SASKATOON — A weekend of celebration with a focus on community and evangelization marked the 50th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Saskatoon.
Events included celebration of the eucharist followed by a banquet Sept. 19, as well as a parish barbecue after Sunday mass Sept. 20.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish began as a chapel of ease initiated by St. Joseph Church in 1962, with the church constructed in conjunction with Bishop Murray School. Our Lady of Lourdes was officially established as a parish in 1965, with Rev. Donald McIntosh, OMI, as the first pastor.
The 50th anniversary banquet program began and ended with music — pastor Rev. Phong Pham opened with a song about the love of God, and at the conclusion of the evening all those assembled held lit candles and sang the Lourdes’ hymn, Immaculate Mary.
Master of ceremonies was Adrien Piche, while youth from the parish and from Pure Witness Ministries served those attending the banquet. Parish pastoral council chair Chris Donald read a message of appreciation and congratulations from Bishop Donald Bolen, who was attending the national bishops’ plenary.
Special guests at the anniversary banquet included former pastor Rev. Denis Phaneuf, Rev. Clair Watrin, CSB, and Sister Juliana Heisler, NDS, who served for some 18 years as parish life director, pioneering that pastoral leadership role in the diocese.
Welcomed with a standing ovation, guest speaker Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, reflected on the role of the parish and the call for each of the baptized to be Christ’s witness in the world.
Wiesner explored Pope Francis’ definition of a parish, from the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, which says, “The parish is the presence of the church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.”
“God wants community,” Wiesner said. “We see this from the first moment of creation. God creates human beings in his own image and likeness. The image of God is that God is a community,” he described, pointing to the Trinity. “When God is at home, God is community. God is family.”
One of the first things Jesus Christ did was to form a community, Wiesner added. “And Jesus left us with one new commandment: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ He also reminds us that we are to wash one another’s feet. God loves community.”
Wiesner recalled St. John Paul II’s call to “make the church a home and a school of communion,” in order to be faithful to God’s plan and to respond to the world’s deepest needs.
To meet this challenge in an authentic way, it is necessary to work on a spirituality of communion, Wiesner stressed. In order to develop a spirituality of communion, it is necessary to recognize “the Light of the Trinity shining in the face of our sisters and brothers,” he said. “Living a spirituality of communion includes the ability to see our brothers and sisters as part of the mystical body, the real Body of Christ.”
Having a spirituality of communion also means cultivating an ability to see what is positive in others and to prize that as a gift from God, he added. This is a process of coming to see that another person’s gift is “a gift from God to me,” Wiesner said, encouraging his listeners to give affirmation to others.
“Finally, a spirituality of communion means knowing how to make room for our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Part of making room for others includes resisting the selfish temptations that constantly beset us and which promote careerism, distrust, jealousy, and competition.”
Formed and nurtured in the parish, each one of the baptized is called to be a missionary disciple, Wiesner continued. “All the baptized, whatever their position in the church, or their level of instruction in the faith, are able to become agents of evangelization,” he said. “We don’t have to be called by our parish priest or the bishop to evangelize; by virtue of our baptism and confirmation we have the call and the responsibility to evangelize.”
This includes sharing and making present the message of Jesus whenever we gather with others in our own faith communities, as well as sharing the message with those in our families and communities who lack a meaningful relationship with the church, and those who don’t know Jesus, Wiesner said.
The first and most important way to evangelize is by example, he said. “Be a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of Jesus. Be a witness, be a sign of the living God. . . . A witness is someone who gives evidence, who gives credible evidence,” Wiesner said, stressing that the world is hungry for “evangelizers who speak of a God they know.”
In conclusion, Wiesner urged Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to continue to “work hard at being a community and our call as individuals and as a community to share Jesus’ message with others.”
Born in Macklin, Sask., the retired bishop of Prince George now lives in Saskatoon. After his ordination in 1963, Wiesner spent many years teaching theology and was part of the team that helped develop the Lay Formation program in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. During his time as bishop of Prince George (1993-2013) he served in a number of positions with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, including two years as president of the national body.