Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 8, 2008
St. Augustine commemorates 100 years
Generational memories are shared about the always-welcoming Ponoka church
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"It's been a happy church to go to."
- Dorothy Weismiller
"My grandmother played the organ in the first church and sang in the choir and my mother (Helen Gee) also sang in the choir and played organ."
Vanden Broek, a member of the committee planning the centennial celebrations, didn't attend church for the first few years of her life because her father was not a Catholic.
"It wasn't easy, but mom eventually got her determination and started taking us to church. We lived in the country so she had to drive into town with us three girls. I was a happy little child going along to church back then."
The 24x50 foot church "smelled of oil and burnt wood on the inside and it had a bell up in a nice steeple," Vanden Broek recalled. "I liked to hear the ring of our church bell."
Over the years, Vanden Broek has served as a lector, minister of the Eucharist, member of the parish council and member of the Catholic Women's League. Currently, she and her husband Jac, usher together at St. Augustine.
Even though many things have changed in the parish over the past century, its friendly, welcoming nature remains unchanged.
"I think we are still a friendly, welcoming parish," Vanden Broek said. "On Sunday after Mass we have coffee for the parishioners downstairs."
Judy Farwell, a mother of two who has been parish secretary for 17 of her 20 years as a parishioner, has served under six priests. Farwell described St. Augustine as an active and pleasant parish.
"We have a lot of people who are always ready to volunteer in different ministries. I have a long list of them."
Parishioners care about each other. Just this summer they voted overwhelmingly to build a new hall adjacent to the church that will accommodate the elderly and handicapped. The current basement hall and the washrooms are not accessible and as a result many seniors stay away from church.
Lydia Prediger, 85, has been a parishioner since she moved to Ponoka from New Brunswick in 1945. "The (old) church we had before used to be much smaller than this," Prediger smiled, pointing to the current church. "This is a great parish."
Joan Staldeker, Prediger's niece, came from New Brunswick in 1953. She joined the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) where she met her future husband.
"This is a great community and nowadays we seem to have a lot of children and young people," said Staldeker, who has served on the parish council and in the Marriage Encounter group, as well as spending 15 years as a school board trustee.
Dorothy Weismiller, a native of Saskatchewan, came to Ponoka in 1952 at age 18 and immediately joined the parish.
"It's been a happy church to go to," Weismiller said. She is currently preparing a history of the parish, which she expects to complete before Christmas.
Fred Calkins and his wife Lynne have been parishioners for the past 34 years. He moved to Ponoka in 1974 because of his work with Native Affairs. Now he works at one of the three car dealerships and continues to serve in various parish ministries.
Calkins laughs when he remembers an incident involving Father Anthony Dittrich, who served from 1984 to 1991.
The priest loved to tinker with cars and always drove used cars he fixed himself. "One day he was working on a car and got his hand caught underneath the motor mount and had to wait for two or three hours (to be rescued)," Calkins recalled. "We always teased him about the incident."
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.