Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2006
Parish anchor of faith in sea of change
Sacred Heart has been Red Deer's rock for 100 years
By BILL GLEN
"This is an important historical moment in the life of our parish."
Fr. Don Stein
On June 10, the parish was to celebrate its centennial with Archbishop Thomas Collins presiding at a special Mass.
"This is an important historical moment in the life of our parish. We started planning two years ago," said Father Don Stein, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish since 2000.
Father Henri Voisin supervised construction of the first church, a tall A-framed structure with a steeply pitched roof. Bishop Emile Legal travelled from St. Albert and blessed the church June 10, 1906. He dedicated it to the Sacred Heart.
"The roof was so steep, no one volunteered to shingle it," Stein said. "So Father Voisin had to do it himself."
Stein is particularly proud to be a part of this significant event because June 4 marked his 72nd birthday and the 46th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
"Last year we began celebrations with an old-fashioned Benediction attended by one of our former priests - Father Tom Kroetch (1960-67). We composed a centennial prayer that we have been saying every Sunday since that day."
Sacred Heart has held several activities leading up to its centennial, including an open-air Mass last Aug. 28 at Mission Hill.
"Things are different now."
Stein borrowed deerskin vestments from Oblate Father Jim Holland, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Edmonton, to honour the Oblates who stopped at the site near Penhold, during their treks along the old Edmonton-Calgary trail.
"It was a beautiful Mass - very well attended. The native community was part of the celebration, honouring them as the people who were present before Red Deer began."
Thirteen priests have served the parish, including Msgrs. Allen Reynolds (1970-81), Don MacDonald (1990-93) and John Hamilton (1993-96).
Reynolds will celebrate his 70th anniversary to the priesthood June 26 at St. Joseph's Basilica. Hamilton is the Edmonton Archdiocese's vicar-general and now pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sherwood Park. MacDonald, the previous vicar general, died in 2005.
The June 10 Mass will be followed by an historical pageant including representatives of First Nations. Several parishioners were to dress up in pioneer garb, while others who have done outreach lay missionary work abroad were to be included in a large procession.
"The parish has been a home for us.
Basso credits former pastor Father Ronald Woodhouse (1952-60) as a key proponent of spreading the Catholic faith. Four Catholic schools opened in Red Deer during his time.
"He built the big church (in 1959). He was a holy man. He got along very well with all of the parishioners."
The parish has built five churches since 1905. The current church was built in 1992.
John MacKenzie is a retired Court of Queen's Bench justice. He moved to Red Deer with his wife Joan in 1964. At that time Sacred Heart was the only parish, but St. Mary's was opening. They attended St. Mary's before relocating closer to Sacred Heart in 1969. The MacKenzies have been active members ever since.
"The parish has been a home for us. We have been blessed with great priests. They were all different, but they were all marvellous people."
MacKenzie has sat on several parish councils and is a eucharistic minister and lector. He fondly recalls the years when Msgr. Reynolds (1970-81) was pastor.
"When he was coming to Red Deer, a laicized priest I knew said we were getting the best priest in the archdiocese," MacKenzie said. "He was deeply spiritual yet very approachable and kind. He was everyone's friend."
One of the newer parishioners is Nicole Wilson. Her second child was baptized at Sacred Heart after the family moved to Red Deer from Edmonton about 18 months ago.
"We love the parish. It is such a welcoming community. Especially Father Don and Sister Lynn (Rouleau). They are amazing with all they have going on."
Wilson represented the archdiocese in Rome in 2001 where she received the World Youth Day Cross. She was one of 10 Canadians who received Communion from Pope John Paul during Palm Sunday Mass.
Twice a month, Wilson meets with other parish mothers. Last Christmas, the women filled shoe boxes for the underprivileged and helped a homeless shelter.
Wilson says she has met others her age who have been members of the parish their entire lives. She notices how the parish elders have come to adore her children.
Wilson knows how important the parish is to a lot of people. "It's beginning to feel that way for us too," she said. "We feel a part of the family."
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