Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 7, 2009
German Pallottine fathers shut their doors
After 53 years of service, Germans turn over property ministry to Indian province
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - After more than five decades of service to the Church in Canada, and with their numbers waning, the German Pallotine Fathers of Sacred Heart Province are shutting their doors for good.
The order has only five members left - aged 69 to 77 - and they have decided to close shop.
"We have to retire. Let's face it," said Father Gottfried Seifert, the local superior. "Just look at our ages."
But Seifert said the Pallotine identity would not vanish and to ensure this, he is transferring both material and pastoral assets from his order to Pallotines from India.
The official transfer will happen Dec. 3 at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton. Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil will preside at the ceremony.
"Everything that belongs to us we are transferring to the Indian Pallotines," explains Seifert.
"We have a house in Edmonton; we have a house in Calgary. Father George Neumann lives in our Edmonton house. You cannot say we are transferring parishes to them, but we ask the (respective) bishop to employ them."
The first German Pallotines came from England to Quebec in 1944. Soon, more came to Swan River, Man. In 1954, more came to southern Ontario and then to Calgary and Edmonton (1956).
TEACH AT ST. MARY'S
In the early 1960s, yet another wave came to teach at St. Francis High School in Calgary and St. Mary's in Edmonton.
But then the number of vocations dropped and no more Pallotines were sent to Canada.
"The odd one still came but not enough to support all the apostolic and pedagogical tasks in which we were involved. So people were taken out of the schools and placed into parish work," Seifert said.
During 50 plus years, the German Pallotines sent probably 25 priests to serve in Canada. But in the same period, they had only two Canadian vocations.
The Pallotine order started in Rome in 1835 when Father Vincent Pallotti petitioned for the approval of what he called the Union of the Catholic Apostolate. Permission was given by Pope Gregory XVI and on April 10 of that year, nine priests and six laymen were enrolled.
In those days in Rome and indeed throughout the world, participation of the laity in the Church was minimal.
Pallotti intended to change that and sought to inspire the Church to permit and encourage ordinary Catholics to take their rightful place. The Catholic apostolate meant for him that Christ's mission was for all the faithful, not just for ordained priests.
"He was talking Vatican II theology well before Vatican II (in the mid-1960s)," Seifert said. "This was utterly new and Pallotti was attacked for it. He was too advanced in that sense."
In Red Deer, the Pallotines created a faith enrichment centre, which Seifert says became the cradle of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate in Canada.
Members of the union are lay people who follow the postulates of the order. Today the union has some 120 to 150 lay members in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In the mid-2000s, the German Pallotines tried to bring more priests from Germany. But vocations were minimal and in 2005, Pallotines began coming from India.
Currently, two Indian Pallotines serve in Fort Saskatchewan and another in St. Albert at Holy Family Parish.
In Calgary, two Indian Pallotines operate St. Cecilia's Parish.
The German Pallotines, however, continue to operate St. Boniface parishes in Edmonton and Calgary. They also have priests in Okotoks, Taber and at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary.
What have the German Pallotines accomplished in more that five decades of service in Canada?
"As teachers, we helped to form the minds and the values of young people," Seifert replied.
"Secondly, I think we offered dedicated pastoral work in the parishes we served and we brought Pallotti's vision (of openness, inclusion and acceptance) everywhere we went."
Seifert, a priest for 51 years who has served in Ontario, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, recently retired in Vegreville where he is trying to live a monastic life as much as possible.
"I've been in Canada for over 50 years, so I feel more at home here than in Germany," he declares.
"So as long as I can function here, as long as I can look after myself, I would like to stay here."
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