Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 14, 2009
St. Michael's Church celebrates 100 years
Delburne Catholics laboured to create their houses of worship
The stucco replacement for the original log church opened its doors in 1921.
A new church was built. To finance the construction, six lots of church property were sold, a $20,000 loan was obtained from the archdiocese and parishioners conducted fundraisers and made private donations. Under the leadership of John Pisko and many hours of volunteer labour, a building, 32 feet by 60 feet, was completed in 1979 immediately south of the original 1921 St. Michael Church.
In 1982 the old church area was leveled and the exterior of the new church was finished and a large cross was erected on the front of the church. Twenty-two pews were ordered and a new organ was added not long after. The parishioners enjoyed their new church and close community. The basement was used for social events, catechism classes and had playschool facilities.
2009 marks the centennial year of the Catholic parish in Delburne. The parish's 100th anniversary celebration is set for Sept. 20. Mass with Archbishop Richard Smith is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Afterwards is a program at the community hall, which will include an introduction and brief history of the church. A potluck supper will follow. Past priests have been invited, and quite a few are expected to attend, including Father Les Drewicki.
"It was a warm beautiful place to go," reminisced Drewicki. "They had a nice music ministry. I always felt sorry for them because they were the smallest of my parishes, so they always had a bad Mass time, either Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon."
He called Delburne a beautiful community of dedicated people, with between 30 to 40 people attending Mass each week.
"Delburne is a nice place. If I lived in a community I would want to have a Catholic church. For me, a Christ-centred community is extremely important.
Delburne's present church sadly has shut it's doors, except for the occasional Mass, wedding or funeral.
"To have a church there that is not really being used and cannot have gatherings that are based upon faith, whether it be Bible studies or Mass or whatever it is, is a big disappointment," he said.
"It's tough to maintain these things. You could still have CWL, you could still have Bible studies in towns where there isn't a functioning church, but the Sunday Mass is somewhat of a fuel that keeps you going. Without it, it becomes that much more difficult to maintain a faith life."
However, with a population around 800 and few of them Catholic families, Christiansen agreed that the parish is now a ghost of its former self. In 1999 Delburne was a casualty of closure.
"The church is basically closed. We have a shortage of priests, so there's nobody to blame but ourselves," he said. "At one time it was fairly strong in the community. I know that the CWL did a lot of catering for weddings and stuff. But as the church got smaller, they and the United Church did it together for awhile."
Mass is held at St. Michael's about once or twice a year. Father Arlan Parenteau, from Stettler's Christ-King Parish, oversees the occasional wedding and funeral there.
"There are not enough people - that's our biggest problem. That was the problem to start with. There were maybe 15 families going in the end, no more than that. That's what caused it to close," said Christiansen.
Catholic families still have options, however, if they don't mind a short drive to a neighbouring community for Sunday Mass. The village is halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, and about 25 minutes east of Red Deer.
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