Last Updated: Friday - 10/01/2010
October 4, 2010
Holy Spirit closes its doors after 44 years
Although facts validate the closure, parishioners rue loss of their parish
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - In August 1966, four Spiritan priests travelled in a Ford station wagon from Toronto to Edmonton to take responsibility for the city's new west end parish.
Fathers Michael Troy, Colum Corrigan, Conor Kennedy and John Cunningham took up residence at a duplex on McQueen Road - the new parish's headquarters.
Born of the overflow at St. Andrew's and St. John the Evangelist parishes, Holy Spirit Parish was formally established Sept. 9, 1966.
Now, 44 years later, the parish has reached the end of the line. Families have moved away, resulting in fewer parishioners and less money generated from the Sunday offertories. As well, Catholics have the option of attending nearby Good Shepherd or Annunciation churches or Holy Spirit's twin parish, St. John the Evangelist.
So, on Oct. 10 at 10:30 a.m., Archbishop Richard Smith and Father Jozef Wroblewski, pastor of both Holy Spirit and St. John parishes, will celebrate the Ritual of Church Closure at Holy Spirit. A brunch will follow at Britannia Hall.
"Add it all up and it's the right choice to make," said Chris Sherback, parish council chairman.
"The demographics in that neighbourhood have shifted," Sherback said. "The younger families are in the west end.
"When I grew up there, we had three Masses on Sunday, two on Saturday and one every night at 7:15. Now we're down to one Mass per week, down from 10 previously."
Before Holy Spirit Church opened in 1968 at 10412-159 St., Mass was said at neighbourhood Catholic schools.
When the parish was recommended for closure about 10 years ago, Troy stepped in to keep it open.
Not everyone is pleased with the decision to close the church, however. Some longtime parishioners resent the decision.
Ed Keller's family lives next to Holy Spirit, the site for some of their fondest memories. He has done church maintenance for many years. His children and most of his grandchildren have been baptized there, his oldest son was married in the church, and it's been the site of many funerals that he's attended as an acolyte. His wife Evelyn is an active Catholic Women's League member.
"We have been involved basically from day one," he said.
But Keller also realizes the facts of life - "We just ain't got the priests."
He was saddened when the Spiritans had to give up the parish about 15 years ago. Evelyn had been the cook for the priests for 13 years and the Kellers' ties with the Spiritans were close.
Once the Spiritans surrendered the parish to the archdiocese about 15 years ago, he realized closure was certain. Still, he finds it a bitter pill to swallow.
"Father Michael Troy lived in residence here for quite a few years. As long as he was here, everything was great because he took up the slack of what the other priests couldn't handle.
"In fact, he said Mass every Sunday until he couldn't anymore, when his health dwindled and he had to move into St. Andrew's Centre," said Keller.
Following Troy's death last year, the parishioners hoped to find another priest to say Mass. Wroblewski took over, but the additional workload proved too much, as he already celebrates three Masses every weekend at St. John the Evangelist and keeps busy with other commitments.
SAD, SAD FEELING
"It is very sad because there are some people who have moved out of the area, and they've got their notice that the church is closing. They phone here or Marie Sherback and want to know why.
"The feeling from anybody I've talked to is that they're not too happy about it. It's a sad, sad feeling," said Keller.
Another longtime parishioner at Holy Spirit is Georgette Brodeur, who lives in a condo near St. Joseph's Basilica. She said the church came alive from a spirit of giving, volunteerism and strong community.
"We've never had problems with maintenance or finances. We have committees for everything, and everybody is so willing to help. Our parishioners are really marvellous that way," said Brodeur. "If anything goes wrong with plumbing or whatever, the maintenance group rallies around whatever they have to do."
Holy Spirit benefitted from being a small parish, she said. "We were like a community and we knew each other so well."
She has a deep connection with the parish. Funerals for her parents, in-laws, son and husband were all held at Holy Spirit.
A parish open house was slated for Oct. 1 to allow people to spend time in the church and say their personal farewells.
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