WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR
Teens Gregoire Mokuin, Josh Marple and Gabriel Clark celebrate their faith at Assumption Parish.
Strumming guitars, joyous singing and a mood of celebration spills over the congregation of Assumption Parish as it began its jubilee year Aug. 17.
The passion of the people sitting in the pews is understandable given the pioneers who built and sustained this warm, embracing parish.
A coil-bound booklet produced by Assumption documents the 100 years of this parish and its people as they constantly changed through good times, hard times, depression, floods.
It's an evocative story, written with the charm of a small-town paper, and tells not only of the growth of the parish and the parishioners involved, but also the beginnings and development of Edmonton. The nuclei of the burgeoning parish is sprinkled with names like Connor, Gallagher, Picard, Cote, Desmarais . . . and many more.
It was Bishop Emile Legal who realized area Catholics needed a mission church in the Bonnie Doon area. So, with the generosity of Rene LeMarchand, a wee white church was built, named St. Rene and opened its doors Oct. 26, 1913.
Parishioners donated treasures brought from their homelands - candlesticks, religious pictures, altar cloths and crochet lace were sewn. The church was decorated with pine boughs for a crib for the first Christmas Mass. Soft candle light bathed the congregation as the choir sang the Latin words.
The First World War broke out and in 1919 St. Rene was closed. By 1925 Archbishop Henry Joseph O'Leary agreed to parishioners' requests to reopen the church, but this time under a new name, Our Lady of the Assumption.
The years passed as the congregation grew and became more involved with the community. The need for a new building was realized in 1954. Priests came and went, each bringing talents that responded to the parish's needs.
Sister Anne Rajotte, pastoral assistant, has worked at creating the responsive community at Assumption.
She watched when St. James Parish closed and parishioners joined Assumption 15 years ago.
"It was such a blessing when they came. They brought such joy and service and faith. She realized though there was a need for them to get to know each other and so she focused on hospitality with coffee mornings and potluck suppers."
"Every time a priest changes, the flavour of the church changes," acknowledges Rajotte. "We are so blessed with the gifts people have and give to the community."
WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR
Long-time parishioner Andy Maguire seeks photo possibilities at the parish's 100th anniversary celebration.
The programs are many and Rajotte is astounded by parishioners' generosity. One includes a collection of loonies for hot lunches for inner city school children.
"We only ask for a loonie, but I see people putting in $20 bills. And we sponsored a family from Sierra Leone and once announced they needed blankets. We had duvets coming out our ears."
One joy Rajotte has as pastoral assistant is watching Baptisms. "Couples coming wanting the best for their child."
She also visits St. James and St. Brendan schools. "It's my greatest blessing. The kids are delightful."
Rajotte is also part of a prayer circle where people can ask for prayer for whatever problem is besieging their life. The prayer is also put in a prayer basket and the intentions prayed for during Mass.
"It lets people not feel so helpless," she explained.
Assumption is twinning with St. Michael-Resurrection Parish and Father Mitch Fidyka will be pastor of both parishes. Rajotte said she had asked to have her office open two days a week for those wanting pastoral care.
Teenager Gabriel Clark and his two fellow Catholics happily joined in the Saturday celebrations. He enjoys the strength his faith gives him and the fellowship at Assumption. "Everyone knows each other by name. I am with a lot of people who follow Christ."
An alto in the church choir and former altar server, he is planning to study music at Concordia University.
His friend Josh Marple, 18, has grown up going to Assumption.
"My whole life has been based around faith since I was little. All my values, everything I think is right and good comes from Catholicism. Looking at my friends, the ones who are Catholic, they always have Jesus to go back to. There is always a firm foundation. People who aren't Catholic don't have that.
"Oh, I can go back and pray to God about it. I know he is always going to be there for me."
Gregoire Mokuin is a new friend of Marple and Clark. Moving from Ottawa to take a bilingual nursing course, Mokuin says his faith gives him "hope and purpose. Even when I fail there is always something I can go back to. When times are rough I know I can count on my faith."
Andy Maguire, capturing the afternoon's events with his camera, grins ear to ear when he says "My church is my life. This is my community. You can feel the Holy Spirit in the things that we do in our church. It is the Spirit of God with us on the earth.
"The Church recognizes Christ as our Saviour and we are all part of him. It's a praiseful church and it is all for the glory of God."
Maguire was born in 1957 a block away from the church.
"I was baptized in this church and while this is a celebration (the jubilee), every day is a celebration."
Auxiliary bishop Gregory Bittman celebrated the Saturday afternoon jubilee Mass with Fidyka and Fathers Jack Hamilton and Don Stein.
In his homily, Bittman said, "Today Jesus is asking us to make our choice. Are we for him or against him. There is no in between."
Indeed, the Assumption parishioners agree and are "for" Jesus, their saviour.