Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 19, 2010
Oldest parish prepares to mark 150 years
St. Albert Parish, province's first, was cathedral church for 41 years
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT - A century and a half ago in St. Albert, Bishop Alexandre-Antonin Tache gave his blessing for a new mission site. Father Albert Lacombe built the first chapel.
The Grey Nuns arrived from Lac Ste Anne. All of these events occurred years before Canada's Confederation.
St. Albert has a long, proud history, as does its first Catholic church. St. Albert Parish, the oldest in the province and the original seat of what is now the Edmonton Archdiocese, celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.
The theme for the jubilee celebration is: Rooted in faith, living in hope and growing in love. A year full of activities is planned, with at least one event scheduled per month throughout 2011.
Jan. 15-16 is the official launch of the jubilee year. A liturgical celebration will be held with an Oblate priest as celebrant. A dramatic interview with Lacombe, based on historical documents, will be held at the parish hall. Lacombe, an Oblate priest, established St. Albert as a settlement for the Metis and Cree.
"Father Lacombe came to start a mission, but he was also very concerned about the life of the people," said Jan Moran, chair of the jubilee celebration's organizing committee.
"He did his best to see that there was enough, what we would now call today, infrastructures, and worked on getting a bridge across the river. Later on, he was also instrumental in seeing that other churches came to St. Albert."
Legend says when Lacombe suggested the area as a possible site for a settlement, Tache agreed and said that it should be named St. Albert after Lacombe's patron.
He founded the St. Albert Mission in 1861, atop what is now St. Albert's Mission Hill, the current location of St. Albert Church. Alberta's first chapel still sits there today as the province's oldest building.
St. Albert Church was also the first cathedral for Alberta. It served in that role from 1871 until 1912 when the Edmonton Archdiocese and Calgary Diocese were created and the seat of the archdiocese moved to Edmonton.
"It's just always been a very vibrant parish," said Moran. "The Oblates have given us some very good parish priests over the years. It's always been a vibrant and happy parish."
The jubilee liturgy committee composed a special prayer that's recited during every Sunday Mass.
A special logo was designed that is featured on letterhead and other jubilee celebration material.
The traditional logo uses stained glass elements to depict three major groups that contributed to the historical establishment of St. Albert: the Grey Nuns, the feather symbolizing the aboriginal people, and the cross representing the Oblates.
Roots at the bottom of the cross depict the growth of the parish through dedication and commitment of those pioneer families who worked to make the parish a viable faith community.
Next year's activities will include an ecumenical service in February, a parish retreat in March and a special Easter celebration in April.
May is the month for a drama and musical evening involving the local schools.
"The schools are going to be involved through their social studies and religion classes, not just in the Catholic schools but in the other schools too. This is historical, so you can't separate the celebration of the parish without the celebration of the city. The mission came, and then the city came," said Moran.
Of course, both St. Albert and Lac Ste Anne have a strong connection with the Oblates.
A parish picnic will be held in June 2011 and a special event held in conjunction with the annual Lac Ste Anne Pilgrimage in July.
"What we hope to do is just the seed of an idea right now, actually having a pilgrimage from St. Albert's Mission Hill to Lac Ste Anne. That's 60 km, so I don't know if that's going to be walking, biking or a caravan of cars - we haven't settled that yet.
"It's really been exciting people when we've been telling them about the pilgrimage," said Moran.
A regular yearly event is the St. Albert Parish Pilgrimage near the Aug. 15 feast of Mary's Assumption. There will also be a gala event in September and a harvest picnic in late October.
In honour of the Oblates and the community's first pioneer families, an All Saints memorial celebration is Nov. 1 at St. Albert Cemetery. Dec. 10, 2011 is the date of the official closing celebration.
The parish's jubilee celebration committee is working in tandem with the City of St. Albert and its 150th anniversary celebration committee. Chaired by Margaret Plain, the committee is called Rendezvous 2011.
"It's been a great relationship, which is interesting because that's the way Father Lacombe was, his spirit. In 2011 we're still cooperative and celebrating together. I think he would be very pleased," concluded Moran.
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