Festivities included blessing of the original bell from 1912, a celebratory Mass & dinner, & picnic
By Teresita Barbou
Special to The B.C. Catholic
St. Helen's Parish in Burnaby began a day of celebration Aug. 11 with a ring!
The parish is in the middle of a year of celebration of its 100th anniversary: from Dec. 3, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012. The parish was formally erected Aug. 11, 1912.
The day began with the blessing of the parish's "Centennial Marker," the old bell from the original 1912 church, which was then rung to officially mark the opening of the day's festivities. After this had been done outside the church, everyone filed inside, filling the church to capacity.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, was there to say Mass, and he was joined by parish administrator Father Hily Gonzales and the other Scalabrinian priests of the parish as well as a number of other priests, Knights of Columbus, and two Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Halifax).
During his homily Archbishop Miller said, "We are beginning the celebrations which mark the centenary of the parish, a landmark and certainly a cause of tremendous joy and gratitude."
He stressed the importance of praying and thanking God.
"To the priests, especially, we owe tremendous gratitude. They served as your shepherds, teachers, guides, friends, and brothers," he said. "They certainly deserve your gratitude and my gratitude."
Archbishop Miller recounted the history of St. Helen's, and he invited everyone to consider how many people have been baptized, confirmed, schooled, and married in the parish since 1912. "The church is a kind of home which gathers both our joys and our sorrows," he said.
The church was named St. Helen's in memory of the recently deceased daughter of the major donor, Justice Kelly, who gave $6,000, a fortune in 1912.
"This parish has been a growing parish. A parish is more than just buildings; it is a community of people. A parish is a place where one seeks to find God," said Archbishop Miller. "Today is a day of remembrance, of giving thanks, a day to look forward to the future."
Thanking the centennial choir for their performance, Father Gonzalez said, "I hope and pray that you will preserve that voice for the next centennial." He also acknowledged everyone in the centennial committee, the community, and their families.
Parishioners were happy with the event and the opportunity to participate. Ines Mastroianni said, "It was a very nice ceremony. Our family has attended the church since the 1970s, and the kids went to school in St. Helen's."
Cecile Pich‚ said she had been going to St. Helen's for 50 years.
After the Mass, parishioners gathered for a family dinner to celebrate and share the joy. There were beautiful flowers, delicious food, and speeches and surprises from the community and members of the parish.
Archbishop Miller presented a plaque with an apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict XVI.
St. Helen's School, which opened in 1923, was staffed by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul for over 50 years.
"It is a strong faith community. All their different groups get things done. I am very happy to be here and represent the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Halifax) and to celebrate the centennial of St. Helen's," said Sister Cecilia Hudec.
The centennial celebrations continued Sunday, Aug. 12, with an outdoor Mass at 10:30 a.m. and then a picnic which continued until 5 p.m. at Confederation Park in Burnaby. Celebrating the Mass with assistant pastor Father Marvin Ajic Arana, CS, was former pastor Father Claudio Holzer, CS.