the Mass. The celebration continued the following day under the theme Companions on the Journey.
The 500-family parish has been described as an active, believing and successful faith community. Parishioners say the secret to its success is that, despite many changes, St. Michael-Resurrection has managed to remain a welcoming, loving and united community in the service of God and its people.
That's what has kept Mitzi and Fred Crowe at St. Michael-Resurrection since 1957. "There is a very comforting atmosphere out here," Mitzi said. "We feel part of the parish. Everybody is friendly."
The same qualities attracted Millwoods residents Frank and Jeannette Boulet to the parish eight years ago. They fell in love with the community soon after attending services at St. Michael-Resurrection in 1997. Since then, they have been travelling regularly from their Millwoods home to the picturesque St. Michael-Resurrection Church on 50th Street and 106th Avenue.
"We were totally welcomed," Boulet recalled. "They accommodated us. They made us feel at home."
Today Boulet is vice-chair of the parish pastoral council and headed the 10-member committee that organized the parish's 50th anniversary celebration. Four other couples, including the Crowes, Florence and Vince Dwyer, Cas and Virginia Lukay, and Theo and Joan Luyckx, worked with Boulet and his wife on the committee.
Theo and Joan Luyckx said they joined the parish for the same reasons as the Boulets. The couple used to attend Assumption Church but after attending services at Resurrection in the early 1970s they switched.
"Parishioners were very open and they invited us," Theo recalled.
"They were very nice to us," noted his wife Joan. "I found it very easy to meet people."
The church's layout also played a role in the couple's decision. "It has a warmth to it," Theo said. "No matter where you sit you have a view of the sanctuary."
For others, like 23-year-old Anne Harvey, the parish is like an extended family. She grew up in the parish and knows most of the older parishioners and they know her.
"It is almost like they are my grandparents," she smiled. "I feel at home here." Harvey is a member of the parish's youth group and serves in various ministries, including the music ministry. "In this parish they encourage us to participate," she noted.
"I like the warm feeling one gets from the community out here," commented Charles Gal, 35, chair of the social justice committee. "There is a friendliness about it. One gets the sense of visiting with family every weekend rather than just going to Mass."
In an interview, Keeler, the pastor since August, described St. Michael-Resurrection as an "abundantly gifted and blessed parish" with 41 different active groups and ministries. "It's a great privilege to be journeying with them."
He also referred to the parish as a "hospitable and welcoming community" that makes all its visitors feel welcome. "We pride ourselves on that."
Among other things, the 50th anniversary committee produced a glossy souvenir album filled with photos of parish families, the parish history and the various committees in the parish.
In the early 1950s the Catholic families in Forest Heights, Riverdale and Terrace Heights attended Mass at Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's Basilica parishes. A group of concerned Catholics decided to visit Archbishop John MacDonald and request he establish a parish for the area.
MacDonald agreed and established St. Michael the Archangel Parish in November 1953.
He appointed Father Terrence Wall as its first pastor. Wall celebrated Mass for the new community of 17 families at the chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity until the spring of 1954 when St. Michael's built its own church at 101st Avenue and 76th Street. The new church was officially opened May 22, 1955.
St. Kevin School became part of the new parish when it opened in March 1955.
The parish grew rapidly, extending its boundaries to Gold Bar, Hardisty, Fulton Place, Capilano and Ottewell, all new areas in need of pastoral care. Eventually St. Michael Church became too small and additional Sunday Masses had to be celebrated at St. Gabriel School.
When the parish became debt free in 1966, it approached Archbishop Anthony Jordan to request a second church. The new church was opened in February 1968 under the name of Resurrection Church. That's how the hyphenated St. Michael-Resurrection Parish was born: one parish with two churches.
The Second Vatican Council encouraged involvement of lay people in Church life, which led to the establishment of a parish pastoral council for St. Michael-Resurrection in 1967. Parishioners were invited to participate as readers, leaders of song, and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
The parish thrived in the late 1960s and 1970s with 850 families and seven schools. New ministries were introduced, including councils of the Catholic Women's League, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.
In the early 1990s membership began to diminish and the parish became unable to maintain two churches. In 1992 the parish decided to sell the older St. Michael Church and with the revenue from the sale it renovated the newly named St. Michael-Resurrection Church.
The parish was known then, as it is now, for its community work and involvement. For the 1984 papal visit, the parish provided administrative managers, guides and banner makers that helped produce the 20,000 banners that lined the papal route.
The parish has demonstrated its social conscience in various projects such as the building of a home with Habitat for Humanity and sponsoring refugee families from Somalia and Afghanistan. It sponsors an annual dinner for the poor of Edmonton's inner city in conjunction with the Bissell Centre, collects clothes for the Marian Centre and regularly contributes to the food bank.
As Boulet noted, St. Michael-Resurrection parishioners are good stewards of God's gifts, giving a lot of their time, talent and treasure to the parish and the archdiocese. Hundreds of them are involved in more than 40 groups and ministries.
"In this parish everybody is doing something," Boulet pointed out. Pastoral care committee members minister to patients in nursing homes and visit the sick and the elderly in their homes.
The members of the prayer circle offer daily prayers for the sick and suffering. Social justice committee members draw parishioners' attention to justice issues and the youth groups provide liturgical and social involvement for children, youth and young adults. The parish also celebrates a youth Mass on the fourth Sunday of each month.