Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 3, 2007
Our Lady of Peace Parish celebrates 100th anniversary
Innisfail parishioners embrace stewardship and active Catholicism
By BILL GLEN
"The parish is from where all else flows,"
- Archbishop Smith
About 200 people attended the parish's centennial Aug. 25, witnessing Archbishop Richard Smith's first appearance in their church.
"The parish is from where all else flows," Smith told the enthused gathering. "It's that place of encounter where we help one another know the Lord."
Like other central Alberta parishes, Our Lady of Peace was established by Tinchebray priest Father Henri Voisin from France.
Mass was celebrated in various homes until the first church was built in 1905. It was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Emile Legal in honour of King Louis of France on July 21, 1907.
Secular clergy from Olds and Red Deer took over the parish in 1924, until 1937. Father S. Stewart became resident priest, building a rectory that continues to stand, now being used as a private home.
A second church was built in 1943, blessed by Archbishop John Hugh MacDonald in 1946. Father Angus McRae undertook building the third and present church, which was blessed and consecrated to Our Lady of Peace by Archbishop Anthony Jordan on March 24, 1963.
Cheryll Simoni has been a member of the parish for more than 30 years. Both of her children were baptized and confirmed in the church where her granddaughter was recently baptized. She and her husband renewed their wedding vows after 30 years.
"This is a great parish. Both my husband and I were involved with youth ministry for several years. This is really exciting. It's like coming to a marriage celebration - a celebration of the Lord and to meet Archbishop Richard Smith," she said.
"We have a lot of faithful stewards here in the community who get involved with the parish."
In 1984, to mark the 80th anniversary, parishioners decided to upgrade the church and build a new parish hall. Additions to the church were constructed and blessed by Archbishop Joseph MacNeil in 1985.
"We have had a lot of wonderful priests who were willing to serve and listen to people's concerns," Simoni said.
She credits the parishioners for campaigning across town to get a Catholic high school that will open two years from now.
"As you come into town, there's a sign that says 'The new Innisfail. We have it all.' I like to believe that about our parish."
The town celebrated opening St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School (K-9) in 2004. The parish has been integral in establishing a strong triangle with home and school.
Peter Tomlinson volunteers as a member of the parish council. He is in charge of liturgy. His three children were confirmed in the church and attended the elementary school when it opened.
"The parish has a strong core of families who have been adaptive to the changes in diocesan priests and alternating between being a mission and a parish until we stayed a parish," he said.
"With the existing school and the high school that is promised, we are becoming a younger parish. We have the CWL and the Knights of Columbus. With the kids bringing their parents into the school, it's a real family."
Father George Nellissery assisted the archbishop in celebrating the centennial Mass. He became pastor of Our Lady of Peace in January 2007.
Nellissery has found it remarkable how well he has been treated by the parishioners.
"People here are very contemplative. They have a very strong bond that is attached to the parish. There is a close relationship between the school and the parish," he said.
Nellissary enjoys his time at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys and is looking forward to the arrival of the high school.
A weekday Mass is held every month for the students.
Celebrating 100 years in such a sprawling, active community is special, considering some parishes do not have a resident priest, Nellissery said.
"But this parish has remained vibrant. They consider it a blessing."
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