Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 3, 2006
St. Boniface marks 50 years
German newcomers found their spiritual home in the downtown wooden church
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Moellering, a mother of three, became a member of St. Boniface soon after arriving in Edmonton with her husband Siegfried in 1955. She said a group of ladies from the parish visited after she had her first child and invited her to participate.
"That's how we began attending the German parish," she recalled. "We spoke very little English and so we were very happy to be able to worship in our own language."
St. Boniface parishioners run a small food bank, help the Pallotine Fathers in Africa, support development projects in the Third World, donate money to women's shelters, and visit the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.
Thea Tucker, a choir member for 35 years, joined the parish in 1961 and thinks the world of it.
"It gave us a spiritual home, it gave us a community of like-minded people, it gave us a place where we feel and think alike," Tucker said. "It gave us back some of our own German culture, our beautiful songs and prayers. It replaced in many ways our own families that we didn't have. We could rely on support when we needed it."
Lieselotte Dobrowolski, a parish member from Millwoods, conducts the choir, does the parish laundry and serves as a reader and Communion leader. "I come every morning for Mass."
She realizes she could attend St. Theresa Parish, but "I come here because this is my home. I have been coming longer to this church than I've ever lived in one house. This is my home."
Dobrowolski, a mother of four, arrived in Canada in 1964 and didn't speak any English. "Right away it was like coming home," she recalled. "We sang the same songs we used to sing in Germany and all the people were friendly. We are like one big family. If somebody is sick, we all suffer as if it was a family member. I would not have stayed in Canada if it weren't for this parish. I would have returned home."
The need for a German parish arose when a flood of German-speaking immigrants arrived in Edmonton following the Second World War. Many didn't speak any English and some found it hard to learn a new language.
"The newcomers were drawn together by religion, language, custom and homesickness," Anita Blyth wrote in her one-page history of St. Boniface.
A Franciscan priest celebrated the first Catholic Mass in German in Edmonton in 1952. "With permission from the Edmonton Archdiocese to form an ethnic parish and the arrival of German priests from the Pallotine order, St. Boniface Parish was established in 1956," Blyth writes. It was named after the patron saint of Germany, whose feast day is June 5.
In order to accommodate the growing number of parishioners, the parish had to move to several locations throughout the city, including the gymnasium of St. Joseph's High School.
A permanent building was found in 1958. Built in 1911, the building housed the city's first Jewish synagogue. Extensive renovations were done to transform it into a Roman Catholic Church. Most of the work was undertaken by the parishioners themselves and many of the materials were donated.
One permanent feature at St. Boniface is its choir, which will celebrate its 49th anniversary this year. It has participated in many festivals, including the popular annual Christmas concert at the German-Canadian Cultural Association.
"Sunday Masses and feast days are enriched with traditional choral singing in German, English or Latin and are accompanied by the 1883 mechanical-action 725-pipe organ, one of only a few such organs in Alberta."
St. Boniface's annual Christmas bazaar and bake sale is held in November. "Guests are invited to sit awhile, eat Bratwurst and enjoy coffee and dessert," Blyth writes.
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