SASKATOON — One of the blessings of parish life across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is found in the faithful hearts and willing hands of those longtime members who work year after year to support their faith community, providing ministry, service, friendship and outreach.
At St. John Bosco Parish in Saskatoon, 90-year-old Elizabeth Kokotailo has been involved in parish life for nearly 50 years.
A longtime member of St. John Bosco choir, as well as of the parish pastoral council and the Catholic Women’s League, Kokotailo is “the joy of our parish,” says fellow parish council member Wendy Lang.
“Liz is just an amazing woman — she always has a smile. She is 90 years old and still active on parish council,” relates Lang, describing how Kokotailo faithfully provides a written report about the CWL council at every parish council meeting. “She is a big part of the heart of our community.”
Still living in the Montgomery neighbourhood home that she and her late husband Walter built in 1964, Liz Kokotailo raised six children — four boys and two girls — including a nephew left orphaned after the death of his parents in a car accident in 1967. Kokotailo has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
When she turned 90 this May, the St. John Bosco arish community celebrated with her — Rev. Marvin Lishchynsky called Kokotailo up from the choir for a blessing, and the congregation gave her a standing ovation. A scrapbook of greetings was collected, with family, friends, members of the seniors’ club, the school and parish communities writing messages of love and good wishes.
The family began attending St. John Bosco Parish before the church was built — mass was celebrated at the school for a couple of years, Kokotailo recalls.
Kokotailo was first recruited for the choir back when they sang from the loft. Today the choir sings near the front, led by Anita Langford, with all ages participating, and with the addition of instruments such as a violin, clarinet and drum.
Kokotailo has served on parish council for many years. “It’s so nice on parish council, you get to know the younger people, and the ideas they have for the parish. If it wasn’t for those who come in, I don’t think St. John’s would be here,” she says.
Much as she loves serving on parish council, Kokotailo says she would be happy to step aside in order for somebody else to take it on. “But they always say they don’t have time. I try every year,” she says with a little laugh.
Kokotailo says that she tries to share with others the welcome that she herself feels at St. John Bosco.
“This is a good parish because of every priest we have had, every (parish) life director we’ve had, and all the people that help. It has to be the parishioners . . . they are active at our parish, and they work together,” says Kokotailo. “That is what makes such a difference. It’s never just one person.”
The spirit of St. John Bosco Parish is what keeps Kokotailo involved. “I am at St. John’s because it is actually a community of people that have faith and light. They always show the light,” she said.