Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 26, 2010
Parish reaches out, welcomes back
Fort Sask. Parish has spent 12 years waiting, planning for its outreach to those fallen-away
For 12 years, Our Lady of the Angels Parish has been waiting to put on an Oblate-led mission to welcome back fallen-away Catholics and to rekindle the faith of those already in the pews.
"This was a long-awaited mission," said the pastor, Pallotine Father Francis Mariappa. Father Duncan MacDonnell, retired now for several years, had promoted the idea and launched the organizing. Once the date for the April 17-21 mission was set, the work began in earnest last August.
The wait and the work were worth it.
At the Sunday morning Mass, Joe Staszko saw people he hadn't seen in church for many years as well as some new faces.
"Afterwards a lady approached me at the back of the church, and asked me if she could join the Catholic Church. She was so impressed by what's happening in this church, so she left her name with Father so she could become a Catholic," said Staszko, a long-time parishioner and member of the Oblate mission team.
Staszko told the WCR that a primary goal of the mission was to inspire "closer faith as a community. We're trying to reach the people that don't go to church. That's the focus, to increase everybody's faith."
The parish invited anyone who has contact with the parish to the mission.
Many people came back to church, especially for the Great Assemblies, Staszko said. "We will certainly pray that they continue to come back after the mission."
The mission included regular weekend Masses, daily weekday Masses, Holy Hour and Reconciliation. The Great Assemblies during the evening were filled with Scripture readings, reflection, songs, testimonials, youth dramas and discussion.
Mariappa said one key aspect of the mission was to encourage people to dialogue with God "in an intimate way."
During his Sunday homily, Oblate Father Alfred Hubenig spoke on the importance of praying with Scripture, a new concept for some people.
"How often do you open the Bible and meditate on God's Word?" he asked. "Having a Bible gathering dust on a bookshelf doesn't cut it."
Hubenig suggested to parishioners that every Monday, in preparation, they ought to pore over the upcoming Sunday's readings.
"At Mass, how much do you get out of the readings? Do you get anything out of it or is it just something to get through because it's an obligation of the Church?" he asked.
He also recommended lectio divina, a holy reading of Scripture that promotes communion with God and increases the knowledge of the Bible.
Staszko thanked Mariappa for his outstanding support of the mission, from washing dishes to leading the team.
Mariappa said the whole parish, including the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women's League, contributed to the mission's success.
Also helping was LEAP Youth Ministries, a Radway-based group that offers retreat-style ministry for youth. Starting April 12, they visited all three Catholic schools in Fort Saskatchewan, evangelizing in the classrooms over a 10-day span.
"The feedback we got from the schools was exceptionally positive," said Staszko. "Not all of the students go to church. They go to a Catholic school, but are not necessarily going to church, and that is who we're most trying to reach."
Fort Saskatchewan is a young community, with many young families active in the parish, he said. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the parish is very much alive.
The mission also helped to unify the parish. With three separate Masses, many parishioners rarely see each other in church.
"The mission really pulls our community together," Staszko said. "Now we have all these people together, and I saw people I've never seen before, and I saw the bond building between the groups. That was a high point for me, personally."
Members of local Lutheran and Anglican churches also attended the mission, attracted by the high-energy praise and worship, he said. As well, visitors came from Skaro, Gibbons and Redwater.
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