Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 14, 2008
Sherwood Park parish celebrates 50th anniversary
Compiled by Ramon Gonzalez
The parish remained there until Oct. 17, 1983, when it had reached a membership of 2,500 families and moved to the current church at 13 Brower Drive.
Current Priests: Msgr. Jack Hamilton, pastor since 2000, and Father Wilf Murchland, associate pastor since 2000. Father Stephen Hero also serves as a Sunday visiting priest.
Current Church: The 50,000-square-foot facility with a seating capacity for 1,400 people was designed by architect Joe Donahue and cost $2.5 million to build. Archbishop Joseph MacNeil blessed the new church on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1983. Today OLPH has 4,500 families and also serves the mission parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Tofield.
Joan Gilbert, 77, who has lived in Sherwood Park for 52 years, recalls, "We were so close in the beginning; like after Mass in the first church nobody left the church when Mass was over; everybody was outside talking.
"We were a real community of people and if anybody died, everybody knew right away.
"Now there are too many people. I go to the same Mass all the time.
"If I go to a different Mass, I don't even know the people. You can't possibly know over 4,000 families."
Gilbert moved to Sherwood Park in 1956 and has been at OLPH ever since. She sang in the choir during the opening of the old church and says her late husband William was the first convert in the parish in 1961. Her four children received First Communion and Confirmation at OLPH.
Two of them were married in the current church.
"When the church got too small, Father Kearns would go out every so often and say Mass at Uncas," Gilbert recalled.
"Then after that we even went up and said Mass in the United Church over at Ardrossan because our church was too small.
"We couldn't get all the parishioners in and we had Mass at Madonna School and at Archbishop Jordan School.
"It was sort of like we had three parishes in one. People never met each other because they would go to those places."
School trustee Jean Boisvert says celebrating Mass at Campbelltown School had its challenges because Catholics weren't the only ones using the gym for religious services.
"The arrangement we had there is that we had to set up (for Mass) Sunday morning and the United Church would take it down because they came in after us for their service."
Boisvert's family moved to Sherwood Park from Vegreville in 1959 and he has been an OLPH parishioner since then.
"I recall when the parish was formed how they went about to gather financial support. They went to all the Catholic families and asked them to make a commitment as to how many dollars they could give.
"It was rather interesting because some of the families had six, seven or eight children so any money that they gave was a real sacrifice."
Boisvert, a father of three, says the parish was involved in all of the activities of the Sherwood Park community, including the Medieval Days.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Our Lady of Perpetual Help has 4,500 families and also serves the mission parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Tofield.
"The parish was very friendly and welcoming and helpful. We would help each other.
"To me it is the same way today. The friendliness, the participation has carried on; it's a tradition with this parish."
Celebration: OLPH's jubilee celebrations began this year with award-winning Catholic artist John Talbot conducting a musical concert and spiritual retreat in early May.
On June 19 the parish held a family day barbecue and carnival after the mid-morning Mass, which was presided over by Archbishop Richard Smith.
Carnival events included fun activities for the children, such as face painting, balloon making, clowns, a sports alley, baseball toss, soccer shootout, nine-hole golf course, obstacle course and a dunk tank.
A jubilee banquet and dance will take place at the parish hall on July 19, beginning with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., following with dinner at 7:15, and then the dance, featuring the Cabin Fever Bluegrass Band, will complete the evening.
As a way to commemorate the anniversary, OLPH has compiled a legacy souvenir book filled with pictures, stories and events that describe the last 50 years.
Books are available for purchase at the cost of $25 at the church's Marian Gift Shop after all weekend Masses or at the parish office.
Another special legacy gift to the church for its jubilee is the added enhancement of a stained glass window installed above the doors at the front entrance of the church.
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