By Fr. Ed Kennedy, C.Ss.R.
Sacred Heart Parish in Edson, Alberta (current church pictured at left) is celebrating this year one hundred years since the first church was built by Oblate Missionaries.
Our provincial, Fr. Mark Miller and the Redemptorists were invited to mark the thirty-six years the C.Ss.R. gave to Edson and its missions. Father Shalla who began our ministry in Grande Prairie was the first pastor. Fathers Wallace Malone and Bob Connaughton looked after the many missions for the Coal Branch lines and newly developing town of Hinton.
Following the plan he used for our churches in Grande Prairie, Sexsmith and Athabaska, they immediately began to build a new large church and rectory. Today there is a beautiful new church which incorporates the older church as a gathering area with cloakrooms, offices, sacristy and Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The beautiful new church has a very large hall and kitchen on the lower level.
The Jubilee Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Richard Smith and six priests. They had a great choir of eighteen including many Filipino men and women. St John’s hospital, where the Sisters of Service served for so many years, is just beyond the church and there is a large meeting room in the church dedicated to the Sisters of Service which includes windows from the Sisters’ chapel.
I was the main speaker at the banquet and I had several stories of Father George Gunnip (pictured at right) who was pastor of Sacred Heart for 21 years, probably a record exceeded only by Fr. Bill Kroetch’s term as pastor at St. Patrick’s German parish.
The people still remember Fr. Gunnip very well and his famous dog, Kim.
Fr. George Gunnip led the parish in establishing the Catholic school named after the Vanier family. Now they have a fine second school named in Fr. George’s memory, Holy Redeemer Catholic High School and nine hundred students in the two schools.
Redemptorists who served in Edmonton remember well going to help out at Edson. Fr. George held the floor as he enjoyed a night cap provided by the Crown Royal one brought him. There was a lively rivalry with Fr. Claude Lemieux in Hinton and a clear difference in how to be a pastor. A silver chalice given to Fr. George by the parishioners was returned newly gilded to the parish.