Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 20, 2005
Welcoming church wants a priest
Fr. Joseph Sullivans 'venerable gift' 50 years ago gave Drayton Valley's St. Anthony Church a firm foundation
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The population of Drayton Valley has varied over the years largely due to a fluctuating oil and gas industry. Once known as a transient town, some families used to stay for only a moment before leaving to drill in greener pastures.
Fr. Sullivan arrives
But for the last 50 years, St. Anthony Parish has remained a benchmark since Father Joseph Sullivan arrived from Entwistle to celebrate Mass for the Catholics who did not go home on their weekends off.
Tim Kjorlien said the reason the parish has remained anchored in the picturesque town 140 km southwest of Edmonton is because Sullivan's visit was welcomed as a venerable gift.
It gave the faithful a sense of stable footing.
"We recently listed our committees and the people in charge of them in our weekly bulletin, and I was surprise by how many people are actually involved," said Kjorlien, parish council chair.
"This fall will be the fourth year for our ALPHA program and that is mushrooming. We have a good Knights of Columbus and a good Catholic Women's League," he said.
"Like a lot of smaller communities, everybody knows each other. It just all seems to work together here."
A great priest
Kjorlien gives much credit to pastor Father Andrew Bogdanowicz.
"He is such a great man. He gets everyone involved. We are fortunate to have him."
Sullivan celebrated the first Mass on June 19, 1955 in the town's community hall - one of three locations for the church in Drayton Valley. At that time, Sullivan announced the CWL would be established.
Now with 90 members, the CWL does whatever it can for the benefit of the parish, said council president Christa Unger. "Our parish continues to be very lively because we have so many people interested in it."
Originally from Germany, Unger decided to organize a Corpus Christi procession seven years ago. Parishioners built canopies and altars. They made curtains, altar linens and banners.
"I do it for the greater glory of God," Unger said. "I used to participate in the procession and its rich traditions before I emigrated to Canada.
"One year, Father Paul Moret surprised us with a Corpus Christi procession and I saw it was new for our parish. I helped organize it the next year."
It soon became apparent that Drayton Valley would be the largest component of his Entwistle mission, so Sullivan proceeded to establish a church. And in December 1955, he moved a skid shack onto the lot where the rectory now stands.
Archbishop Anthony Jordan officially named the parish on Aug. 9, 1956.
The Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross arrived in 1966 and, for eight years, served the parish and taught in St. Anthony School. The Knights of Columbus Council was formed in 1979.
Twelve priests have served the parish, including Father Matt Kuefler, who was instrumental in starting a fund that led to building the present church, completed in 1987.
The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame came in 1981, serving the parish and the school until the Drayton Valley convent closed in 1993.
A lot of attention has been given to gathering parishioners of all ages and levels of faith through numerous activities. Kjorlien said doing so has provided an unintentional benefit.
"We have a good family atmosphere and new members tell us that they feel welcomed right from the start. It gets them involved."
Kjorlien has heard Drayton Valley will grow from 6,200 to 10,000 people within the next few years.
Unless there is an additional Mass or a permanent priest, expanding the church appears the only option to accommodate the anticipated additional parishioners.
"One of our big goals is to have our own priest. We have been a bit of a transient town, but we seem to fill our Masses. Our community is expanding and we may even have to look at expanding the church at some point in the future," he said.
"We have 300 people attend Mass on Sunday morning. Sometimes we have to put out quite a few chairs."
Groups like Regnum Christi's Familia help to draw more women and youth into parish life, Kjorlien said.
The parish has tried youth ministers over the years, but they always seem to move on to another community. So the parish is attempting to build a nucleus of several people who can work with youth and all parishioners.
Kjorlien volunteers as an usher and he said he sees some 30 children go downstairs every Sunday morning for children's liturgy.
"I was a grand knight for a couple of years and chair of our local school board for five years. When someone asked me to be chair of our parish council, I did not even think about it. I said 'yes'."
Wanda Dubois used to take several youth to the Marian Centre in Edmonton once a month. She said visiting the disadvantaged always had a positive impact.
"I think the Marian Centre was one of the more meaningful things they did," said Dubois, who has tried several activities with the group.
"It was good for them to have a purpose. It was a great education for them."
Dubois plans to resume the Saturday morning visits next winter.
"We have a lot of people sharing their gifts with our parish. It's wonderful."
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