Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 6, 2005
Celebrating a century of faith
Generations of families sustain St. Stanislaus Church in Round Hill
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
St. Stanislaus Church stands empty and alone for most of the year because it doesn't have a resident priest.
But on the feast of Corpus Christi on May 29, the little church was teeming with life as parishioners marked the church's 100th anniversary.
Some 300 people from across Alberta and parts of the United States came for the celebration, which included an outdoor Mass and a Corpus Christi procession on the church grounds.
Flower petal path
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil and four other priests concelebrated the Mass. Then, followed by the congregation, the archbishop carried the Blessed Sacrament around the church grounds, stopping for prayers at four outside altars. Children threw flower petals on the procession path.
A banquet followed at the community hall in nearby Round Hill.
MacNeil reminded the congregation how they have been blessed by God. He told them the 100th anniversary is an opportunity to thank the pioneers, to thank God and make sure they will remain faithful to the faith they received.
Commanding a prominent position on a height of land east of Lake Demay, the small church of St. Stanislaus is one of the oldest most prominent landmarks in the Round Hill area. Completed in 1905, the 80 by 36 foot edifice remains in impeccable condition, a tribute to the carpentry of the early pioneers.
Most who attended the celebration are descendants of those who built the church. About 40 came from places such as Texas and California and many are descendants of Frank Mack, who donated the first load of lumber to build the church and served as a carpenter.
Only about 20 members of St. Stanislaus Parish still live in the Round Hill area. One is parish leader Willie Banack, whose grandfather Stanislaus Banack came to Camrose from Tacoma, Wash., in 1895 becoming the first pioneer of Polish origin to settle in the West.
He helped build the church and then helped run it. Now his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are following in his footsteps. Willie Banack doesn't care his parish is considered too small to have a priest and hold regular services. As far as he is concerned, St. Stanislaus is an active parish that has kept the faith alive in the community for 100 years.
"It's 100 years of faith that we are celebrating," said Matthew Banack, son of Willie. "It's not so much that we are honouring people, but we are honouring faith life."
Ann Budenski, descendant of two early pioneers, came to the event from Drumheller. "My great-great-grandfather and my great-grandfather built this church," she said proudly. "For me it's heartwarming that something built so many years ago is still standing, in beautiful condition and working."
Sherry Banack and her husband Andy, son of parish leader Willie Banack, travel to the Round Hill area from Edmonton every year for the Corpus Christi procession. "It really reinforces the tradition involved in the Catholic religion and then it's carried on for many generations," said Sherry. "I don't speak Polish but I like to hear the Polish hymns that they sing during the celebration."
Andy grew up in the area and is proud his great-grandfather is so big a part of the parish's history and tradition. "He was the first Polish settler in Alberta," he pointed out. "The church is a big part of life around here. We would never miss a celebration like this."
In the beginning and for many years afterwards, St. Stanislaus Parish had its own resident priest and celebrated Mass every Sunday. Now it only opens for special occasions, such as the annual Corpus Christi procession.
Even though most parishioners now attend Mass in Camrose, they are still organized as a parish community with a parish council. They meet when necessary to plan special activities and to oversee regular maintenance of the church and the cemetery grounds.
The 16-member Catholic Women's League is also active in the life of the parish and the outside community, noted leader Linda Tomaszewski. Among other things, they hold raffles and bazaars and serve at funerals, weddings, auctions and parish activities.
St. Stanislaus Parish began when the Stanley Banack family moved to the area from Washington in 1895. Father Wojciech Kulawy, a Polish-speaking priest sent by Bishop Vital Grandin to minister to the Polish settlers, visited the Banacks with the idea of setting up a parish.
$900 nest egg
Money was scarce and Stanislaus Banack travelled to the U.S. in search of donations. After three appeals, he brought home $900.
Kulawy's dream came true in 1903 when a parish was formed with 43 families under the name of St. Michael the Archangel. Construction began in 1904 on 40 acres of land donated by the government under the direction of a new pastor, Father Paul Kulawy.
The settlers donated funds, material and labour with Frank Mack serving as head carpenter. Until the church was built, the spiritual needs of the community were met by two priests who said Mass in homes.
The story is told of how, in their hurry to see the church standing so Kulawy could take a picture of it before leaving for Edmonton early the next day, the settlers neglected to brace the building properly.
The picture was taken, but a high wind in the night undid the work of the previous day - the rafters and studding all lay in a twisted heap.
They started over in 1905. Kulawy celebrated the first Mass at the church on Easter - April 23, 1905. The parish was then renamed St. Stanislaus in honour of the 10th century bishop and martyr of Krakow, Poland and in recognition of pioneer Stanislaus Banack.
The parish became a mission of Camrose in 1971 and began celebrating liturgies without a priest in 1986. St. Stanislaus celebrated its last scheduled Mass in June 1998, but remains active for special occasions such as funerals, weddings and the annual Corpus Christi procession.