Fr. Marc Cramer, pastor of Wetaskiwin’s Sacred Heart Parish, carries the Blessed Sacrament in procession while two grade 9 students wheel the schools new tabernacle toward the chapel April 29.

May 10, 2010

WETASKIWIN – It was as though Jesus put all the pieces in place so he could have his appointed spot in Sacred Heart School.

Long before Maria Chrunik got the idea during her daily prayer time to have a tabernacle in the school, the school had built its own chapel.

When Chrunik, the receptionist at Sacred Heart Parish, offered her suggestion to the pastor, Father Marc Cramer, Cramer immediately took it to the school.

Within a week, Cramer had written a letter to Archbishop Richard Smith requesting permission for the unique project. The archbishop promptly gave his approval and then teacher John Shwets came into the picture.

Shwets has been teaching at Sacred Heart for 33 years and, as an amateur woodworker, he was looking to make a lasting contribution before he retires. "I kind of jumped on it and went with it," he said in an interview.

On April 29, it all came to fruition. Sacred Heart School became perhaps the only school in the archdiocese to have Jesus Christ truly, fully and permanently present in its school chapel. Present in the chapel, present in the tabernacle that Shwets built.

"It's just a joy that Our Lord is where he needs to be," said Chrunik. "I can see that there's going to be many, many blessings in the community with his presence over there."

Cramer celebrated a special Mass in the gym of the 330-student, kindergarten to Grade 9 school, blessed the tabernacle and then carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession to the chapel while two students pushed the wheeled tabernacle and the others cast rose petals in its path.


Grade 9 students Levi Rule and Tyler Smith wheel the new tabernacle to the chapel at Wetaskiwin’s Sacred Heart School.

Once the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the tabernacle, every student in the school came by and genuflected before it.

The Catholic faith has long been central at Sacred Heart. Coming in the main entrance, one is greeted by a huge stained glass cross. Mass is celebrated in the chapel every week for two classes. Now Christ is present in the tabernacle.

"I hope that makes us glow from the inside," said principal Ken Mastel. "Hopefully, the Presence will lead us to be more faithful and more devoted to Christ's teachings."

Once permission was given to have a school tabernacle, Deacon Leo Farley went to work, visiting all the classes to talk about transubstantiation – Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.

Shwets went to work too. He began researching potential images to carve on the tabernacle and in September began his woodwork.

"I'm very proud of the finished product," said Mastel. "It's stunning."

As Mass began, Cramer told the student body, "The school is going to be a little different in a wonderful way."

The students seemed to get the point, showing respect during the Mass, procession and their own brief visits to the tabernacle.

Chrunik, who spends an hour or two a day praying before the Blessed Sacrament, believes nothing but good will come from this innovation

As one who has been concerned about what she saw as a lack of evangelical thrust in the Catholic school, she now congratulates it "for bringing Christ's presence there in such a profound way."