Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 22, 2008
Priest sacrificed himself to prevent major church fire
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"He grabbed the whole crib and tossed it into the centre aisle and then watched it burn."
At Christmas 1915, fire broke out in the nativity crib while Father Boniface Heidmeier, the Franciscan commuter, was alone in the church.
“With no water close at hand, he grabbed the whole crib and tossed it into the centre aisle and then watched it burn with no more damage to the building than a slightly scorched floor,” says a history of the parish written in 1967.
“With both hands bandaged, Heidmeier proceeded to say Mass and was later embarrassed when the insurance company called him a hero and presented him with a fat complimentary cheque.”
Heavily involved in the life of the parish in those early years was the Ladies’ Altar Society. The group was the moving force from 1909 to 1960 and kept the parish going, both socially and financially.
When the Franciscans left the parish in 1950, Our Lady of the Angels again became a mission of Lamoureux.
The Edmonton Archdiocese appointed Father Roland Berube as pastor. Berube began to commute across the river tending the needs of both parishes as well as the provincial jail. He remodeled the church and made other improvements, including many new furnishings.
Our Lady of the Angels came of age in 1961 with the installation of Father Malcolm Campbell as its first resident pastor. Father Karl Raab succeeded him in 1964.
On Sept. 22, 1967 the 57-year-old church burned to the ground during a violent windstorm.
Under Raab’s leadership a new church was built in 1968 on the same site and remains as a focus of worship for the faithful in Fort Saskatchewan.
Priests who have served at Fort Saskatchewan include Fathers Leo Klug, Richard Theroux, Gerry MacInnis, Leo Floyd and Duncan MacDonnell. The current parish priests are Pallotine Fathers John Reddy and Francis Mariappa.
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