Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 29, 2007
Grande Prairie parish was 'something else'
Pettipas came to build a new church and found his parish flourishing in faith
By BILL GLEN
"I think his greatest strengths are his ability to listen and his empathy."
- Paulette Patterson
"I really didn't know him very well until he asked me to get involved. Since then, I've worked side by side with him and our family has become very good friends with him. It's a friendship we very much appreciate."
After spending much time getting the spade into the ground, Pettipas will, ironically, be the bishop who blesses the new church. It is something to which he is looking forward.
"We were wondering when it would be and how we were going to do it. Would we get Archbishop (Joseph) MacNeil to come from Edmonton?"
It was Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura who advised Pettipas that he would be the one to bless it.
"It's a wonderful idea," Pettipas said.
Patterson said Pettipas is a sentimental person who is sensitive to the needs of others.
"I think his greatest strengths are his ability to listen and his empathy. If you tell him a story about yourself or someone else that is very touching, you will bring a tear to his eye," she said.
"That tells me he is a very caring man."
Pettipas said getting the new church under construction was a lengthy ordeal, given the lack of funds available from the cash-strapped archdiocese.
"Two pastors before me had begun talking about it. Now we are almost finished, hopefully in the next couple of months," he said.
"On a project like that, money is an issue. The archdiocese was not in a position to help. The parish was on its own, building its own church."
Plans had proceeded to construction drawings before it was determined that the design was too expensive. The building committee then contacted the architect who designed Holy Trinity Church in Stony Plain/Spruce Grove.
St. Joseph's will largely reflect that design.
"It will be very nice. When you see it you'll think it's the same church."
Pettipas saw the many pancake breakfasts held to raise funds for the new church as a blessing.
"I loved seeing all of the people chatting together and having a good time. There was something joyful about them being together enjoying each other's company."
St. Patrick's in Toronto did not have any Catholic schools in the parish. Grande Prairie has seven, all with a tremendous rapport with the parish that Pettipas said "felt full of life with vitality."
Pettipas was school chaplain at Holy Cross School (K-8) when Ed Buckle arrived two years ago.
"He was here long before me and his presence was a very positive one," said Buckle, Holy Cross' principal.
"He certainly was dedicated to the children and bringing spirituality into the school. He is great with kids and they thought he was wonderful. He is a fine gentleman and a fine spiritual leader. I think the diocese is very lucky to have him."
Pettipas dropped in on a monthly basis to say "hello," or anytime the school needed him in between. Buckle said he never refused.
"It was a great relationship between him and the Catholic school community. I can only speak for this school but his contribution was significant. Having such an association with him as our chaplain was a positive influence for staff and students."
Dr. Robert Burris, a Grande Prairie physician says the new archbishop is deeply committed to his Redemptorist community and to that of the parish.
"One of the strengths of the parish is its sense of belonging to community. Certainly His Grace has exemplified that since he arrived here," Burris said.
"He has brought us all together, especially through this challenging church building time. The pancake suppers with the dances we have once a year and the get-togethers at Christmas time, were always a uniting-as-one that was very important to him."
Pettipas says he loved his time in Grande Prairie, but the Lord has called him to move on.
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