In the early 1970s, St Albert shed its town status to become a city, warranted by the size of its growing population. In turn, the community’s increasing population put pressures on St Albert Parish, then 110 years old. It became more difficult for the existing parish to adequately serve the needs of all Catholics in the growing city. The need for a new parish became apparent.
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil accepted the proposal that the new parish be established to serve the needs of the people living east of Highway Two (St Albert Trail). The first core committee of the new parish was formed November 20th, 1979, and it met in the basement of the St Albert parish church. St. Albert parish council also gifted a house on Fair Oaks Drive to the new parish, to be used as an office and rectory, and a space for committee meetings.
Starting in 1980, Masses were celebrated in the then Vincent J Maloney Catholic School (now Richard S Fowler Catholic School) on Sir Winston Churchill Avenue in the school cafeteria. In later years, the parish would meet in the gymnasium of Neil M Ross school. After the final Masses in the school gym at Neil M Ross on the Weekend of August 3, 1991, the first Masses in our parish church were celebrated on the weekend of August 11, 1991.
The members of Holy Family Parish in St Albert have every right to be proud of their new facility. It is a warm and inviting complex, built with hospitality in mind. The use of concrete as a major construction material could make for a stark building; but the clever use of various textures, accent colours, bricks, archways, natural lighting, and wood makes Holy Family Church an inviting space in which to gather for the worship of God.
Upon entering the building through the main doors, one immediately sees in the large foyer a wooden sculpture of the holy family, carved by artist Al Gerritsen, showing the young Jesus on Joseph’s back. This playful pose is a reminder that Holy Family Parish is a young parish with many children. The foyer, which features a large fireplace, is a natural gathering space. Before and after liturgy, people gather for welcoming and hospitality. The space also functions as an overflow seating area.
To one side of the foyer, a person can see into the worship space through clear glass doors; and to the other side, one sees the kitchen and hall area. This same-level combination provides for excellent opportunities for after-Mass refreshments or breakfasts. Stairs are therefore avoided, and the physically challenged do not have to search for a back way into the hall, as is frequently the case in many buildings.
As one enters the worship space, a baptismal font with running water invites a person to dip his or her hand in and to bless himself or herself in memory of baptism. The upper cruciform-shaped font for the baptism of babies flows down into the eight-sided pool for the baptism of older children and adults.
The symbolism of shape is important. Christ died on the cross, and in baptism we die and are buried with him. He was raised to new life on the first day of the week (the eighth day) as the new creation, and in baptism we “… rise again with him.” The location of the baptismal font provides an excellent opportunity for the sprinkling with holy water that may take place in the introductory rites at a funeral. In that way, a very clear link with baptism is made. Near the font is a glass-fronted ambry containing the holy oils.
The altar table, which is square and is supported by four strong pillars, is clearly the “… table of the Lord.” It is an attractive and dignified altar which allows for the functioning of the presider. The beauty of the wood is apparent because the altar is not covered up with frontals and mass-produced symbols from catalogues. The altar speaks for itself as a symbol of Christ.
The ambo, which is in a style similar to that of the altar, is also simple but elegant. The presider’s chair is plain and in no way resembles a throne. It is visible to the assembly as a “… symbol of his (the presider’s) office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer.”The persons involved in choosing the altar furnishing have been very wise in using a local artist. The church, therefore, has unique pieces of art which are functional and beautiful. The processional cross and candle stands are such example. Discreet but important symbols carved into the bases of the candle stands invite people to come forward to examine them. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a suitable Tabernacle on the Sanctuary. It had been reserved in our side chapel specifically “… suited to the faithful’s private adoration and prayer.” The chapel is visible to the left as one enters the worship space; it is now a tribute to the Divine Mercy, and with relics from St. Faustina showcased on the wall, it makes an excellent place for private Prayer. With light streaming in from the outside through clear windows on one side and the dual bank of candles on the other, the beauty of our Lord’s Mercy embraces all those who enter there.
The history of the crucifix at Holy Family Parish begins with the story of Joanne and Frank Pearce. Joanne and Frank were both founding members of the parish and it was Joanne’s wish to have a crucifix placed in the sanctuary at HFP. Joanne unfortunately died before her wish was accomplished. Frank decided to honor Joanne’s wish after her death however before this was accomplished Frank also died. The adult children of Joanne and Frank decided that they would carry out their parent’s wishes.
The Corpus is an original carved in Linden wood at the Demetz Art Studio situated in Ortisei a small town in northern Italy. Its roots extend deep into the history of woodcarving, since it is a family business that was founded in 1872. The large wooden cross on which the Corpus hangs was made by a local carpenter in St. Albert.
The recent addition to the worship area is the carving of the Holy Family. Now, looking from left to right on the main wall behind the altar, one can see the child Jesus in the arms of His mother and father, the Crucified Lord, and the Resurrected Lord.
As of the summer of 2013, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle which has been permanently attached to a marble shelf support in behind the altar. This marble shelf was chosen to match the marble slab on the wall; and parishioners have graciously donated sufficient funds to cover the costs of this move and shelf support.