Bishop Hagemoen joins St. Mary Parish in bidding farewell to the Redemptorists

Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrated Mass with St. Mary Parish Dec. 5 to express thanks and to bid farewell to the Redemptorist order, which has served the Saskatoon parish since 1934. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

At a special Mass Dec. 5, Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen joined St. Mary Parish to express thanks and bid farewell to the Redemptorist “Congregation of the Holy Redeemer” order of priests and brothers.

After more than 86 years serving as pastors at St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon, the Redemptorists are departing, to focus their pastoral and missionary efforts in other areas of the country, including the North.

Outgoing pastor Fr. Mark Miller, CSsR, who also serves as Provincial Superior of the English-speaking Redemptorists of Canada., concelebrated Mass with Bishop Hagemoen, along with incoming pastor, Fr. Kevin McGee, who also serves as Vicar General for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

Other priests in attendance included outgoing associate pastor Fr. Alfredo Medina Ramos, CSsR, Fr. Stefano Penna, rector of St. Paul Co-Cathedral, and Fr. Ken Forster, OMI, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate order that served at St. Mary Parish from the time of its establishment in 1919 until the arrival of the Redemptorists in 1934.

In his homily, Bishop Mark Hagemoen reflected on the impact of the Redemptorists upon St. Mary Parish, the surrounding neighbourhood, and the diocese itself. Part of this history has included preaching missions in urban and rural parishes, ministering in hospitals — in particular at nearby St. Paul’s Hospital — in prisons, and to Indigenous people in the city.

Hagemoen noted the aptness of the opening words of the second reading for the Second Sunday of Advent from Philipians 1: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Bishop Mark Hagemoen expressed his gratitude for the decades of service and witness by the Redemptorists in the diocese of Saskatoon. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

The transition and benchmark of the Redemptorists leaving St. Mary Parish, which no one really wanted to happen, “is upon us,” noted the bishop. “We are at a new point in the wilderness,” Hagemoen said, hearkening to the Gospel of the day about the word of God coming to St. John the Baptist in the wilderness.

Hagemoen noted that this is a time in the history of the Church in Canada with many challenges and much going on. “In the midst of this time, the Redemptorists that are in the community of Saskatoon need to move forward,” he said. “They have contributed so much to this diocese.”

This contribution includes contributing the first bishop to the newly-created Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the 1930s — a Redemptorist, Bishop Gerald Murray, CSsR. It also includes decades of pastoral ministry, outreach, blessings and care to the community.

“The Redemptorists have brought to bear in the diocese of Saskatoon and the other places where they have been present and still are, many different charisms, many different pastoral ministries, many different emphases where they highlight the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said, expressing his gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the parish and the entire diocese. “What a foundation to build upon.”

“It has been a particular unique gift to the diocese: the charism and the ministries lived out by the Redemptorists. It has also been a real gift to see how the Redemptorist community was able from very early on in the history of the diocese to gather many different peoples.” This has included newcomers and immigrant arrivals from around the world over the decades. Under the leadership of the Redemptorists, St. Mary Parish is also the “liturgical home” of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which worships at the Church, serving Métis and Indigenous peoples.

“It is a reminder and a beacon to the whole diocese about what it means to be an inclusive community to our First Nations peoples,” said Hagemoen. “What has happened here at St. Mary’s is a vision and a model for all of our parishes.”

October 2019 – 100th anniversary of St Mary Parish

Bishop Hagemoen noted that there are many other examples of how the Redemptorist order – established in 1732 by St. Alphonsus Liguori in Italy and serving in Canada since  1834 – have been “bridge-builders.”

Expressing both sorrow and gratitude at the departure of the congregation from St. Mary Parish, Hagemoen said: “There is a lot to build on, because of their unique and dedicated pastoral work.”

He also recognized Fr. Kevin McGee, a diocesan priest and Vicar General. “Where would we go to find someone to replace the Redemptorists? We just said, well we can’t replace the Redemptorists. However, I am very grateful to Fr Kevin’s ‘yes’, and his pastoral zeal, to come here, and representing the diocese, to take the pastoral work and leadership forward,” Hagemoen said. “He is a man of tremendous generosity and  openness to the Holy Spirit.”

The bishop noted that Fr. Mark Miller as Provincial Superior for the Redemptorists was able to complete the term in Saskatoon as the final Redemptorist pastor at St. Mary Parish, and he also acknowledged Fr. Miller’s great contribution to St. Paul’s Hospital, Emmanuel Health and Catholic health care in his work as ethicist here for a number of years.

The bishop concluded: “Brothers and sisters, we join together to say a tremendous thank you to the Redemptorist community,” leading a standing ovation among all those assembled.

At the conclusion of the Mass, a number of tributes were presented, including by parish representative Darren Weber, by Victor Urbáez of the Hispanic Catholic community based at St. Mary Parish, and by Kurt Stang of the Knights of Columbus, who stressed the Redemptorists’ years of “sacrifice and commitment.”

Fr. Mark Miller closed the celebration with his own words of gratitude to the bishop and to the entire community.

Fr. Mark Miller, CSsR

“This place of service where we Redemptorists have been for 86 years would be a pretty deadly lonely place if it wasn’t for you,” Miller told the congregation. “I am most grateful for the support, the encouragement, the challenges that have been posed to us from this community, and the realization that over these years we have experienced a great deal of love on your part, and I want to thank you for that.”

“Because if there is one thing that tells us that we are sharing in the love of Jesus Christ, it is the presence and the support that you have shown, and the love that you have given us as well.”


History (excerpts from St. Mary Parish website):

“Although Mass had been said at St. Mary’s School hall since 1917, it wasn’t until January of 1919 that tentative plans for a second parish in Saskatoon were announced. St. Mary’s was officially incorporated on March 12, 1919 under the name of “Our Lady of Victory” by Bishop Albert Pascal, O.M.I., of the Diocese of Prince Albert. The new parish, which served the west side of Saskatoon and beyond, was placed in the care of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, with Fr. Joseph Paille appointed the first pastor.

“The Oblate fathers remained in charge of St. Mary’s until 1931. In the interim, a number of diocesan priests cared for the needs of the parish.

“​However, after Gerald Murray, C.Ss.R., was installed as the first Bishop of Saskatoon on April 18, 1934, he placed the parish under the care of the Redemptorist Province of Toronto, appointing Fr. John Coghlan, C.Ss.R. as pastor on October 16, 1935, the feast of St. Gerard Majella. Fr. Coghlan was to take charge on October 26, 1935, the first of many Redemptorist pastors at St. Mary’s.

“​The Redemptorists continued the devotions to Mary, already begun, instituting devotions to Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help each Wednesday. They preached missions for parish men and women, various ethnic groups of the city, as well as to rural areas. Men’s Club, Ladies Altar Society, Altar boys, St. Vincent de Paul society, and other parish organizations were continued.

“​In the following years, the parish population, composed of many ethnic groups, including Italians, Polish, Ukrainians, Portuguese, German, English and French, grew such that four Sunday Masses in the church were needed, with a fifth Mass being said in the hall.

​”Thus, as early as 1956, the pastors, Fr. Neil Corbett and Fr. Douglas Pankhurst began planning for the enlargement of the church. A firm of Vancouver architects drew up plans for the extension. Shannon Brothers Construction began work on the extension in June 1958, and had completed it the following year. Total cost for the extension was $135,868.19. Parishioners were pleased with newly enlarged church which was blessed by Bishop Klein on September 18, 1959.  They were not as enthusiastic about installation of the crucifix, and Madonna and child, by Vancouver artist Lionel Thomas.

“​In December 1947, Fr. John Lockwood called a meeting of parish men to discuss plans for the construction of a parish hall. Excavation for the hall began in June of 1948, and enough of the structure was completed, so that on November 17 of that year the first annual parish bazaar was held. The roofed over basement was used for several years before the entire structure, built by mostly volunteer labor, was completed. In 1952, a hall director, Roy Ellis, was hired, and more parish activities were organized, including CYO, bingo, a drama club, carpet bowling, square dancing, and sports such as gymnastics, boxing and basketball.

​”Also in April 1949, under the leadership of Fr. John Lockwood, St. Mary’s Parish Credit Union, now affiliated with Affinity Credit Unions, was incorporated. It was housed in the basement meeting room of the hall, its purpose being to help struggling parish families get established financially. Operations began in May of 1949, with a membership of 30 families.

​”St. Mary’s played an important role in the Marian Year of 1954 activities, from hosting a pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help shrine, to welcoming Fr. Patrick Peyton and the Rosary Crusade, to participating in the Marian Rally at the exhibition grounds with Fr. Martin Foley, C.Ss.R., well known for his radio apostolate and his missions, preaching to the crowd gathered there.

“​1963 through 1965, under pastors Fr. Thomas Coyne and Fr. John Spicer, saw the planning and construction of the present rectory, with the old rectory being moved to a new site further north on Avenue O. Again the Vancouver firm of architects drew up plans, with the contract being let to Addie Construction Ltd., at a total cost of $165,927.00

​”Over the years, the Mens’ club and Altar society evolved into Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women League organizations. And in 1967, when Fr. Joe Murphy was pastor, the first parish council was elected to provide leadership and give direction to the parish.

​”1977 was a momentous year, as St. Mary’s, who had been in debt since the building of the church in 1930, was finally in a position to pay off the final mortgage and be declared debt free. A mortgage burning ceremony and parish celebration was held to commemorate the occasion.

​”St. Mary’s has been closely associated with St. Paul’s Hospital and the Grey Nun Community who first appeared in Saskatoon in 1906, establishing the hospital, now only a block from the parish. The Grey Nuns and many nurses who graduated from it took part in parish affairs, and the hospital in return has long been provided chaplains by the Redemptorist priests.  The Sisters of Sion, who in the early years, taught at St. Mary’s School, were similarly involved in parish activities.

“​St. Mary’s continues to be a multicultural parish, as it has been since its inception, and now includes Vietnamese, Iraqi, and Sudanese communities in its numbers. Recent activities include the implementation of the Parish Nurse Program in 2003, as well as the hiring of a Youth Ministry Coordinator in 2006. 2007 saw the replacement of the original oak doors of the church with similar energy efficient doors.

​”St. Mary’s celebrated two special anniversaries: its 75th anniversary as a Redemptorist parish in 2010, and 2019 saw its 100th anniversary of its inception as a parish.”