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St. Anthony's Church holds centennial celebration at Rama

Parishoners were determined to celebrate their 100th anniversary, even if it meant postponing the celebration to 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

RAMA- St. Anthony’s Parish of Rama was determined to celebrate its 100th anniversary, even if it meant postponing the celebration to 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Thus, “this momentous occasion” was celebrated earlier this month on July 2 and 3 according to Mary Kowalyshyn, emcee for the celebration.

July 3 was the chosen date for the Anniversary Mass, since it was the exact date that the first Mass was celebrated in 1921 with the completion of the construction of the church.

The celebration began with registration on Saturday at St. Anthony’s Parish Hall, followed by a tree-planting ceremony. Parish council chairman Lorne Sliva had the honour of planting the centennial tree.

“Many enjoyed the beautiful weather after the ceremony with a walk through the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes,” reported Kowalyshyn.

At 5 p.m., a festive banquet with a 15-course Polish menu was prepared by St. Anthony’s Parish Ladies. Prior to the feasting, a toast by Elaine Olson was proposed to “The Forefathers of the Parish” to which Fr. Michal Pajak OMI, pastor of St. Anthony’s, replied. He then said grace and the banquet was enjoyed by all.

Confessions followed the meal.

Mass and Mission took place with Rev. Andrew Sowa OMI. Concelebrants at the Mass were Rev. Mitch Burdzy OMI of Holy Rosary Parish (Edmonton) and Rev. Michal Pajak OMI. Deacon Wesley Turton (Spruce Grove, Alta.) read the gospel. Lorne Sliva was altar server while Elaine Olson and Mary Kowalyshyn did the readings. Both gospel and readings were the same ones chosen as at the first Mass in 1921. Mass was offered for the intention of all priests who served St. Anthony’s for the past 100 years.

Rev. Andrew prepared the congregation prior to the Mass with a song composed by Len Gadica of Melville. “This amazing song gave a history of St. Anthony’s throughout the 100 years,” said Kowalyshyn. He then began the Holy Mass in Latin to which the congregation (those who remembered) replied, also in Latin. This was how the Mass was celebrated 100 years ago. Holy Mass then continued in English.

Rev. Andrew Sowa delivered a dynamic message during his homily focusing on how the forefathers of this parish were led by the Holy Spirit, Body and Soul in their heart in order to build this church, a parish community. His meditation repeatedly referred to the ancestors and the joy that 250 people must have felt at the first Mass knowing that they had a home, a place where they could meet Jesus Christ, the Living Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

“They knew their destination to be heaven where they would meet Jesus, who would already know them. But our faith must have movement,” he emphasized, stating examples.

“Many carry heavy burdens, as did our ancestors, but Jesus promises to go to Him and He will give us His burden. Like our ancestors who prayed The Lord's Prayer knowing that God is ‘Our Father’ who is forgiving and that this is the place of forgiveness. The bread of Christ and forgiveness are very important.”

Rev. Andrew emphasized we are God’s people, the stones, with Jesus being the cornerstone. He referred to Rev. Sylla, the builder of the grotto, who washed and blessed each stone before putting it in its place. “We, too, must be cleaned and washed to have the right place in heaven.”

His final message was to be "always praising God's name in this church" as has been done for the past 100 years!

Sunday began with rosary and a Polish Mass with Rev. Mieczyslaw (“Rev. Mitch”) Burdzy OMI (Holy Rosary Parish, Edmonton). He was the delegate representing the Provincial of Assumption Province in Mississauga. Mass was offered for the intention of all who were embedded in their faith to build St. Anthony’s community. Mass was both in Polish and English. Grazyna Galezowski (Calgary) gave the readings in Polish while Deacon Wesley Turton read the Gospel. The choir sang a few Polish hymns.

Rev. Mitch delivered the homily in both English and Polish. His message also stressed the joy experienced 100 years ago with the faithful building their parish community. After a brief history of St. Anthony's Church, he said “We should have hope that once again that change would bring the filling of this church with people of faith.”

Following the barbecue, Archbishop Don Bolen and Rev. Michal Pajak went to the cemetery and blessed all the graves.

Holy Mass with Archbishop Don Bolen was celebrated, beginning with a procession around the church as was done 100 years ago. Benedict Pasloski, Jerome Pasloski, Bernie Matsalla, and Phillip Shewchuk carried the original banners. Corey Herod and his son Orion from Regina joined the procession wearing their Polish costumes, while sisters Sierra, Kallie and Lexi Zaleschuk of Rosthern were dressed in Ukrainian costume. Mary Kowalyshyn, also dressed in Polish costume, carried the relic of Pope St. John Paul II. Lorne Sliva, cross bearer, and Deacon Wesley Turton led the procession, while the choir and the congregation followed, singing This is Holy Ground.

Concelebrants for the Mass included Rev. Michal Pajak OMI (pastor of St. Anthony’s), Rev. Andrew Sowa OMI (St. Henry’s, Melville), Rev. Mitch Burdzy OMI (Holy Rosary, Edmonton), Rev. Louis Nguyen, (St. Gerard’s, Yorkton), and Deacon Wesley Turton (Spruce Grove, Alta.). Robert Barr and Lorne Sliva were altar servers. Steve Barteski and Sister Marcelline (Paslosk) gave the readings, while Deacon Wesley Turton read the gospel for the Mass. The Mass was offered for the intention of all the parishioners in the past 100 years.

In his homily, Archbishop Don focused on the history and the building of this community, both spiritually and structurally, stating that “It took the entire community, each contributing in some way using their energy and resources.”

Readings were geared to the dedication of the church. He stated how the people of St. Anthony's were profoundly moved by listening to the Word of God, like the people in Israel first listened. “People's lives have been rooted in the Gospel for many years. There is only one foundation- that's Jesus Christ, life, death and resurrection.”

That foundation must be built with care, he stated, furthering that this decision was made 100 years ago to build their faith in this community. Fruits of this family are all around, he noted, representing "the living faith" with the grotto, statues and images of the Life of Mary on the hall. God is to be worshipped “in spirit and truth" and we are to be reminded of that with those who went before us. Their lives were moulded “in spirit and truth" passing on this legacy to future generations.

The Archbishop ended his homily with a prayer.

At the closing of the Mass, Archbishop Don had the honour of blessing the new stained glass windows, as well as the new statue of St. Anthony located outside the church. Several gathered at the statue to sing an old Polish hymn dedicated to St. Anthony, O Swiety Antoni, which was led by Zita Serhan.

Before the banquet at the Parish Hall, there was an official cutting of the two anniversary cakes. The first cake with a picture of the church in 1921 was cut by Archbishop Don Bolen and the priests; the second, with the picture of the present church, was cut by Archbishop Don, Fr. Michal Pajak and the present Parish Council members. Two toasts were then proposed:

Elaine Olson proposed a toast to “Our forefathers,” to which Leonard Pasloski replied; and Lorne Sliva proposed a toast to “Vocations,” mentioning Rev. Rudy Nowakowski and Rev. Roger Yaworski, as well as several sisters from the Rama/ Dobrowody area, who were once parishioners of this parish prior to choosing their vocation.

Rev. Michal replied to the first vocation by reading a message from Rev. Rudy Nowakowski OMI. Sister Marcelline recounted some memories that led to choosing her vocation and the role it has played in her life.

Archbishop Don led in grace and “a wonderful banquet was prepared and served by 3G’Friends of Canora.”

A program followed the meal, including: A power point presentation on the church’s history as prepared by Mary Kowalyshyn; sisters Sierra, Kallie and Lexi Zaleschuk from Rosthern performed several Ukrainian dances; and Rev. Andrew Sowa and Len Gadica from Melville sang several songs in Polish as well as English, including the song composed by Len Gadica in celebration of St. Anthony’s 100 years. The audience joined in the singing of the songs as texts were provided by Fr. Andrew.

The celebration was live-streamed on Rama Grotto: Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine.

Mary Kowalyshyn thanked all who contributed to the celebration. Also, many purchased the Embedded in Faith history book which will be a treasured memory of the 100 years of St. Anthony’s Church.

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