Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 26, 2006
Our Lady of Victory marks 75th anniversary
Parishioners from surrounding communities gather to celebrate
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Things have changed, but Hoffman says Our Lady of Victory still maintains some of that old family flavour that he likes. "You are somebody here. Everybody knows you by name," he smiled.
Hoffman, a father of three, served as an altar boy for many years and recalled having to get up every day at 7 a.m. to assist the priest in the daily Mass. "It was hard to get up so early."
The history of Our Lady of Victory Parish goes back to 1930, when an influx of people settled in the Thorsby area following the completion of the CPR between Leduc and Thorsby. At that time Father Patrick McQuaid of St. Michael's Parish in Leduc would travel to Thorsby to celebrate Mass in a little hall during the summer and in Alec Lepine's barber shop in the winter.
In February 1931, McQuaid paid the Canadian Pacific Railway Land Co. $157.50 for about one-third of an acre of land on the corner of First Avenue and First Street West in Thorsby. That summer Archbishop O'Leary gave permission for a 24x48-foot church building to be erected there. Archbishop J.H. MacDonald blessed the church Aug. 28, 1938.
In 1935, the average attendance was 44 people, with a total collection of $44.40. In March 1936, the Stations of the Cross donated by Elizabeth MacDonald were arranged around the inside of the church. A year later, about half an acre of land was purchased for $30.43 for the cemetery. The present church was completed in the fall of 1951 and was financed by a $5,000 loan from the Edmonton Archdiocese.
In the late 1990s, the parish began to book the Thorsby Community Centre due to overcrowding for special-event Masses, such as Easter and Christmas, where attendance can reach up to 400 people.
Also in the late 1990s the archdiocese closed and merged numerous parishes and missions due to its reduced number of priests. As a result, Thorsby lost its resident priest in 1999.
Two years later, in the fall of 2001, Our Lady of Victory and the parishes of Warburg,Breton, Sandholm and St. Francis were officially merged with Leduc. Today Thorsby is the only parish community that remains open and the only one in the area offering regular Sunday Mass. Since the merger, the number of registered families at Our Lady of Victory has increased by 33 per cent to a total of 100. The Sunday collection has also swelled.
Parishioner Philippe Gibeau, chair of the 75th anniversary committee, said the loss of the resident priest at Thorsby and the closure of the neighbouring communities was and still is painful for Catholics in the area.
"It has been a huge challenge (to do without a priest)," he said. "We miss that daily contact with the priest and we are struggling. We have to have somebody here. Perhaps appointing a deacon is the answer."
As well, many parishioners from the closed communities still refuse to come to Thorsby for Mass.
"They choose not to come from the outer communities, even though we brought the statues of their parishes and placed them in the church so they could keep some sense of identity," said Gibeau.
To reflect the new reality, the parish council also includes members of some of the closed out communities.
Bendoritis, the parish council chair, said the restructuring was difficult for the communities that lost their churches. "It has been very stressful and has caused anger and frustration. But as you can see, we are trying to mend our ways and come together and look after each other."
With no resident priest, the parish sold the rectory in 2002 and began to plan for a different facility to meet its new needs. In 2005, it purchased the adjoining Ukrainian Hall for catechism classes, youth activities and parish functions. It recently made renovations and improvements to both the hall and the church, including new paint, a new confessional in the sacristy and new carpets.
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