By Dorothy Weismiller
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St. Augustine Parish began as a mission of Hobbema, served by Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate. Mass was celebrated most often in the Kennedy home, then in a hall over Horn’s Blacksmith shop. The first church was built in 1908. The present church was completed and officially opened in 1950.
As time went on there were several milestones such as the beginning of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, The Catholic Women’s League, Knight of Columbus, Squires, Squirettes, Alter Servers, Parish Council and more to serve the parish. Many parishioners served the church quietly and with love for their church and God.
By 1983, the church had changed both outwardly and inwardly. Vatican 11 was past history and a bright light for the future. Newcomers were welcomed, meetings and potluck suppers were more common, there were printed schedules of meeting and the results of these meetings were available in the racks at the church entrance. Coffee was offered frequently after Mass and there were special pancake breakfasts and all of these amenities continue and more are added.
After Vatican 11, there was more concentration on our young people. Youth programs, started many years before by Father Harrison, broadened to include more children and youth programs and more liaison between church and St. Augustine School.
With the Pope’s visit to Canada in 1984 a new direction seemed to be shaping. Not only was there more concentration on young people and the Parish, but we became more aware of life outside our own boundaries. Starvation and human rights became part of our language. When a food bank was established in Ponoka, a basket was placed in the church entryway for donations. Pope John Paul, whose visit to Edmonton was heralded by our homemade banners, helped us in our faith.
Another blessing for our parish was the work of the Sisters, especially Sister Harriet Hermary as Pastoral Assistant and Sister Monica Cire who brought the Eucharist to those unable to attend Mass.
By the early ‘90s, there were youth rallies, harvest festivals, picnics and purchasing bibles for St. Augustine School. Other changes were girls being allowed to serve Mass and the introduction of a Children’s Liturgy and St. Augustine Kids Group.
Now in 2008, the number of parishioners in our directory is under 18 year – 208, those 18 to 50 – 361, those over 50 years of age – 340. The average number of persons attending weekend Mass: Saturday evening Mass – 103 and Sunday Mass – 157.
During all of these years, the subject of rebuilding or adding an addition to the church kept coming up and while there were engineering and architectural studies completed, there was no agreement. Some renovations to the inside of the church, the Sacristy, Alter and Rectory took place but there was and still remains the problem of no available bathrooms or social area for those unable to navigate the stairs. This is becoming a larger problem as time goes on and many elderly parishioners who worked diligently over the years to assist the church are now being physically kept out of it.
The Centennial Project for Saint Augustine was to add a new Hall on to the existing church where there would be a common gathering area, modern kitchen, a small apartment for the priest and wheelchair accessible washrooms, as well as up to date office facilities. This proposal was met with approval from 93 per cent of the current parishioners. The next history, which will come out in the year 2033, might tell the results of this project.
One of the many ways St. Augustine Parish celebrated their 100-year anniversary was to have a Eucharist celebration at St. Augustine School and a banquet to follow. The main celebrant was His Grace, most Rev. Richard Smith, M, Div, S.T.L.S.T.D.,D.D. Archbishop of Edmonton. Concelebrants were Fathers Corrigan, Kuefler, Sobankski, MacKenzie, Fidyka, Blanch and all visiting priests. St. Augustine Choir and the guest choir were led by director and organist Warren Mack. Many members of the parish assisted as readers, intercessory, gift bearers, ushers and welcoming. The procession was led by four Degree Knights. Maria Lentz was MC for the banquet. Most Reverend Richard Smith spoke of sharing hope and new ways of reaching out. He quoted Pope Benedict saying, “Burdens of being Christian sets us free.” Entertainment included a poem and a tribute to Father Harrison given by Laura Wierzba and a musical rendition by the Fillippine Choir.
Priests and Years Served
1896 and 1920 to 1921 Father N. Dubois
1902 Father Vandendale
1903 to 1920 Father J. Van Wetten
1909 to1910 Father Delestre
1921 to 1956 Father Harrison
1956 to 1964 Father J. Murphy
1960-1961 Father M. Campbell
1961-1964 Father A. MacKenzie
1964-1967 Father M. Campbell
1967-1970 Father A. Bryden
1970-1973 Father H. Nowakowski
1973-1978 Father Kuefler
1978-1984 Father Lucien Robert
1984-1991 Father Anthony Dittrich
1991-1993 Father Michael Blanch
1993-1996 Father Thomas Morley
1996-1998 Father Kuefler
1995-2005 Father Fidyka
2005-2008 Father Corrigan
St. Augustine was fortunate to have a native son, Father Bednar, who was ordained in 1962 and who served the parish whenever possible. At the time of this writing we are blessed to have Father Sobanski and we welcome him and we are thankful for the guidance and help from the priests over the years.