October 29, 2012
THERESA DOHERTY
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

MILLET – "Jesus wept" and the people of St. Norbert's Catholic community in Millet, Alta., are weeping also. After a tremendous struggle, their lovely mission church has been closed and sold to a property developer.

The congregation learned the sad news at an emergency meeting on Saturday, Oct. 13. Now they are busy preparing for the end of the landmark for Catholics in Millet and indeed the whole community.

The Catholic community first formed in 1903 when a group of Catholic pioneers in Millet were visited by a Belgian priest, one of a community of Belgian priests who were ministering at Sacred Heart Parish in Wetaskiwin.

At that time, Millet became a mission of Sacred Heart, prompting the community to set about building a church. P.J. Mullen got the ball rolling by donating a piece of prime property, the highest spot within the village at that time, as the site for the new church.

By 1906, Catholics in Millet were hard at work fundraising. The Millet community got involved and even a local store owner who was not Catholic donated a keg of nails and $100, a fortune at that time.

The church was built using only donated labour and was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Emile Legal Dec. 1, 1907. Legal praised the whole Millet community for its hard work and generosity.

The church was named after the founder of the Belgian religious community due to the priests in Wetaskiwin, and as a further honour, their house in Belgium sent over the beautiful statue of St. Norbert that has remained in the church until the present.

DECADES OF CARE

Over the years, the people of St Norbert's have worked together to maintain and improve the church. In recent memory they built an extension on the front of the church, fixed the steeple and reroofed it several times.

The inside has been lovingly maintained and for its 100th birthday a mural of the Last Supper was painted on the choir loft by a local artist. This artist's commission has been donated to Camp Encounter .

For over 100 years, St. Norbert's has been the home for the Catholics of the Millet area. There have been Altar Societies, the Catholic Women's League, catechism classes, prayer groups, luncheons, St. Patrick's Day teas, World Day of Prayer celebrations, as well as Baptisms, First Communions, marriages and funerals.

Parishioners have run scholarship funds and helped out with many charities in the area. If they heard of a person in Millet who needed help, they were there. Whether it was a crib for a new mom, or driving lessons for a non-driving widow, they were there. Many children went to camp courtesy of St. Norbert's.

Though they are weeping now, the community is pulling together to get the church ready for its demise.

They are diligently cataloging all the artifacts inside the building as they prepare to carefully disperse them.

FINAL MASS

One last Mass is planned, the decommissioning Mass, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m.

All are invited to attend. Come help us celebrate 105 years not of weeping, but of dancing with the Lord in Millet.