Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
Pastoral assistant a ball of fire
Perry Kieftenbeld is 2nd winner of Worker in the Vineyard Award
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Perry Kieftenbeld is a tireless worker in the 4 parishes of the Sturgeon Region.
BY RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Riviere Qui Barre - Perry Kieftenbeld is constantly on the move. When she is not working at her home office in Riviere Qui Barre or attending to her family, she is out motivating and educating youth, attending a regional meeting or organizing a workshop in the Sturgeon region of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
As part-time pastoral assistant for a cluster of four parishes in the Sturgeon region, Kieftenbeld is the right hand of Father Wellington Santana from Brazil and as such she is responsible for implementing plans and making sure things get done.
In recognition of her dedicated service to the parishes of the Sturgeon region, the Western Catholic Reporter has chosen Kieftenbeld as the winner of its 2008 Worker in the Vineyard Award.
Her pastoral duties are detailed in a two-page job description. "Anything I do I do for the four parishes, not just a single parish," Kieftenbeld declares in the first line of her job description.
It's not a stretch to say that Kieftenbeld is the glue that keeps the parishes of Villeneuve, Calahoo, Mearns and Riviere Qui Barre working together. And she does it with gusto, energy and dedication. And always with a wide smile on her face.
In the past five years she has taken no less than 50 parishioners - many of them young people - to Jamaica to build homes for the poor. She has also taken dozens of young people on mission trips to senior citizens' homes and to Edmonton's inner city to feed the homeless.
Furthermore, she and her husband Harvey have served as World Youth Day leaders for dozens of young people in the area, including some of their own children. Last year they took 21 youth to Australia, making a prior stop in Fiji to paint churches and give money to the poor.
Santana, who oversees the 400-family Sturgeon Region from St. Peter's Parish in Villeneuve, is happy to have Kieftenbeld as a member of his pastoral team.
"Perry is an amazing pastoral assistant because she looks after the youth and all the pastoral ministries in the four parishes and she is just full of life and full of energy," he says. "She is really a wonderful help we have here in our parish."
The Worker in the Vineyard Award recognizes the faith-filled dedication to community service of one lay Catholic in the Edmonton Archdiocese. Josephine Pallard won the first Worker in the Vineyard Award last year for her commitment to immigrants, refugees and the community in general.
"I am very honoured to have this award," Kieftenbeld said, wiping away a tear. "My Church is very important to me and so is the work that I do. I do it for God and I'm honoured to be considered a worker in his vineyard."
Riviere Qui Barre parishioner Joanne Byfield said Kieftenbeld was a good choice for the award because she has brought unity, continuity and stability to the four parishes in the region.
"Perry has boundless energy," she said. "She is enthusiastic and she really manages to get young people involved in Church activities."
Another thing about Kieftenbeld is that "she is always positive," Byfield continued. "Perry always sees the good side of things and that too I think is a gift."
Father Paul Terrio, now the pastor in Spruce Grove/Stony Plain, hired Kieftenbeld as a pastoral assistant seven years ago. Kieftenbeld got the job, despite her lack of theological education.
"The hiring committee that interviewed Perry was unanimous the she was the one that had the most ideas and the most enthusiasm and the energy," Terrio recalled.
"She's not only been very enthusiastic and inspiring for young people and various activities in the parish but she has been flexible and learned to work with several (foreign) pastors."
A native of Edmonton, Kieftenbeld and her parents moved to a farm in Riviere Qui Barre when she was 10. After high school she travelled around the world for 18 months as part of an agricultural exchange. On her return she studied horticulture at Olds College and then served for five years as a grounds gardener at Northlands.
She married Harvey in 1986. The couple has raised five children on the chicken and pig farm they own and operate in Riviere Qui Barre.
CALLED BY GOD
Kieftenbeld said she applied to be the pastoral assistant because she felt called by God to that ministry. "In many ways I was already doing some of these things as a parishioner," she said.
Among other things, Kieftenbeld is responsible for attending regional pastoral council meetings as well as Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meetings every two months. She also organizes a regular altar server appreciation for the four parishes, which consists of swimming or a two-day hike with Mass or a party at her house.
Organizing Confirmation retreats, workshops for Eucharistic ministers and stewardship initiatives are also part of Kieftenbeld's duties.
But the job has challenges and sometimes Kieftenbeld has been on the verge of giving up. "I would say 'I'm so tired of doing this' but then out the blue somebody would walk up to me and say, 'You know, we are so lucky to have you.'"
That's how Kieftenbeld gets pumped.
"I don't do this job for the money. There are many other jobs that I could get more money for and put less energy into it. So obviously I'm feeling called and I don't know why, but here I am."
Kieftenbeld is ideal for the job "because she has a gift for drawing people to pastoral projects, especially young people and her enthusiasm is infectious," Terrio said.
"So she has built a very strong youth ministry in the parish over the years. The fact she took 21 young people to World Youth Day in Australia is impressive considering that it's not a big parish." The four parishes and missions of the Sturgeon Region have a total of 400 registered families.
"I think this (Worker in the Vineyard) award would be wonderful for Perry herself and for the parish," Terrio adds. "But I think also it would be good for all the people like Perry, especially women, who are involved in parish ministry in semi-rural parishes. It would be indirectly a reflection on the good work of all of them."
Kieftenbeld is especially strong on the youth front. She oversees the FX (Finding Christ) youth group, which is made up of 30 to 50 youth between the ages of 13 to 18. FX, which is led by six young leaders, meets for discussion, prayer and activities once a month after school.
At Camilla School - Riviere Qui Barre's public school that offers religious programs as an option - Kieftenbeld organizes and facilitates the Camilla Youth Gathering, a once-a-month gathering of 50 to 80 students during school hours.
Kieftenbeld gets speakers to come and talk about what the Church says on issues like abortion, capital punishment, drugs, racism, war, vocations, faith, and sports. Occasionally she speaks herself on topics such as her marriage.
Speaking at a marriage conference almost a year ago, Kieftenbeld said a good marriage offers young people support, community, guidance and hope. That's what her marriage offers young Catholics in the Sturgeon Region.
The Kieftenbelds' home is like a revolving door with young people coming in and out all the time. They feel comfortable there because Perry and Harvey are welcoming to others and show they are happy with each other. That's one reason the World Youth Day pilgrimages and the Jamaica mission trips have been so successful.
"Serving the Church and the community as a couple is a good example for young people because it illustrates the strength of the marriage," Kieftenbeld maintains.
"Perry is well-deserving of the award because she is always making sure that our youth are involved," said parishioner Sandra Duperron.
"She makes sure they learn about their faith and she is always creating these activities and trips for them to make them more aware of global poverty and their responsibility as Christians."
Duperron, a mother of four, described Kieftenbeld as highly organized. "When she is very passionate about something that she is excited to do, there is no stopping her."
Two of Duperron's children have benefitted from Kieftenbeld's enthusiasm. One daughter went to World Youth Day in Australia with Kieftenbeld and another is involved in the youth gathering she organizes at Camilla School.