History – Onoway

Article from the Western Catholic Reporter in November 1976:

Members of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Onoway, 38 miles northwest of Edmonton just off Highway 43, celebrated their 50th anniversary as a Church community on November 21, 1976 giving thanks for God’s presence and blessings over the years, and recalling pastors, people and events of the past five decades.

Archbishop Joseph MacNeil of Edmonton was the main celebrant of the Anniversary Mass, with the pastor, Father Leo Boyd and former pastor Father William Doherty, OMI, now of Carstairs, as concelebrants, assisted by an array of 16 altar boys.

Archbishop MacNeil and the two priests also visited the missions at Sandy Lake and Lac La Nonne for Sunday Masses there.

St. Rose of Lima

Then they joined Sisters Bernice Anstett and Colleen Young, the Sisters of Service on the parish team, and Father James Reitmeijer of Stony Plain, at the informal head table for an afternoon reception in the Onoway Community Centre.

Pat Lavin of the parish council was master of ceremonies and other speakers included Chris Veltman, the perish council chairman, Bonnie Schulte and Hannis Lindel of the parish councils at Sandy Lake and Lac La Nonne; Elsie Hook of the Onoway CWL who arranged the decorations and catering, assisted by women from the Anglican community; and the Rev. Arthur Noble, Anglican minister, speaking for the non-Catholics of the Onoway area.

Main speaker in the afternoon was Eugenie McCullough reading the seven-page history of the parish which she wrote with the help of oldtimers and other parishioners.

“Recalling these pages of history in our parish one can’t help but pause and think how God, pastor and parishioner become entwined in a strong bond that binds for the betterment of those involved,” Mrs. McCullough said.

In the homily at the anniversary Mass, Archbishop MacNeil said it was a celebration of faith and thanksgiving to God for so many blessings and so many gifts over the years.

And the greatest single gift has been the continuous presence of Christ among the people of Onoway manifested in His Word, in the sacrament of Baptism that all have received, in people praying together, in the community gathered in His name and especially in the Eucharist, “the sum and summit of all His presences.”

Mrs. McCullough’s parish history traced the past through the priests who have served Onoway beginning with a Father Beaudry, who came to the area fairly regularly from Lac Ste. Anne more than 50 years ago, and said Mass in various homes including the Johnny Laderoute home at Gunn.

The first resident priest in Onoway from whom the founding of the parish is dated was Father John Stacy, 1926-1930, who also traveled to missions as far as Mayerthorpe by horse and buggy. The first children baptized by Father Stacy were Wilfred Dion on June 6, 1926, and Edward Lee the following day.

Father Stacy was followed by Father Michael Rooney whose 21 years at Onoway included much hardship during the ’30s, as recalled by Joe Dubovsky and other old-timers. Two other men of much assistance to Father Rooney were Delmar Newton, who built the fires in the old church, and Anthony McNamara, the priest’s mend and server.

Father Ignaz Lenckowski, a Polish priest, who came to Canada as a displaced person, after spending some time in a concentration camp during the Second World War, succeeded Father Rooney, who is buried in Onoway parish cemetery. It was under Father Lenckowski that the present church was built with Steve Evanchuk, serving as foreman-carpenter and Wilfred Laderoute called in to finish the steeple.

It was during this time that a council of the Catholic Women’s League was organized with Joyce Sinkaruk as first president and Marina Yeoman as secretary.

The pastor at Onoway for the next 15 years was Father Michael Blanch who came here a few months after his ordination in June 1953.

Under Father Blanch, the CWL flourished and branched out to various projects. A new rectory was built, with Edward Majeau as carpenter in charge.

Father Blanch also invited the Sisters of Service to come to work with him in the parish, the first two being Sister Rita Deighan and Sister Anne McPhee. Sister Anstett came to the parish in 1964, succeeding Sister McPhee, and Sister Young in 1967 soon after Sister Deighans departure.

“The Sisters of Service, with their own excellent record and history of service to others have been a blessing in many ways,” Mrs McCullogh noted, citing their catechism classes, assistance at the Sunday liturgy, participation in CWL affairs, visits to the elderly and hospital patients, and organizing prayer circles during Lent as examples.

Father Blanch also helped the parish through the initial changes following Vatican II and encouraged parishioners to become more active in the life of the Church.

The next two pastors, for one year each, were Father Joseph Killoran, 1967 to 1968, and Father John Williamson, 1968 to 1969. Under the latter, the first parish council was organized.

On Father Williamson’s departure for further studies, there was no priest available to send to Onoway and St. Rose of Lima was served by Father Gerald McInnis of Stony Plain, assisted by Father Raymond Lowing, a Calgary priest serving on the marriage tribunal.

Then Archbishop Anthony Jordan, OMI, accepted the offer of Oblate Father William Doherty to serve at Onoway. Father Doherty was pastor for six years arriving just as extensive renovations to the church were being completed in time for Sister Anstett’s jubilee celebrations.

When the Oblate community assigned Father Doherty to Carstairs, in the Calgary Diocese in 1975, the current pastor, Father Leo Boyd, who will soon be celebrating his silver jubilee as a priest, succeeded him.

Among his accomplishments Mrs. McCullough cited the Solemn High Mass on Sunday that has become the centre of the parish’s spiritual life.

“To make the celebration more meaningful, Father has encouraged the people to sing all the parts of the Mass, has trained and robed 20 of the finest lads in the country as altar boys, and has made a place of honor for them in the sanctuary,” she noted.

Once again the parish of St. Rose of Lima is fortunate, as it has been for the past 50 years, to have the priest we need with us.

The next 25 years, from 1976 to the present

Father Leo Boyd was the pastor at St. Rose of Lima at the time of the 50th Anniversary celebration. He stayed for two more years, until 1978, and is now the pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Armstrong, B.C. Drop in and see him next time you are vacationing in that area of B.C.

Since then there has been an avalanche of priests: 9 all together, all of whom stayed for just two yaers with the exception of Father Paul Terrio, assisted by Father Gerry Gaudrault, who was with us fur just one year; and Father Jan Sienko, who stayed for 9 years. We have certainly experienced many different ways to minister to a parish.

Father Louis Viney, 1978-1980, now deceased, was quiet and shy; Father Thomas Lascelles, the bearded priest, 1980-1982, also now deceased, was outgoing and fun.

Father Hoffart, 1982-1984, now pastor in Valemount, B.C., was a very charismatic, spiritual man. He began the Life in the Spirit Seminars and held healing masses. These were innovations we desperately needed but, sadly, we could not keep them going after he left.

Next came Father George Chevrier, 1984-1986, now retired and living in Edmonton, but not well enough to visit us, who was keen to build a new church and even began raising money himself for the project, but it never got off the ground. Even at that time the church was not full on Sundays.

After Father Chevrier it was Father Ted Wesolowski, 1986-1988, who ventured our way. Who can forget his infectious good humour and his cheery “terrific!”. Father Ted, along with Mu Lavin, began producing a Sunday Bulletin which we did not have before that. Again, we failed to keep that going after Father Ted left.

Then along came Father Enzo Agnoli, 1988-1990, who has kept in touch with us by filling in for Father Guimond when he had other commitments. Father Enzo, with an even more magnificent beard than Father Lascelles, has a beautiful, gentle smile and gave gentle, but firm sermons. Father Enzo has a cabin in the woods where he would go to pray, hopefully fur us! Sadly, the Sisters of Service left our parish during this time after serving us tirelessly for 36 years.

But there was a silver lining to the departure of the sisters because parishioners now began to accept some of the responsibilities of running the parish which were previously undertaken by the sisters such as teaching catechism and providing liturgical ministers for music, readers, ushers and eucharistic ministers. Various parishioners have taken up the challenge of keeping the altar linens looking clean and fresh, providing flowers for the altar, keeping the cemetery well maintained and many other tasks.

Father Jan Sienko, 1990-1999, who has since returned to Poland, was our next pastor and he stayed with us for the longest spell since Father Michael Blanch, 1953-1967, was with us for 14 years.

During this time the parish was sustained by the tireless efforts of the Catholic Women’s League. What would we do without them? The CWL began a very successful joint venture with the Anglican Church Women making and selling shortbread cookies.

Several men joined the Knights of Columbus in Spruce Grove and tried to increase the visibility of the men in our parish to take some of the burden from the ladies. The Knights took their turn serving Second Sunday Coffee in Onoway, except the Knights, mostly through the efforts of John Fitterer and Renaud Hammond, served a substantial brunch. Several Knights also took turns driving Father Jan to the missions of St. Mark’s in Sandy Lake and Our Lady of Lourdes in Lac La Nonne on the worst winter days.

One innovation of Father Jan’s was an RCIA course. Father Jan’s favorite expression was “not necessary!”

The Old Church

In 1992, Father Chevrier’s dream was accomplished, almost. We did not get a new church, but we did get the next best thing, since the church underwent extensive renovations and a large addition. A roomy welcoming area was added upstairs and a new kitchen and parish hall were added downstairs allowing much more room for small gatherings. The number of people staying after church for Second Sunday Coffee began to increase soon after.

Also during this time the Tri-Parish Council was disbanded and each of the three missions went their own way, but still served by Father Jan.

Father Jan became quite ill and could not continue to serve us, so Father Paul Terrio, a superb administrator, was assigned to us for one year. As well as serving Onoway and missions, Father Paul also served Villeneuve and missions and continued to reside in Villeneuve, except one day a week, when he stayed over in Onoway. Father Paul has enormous energy because he also lectured at Newman college at the same time. Fortunately Father Gerry Gaudrault, who is one of those likeable people who are always upbeat and positive, helped Father Paul with Sunday Masses. No one slept through one of his superb fiery homilies.

Which brings us to Father Ray Guimond, 2000-2002, who filled our church again on Sundays and enlivened our parish and our parishioners with his fidelity to the teaching of the church, his devotion to the Virgin Mary, his energy, his people skills, his music and his jokes!(and his constant wheeling and dealing in vehicles!). Father Ray is moved on to a bigger parish in Edmonton in August and was sorely missed in these parts.

Many innovations were started during Father Ray’s time with us. Through TOPS (the transformation of parishes) St. Peter’s in Glenevis, and St. Mark’s in Sandy Lake were closed and St. Agnes in Mayerthorpe and St. Joseph’s in Wabumun were added to Father Ray’s responsibilities. Thanks mainly to Anne Walsh in Mayerthorpe, we now have a Sunday Bulletin again. Also, in conjunction with the Anglican Church in Onoway we have begun the ALPHA program, one of the best evangelization tools available to us. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe now hangs in our church and has been taken to several homes for a novena. Father Ray has been the featured entertainer at several highly successful family dances held in the parish hall. And the addition to the church will soon be paid for!

On July 7, 2002 our parish celebrated a belated 75th Anniversary, with:

  • Most Reverend Archbishop Thomas Collins,
  • Fr. Raymond Guimond, Pastor
  • Fr. Stan Blaszkowski, new Pastor
  • and Fr. Louis Hoffart, former pastor of our parish.

In August 2002 we started a new chapter as Father Stan Blaszkowski came to us from Drayton Valley, and he served our area until moving to Poland in 2006.

Later in 2006 we were joined by our current pastor, Father Andrew Rybak, Sch.P.

With enthusiasm and community spirit, we strive to continue to grow in holiness as we wend our way towards our hundredth anniversary in 2026.