A colourful history which began with a modest, humble church building and carried through many years of happy and sometimes sad memories was celebrated by parishioners of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church Sunday.
His Grace Archbishop Richard Smith, who’s also president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, presided over a service in the church before the celebration moved to the community centre.
He took as the topic for his message, who do we follow.
As we celebrate the Centennial engaged in a retrospective of difficult times and joyful times we can see where God has been in it all guiding us, he said.
Then he spoke of “various messages counter to the Gospel. Consumerism, hedonism and so on”, before warning, “there are false Gods and illusions all around us, a lot of pressure, a lot of seduction, lots of messages that are dangerous, that lead us away from the Gospel.”
He concluded by calling on everyone to “learn to follow Jesus with integrity”.
“Here, as we give thanks to God for all that has happened in the past, let’s gather at the Eucharist and say yes, we will listen to Jesus and no one else.”
Just prior to the end of the service, Smith blessed a stone plaque marking the 100th anniversary of the church and a banner with the words “My soul glorifies the Lord” and the dates 1912-2012.
The banner was created by parishioner Carmen Salsbury and her mother Cecile Gratton.
Afternoon ceremonies at the community centre began with dinner for about 270 people catered by Gifts and Mor Catering.
Mayor Susan Samson, referring to a description of the arrival of the first Catholic colonists in the “Reflections of Sylvan Lake” book, said, “it’s hard to imagine those times as we reflect on how far we have grown, as a church, as a congregation, as a community and as a town. The bonds or the bedrock upon which all this is built must be strong, must run deep and must last more than a lifetime. And so it is with Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church and its 100th anniversary today.”
She added, “The role of the church in connecting families and building communities was never greater or more valuable than in those formative year.”
Quoting from the history book, she read a reference to 1911. “Now that there were plenty of hotels, stores and places of amusement, Father Voisin decided that the moment had come to enliven the completely materialistic atmosphere by the salutary presence of a church in order to consolidate the Roman Catholic families in the community.”
“I love that, the salutary presence of a church — the healthful, beneficial presence of a church,” said Samson.
“Church, community, town. One cannot exist without the other … As we look forward into the future, with the building of a new, larger Catholic Church, we are assured that the foundations of our community are continually strengthened by your presence,” Samson concluded.
Liam McNiff, on behalf of Red Deer Catholic school board, spoke of the union between the church, priests and École Mother Teresa and Our Lady of the Rosary schools and pledged to work towards continuing to build the relationships between the schools, church and parish community.
Historian Brian Inglis provided a fascinating and informative look at the church’s evolution since the first Catholic families arrived in the area in 1898 and events that affected its growth and the growth of Sylvan Lake (see his speech in next week’s Sylvan Lake News).
Interspersed between the speeches was entertainment provided by Riley Fraser, Maribeth Friesen, the Albach family and Father Gabriel Udeh. Bob Osmond acted as master of ceremonies.
Around the back of the room were story boards along with historic pictures and documents designed to captivate the interest of those attending.
Former parishioners and others attended from Calgary, Edmonton, Stettler, Olds, Rimbey, Red Deer and Kelowna.
Besides Smith, special guests included Father Paul Kavanagh, director of liturgy of the archdiocese and pastor at Assumption in Edmonton, Father Maurice Okolie of St. Stephen’s in Olds, Father Adam Daniluk of Our Lady of Peace in Innisfail, Father Christian Nwaigwe of St. Matthew’s in Rocky Mountain House, Father Donatus Ihekwoaba of Christ-King in Stettler, Father Kyzysztop Sobanski of Paroisse Saint-Thomas d’Aquin of Edmonton, Deacon Jim Scott and his wife Eileen from St. Stephen’s in Olds, Deacon Don Logan and his wife Margaret from Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, Sister Marlene Schuster, neighbours John and Harla Yoos and funeral home director Ed Stevenson.
The Centennial celebration committee included chairperson Gord Duda, Kathy and Brian Inglis, Rina Chu, Muriel Pritchard, Stephanie Pritchard, Kathy Simonot, Johanna Dietrich and pastoral assistant Vivian Coderre with support from the Pastoral Parish Council.