By Fr. Albert Sterzer, C.Ss.R.
Two years ago I asked Fr. Provincial if I could retire when I turned 75. Fr. Mark obligingly agreed. You know, of course, that someone who retires becomes a member of the ‘Leisure Class’. What most people don’t know, however, is what it means to be a member of the ‘Leisure Class’. Many years ago when I was studying sociology, I read Thorstein Veblen’s book entitled, Theory of the Leisure Class . I discovered that when I was ordained several years earlier, I had already joined the leisure class. According to Veblen, clergy along with retirees, coupon clippers, street people and, what the British call ‘tramps’, are all members of the leisure class. Members of the leisure class are persons who, no matter how hard they work or how little they do, it makes no difference to that person’s income. Chew on that one for awhile. All this is just a lead up to the question: What have I been doing since I retired?
When I asked Fr. Mark about retiring, I suggested to him that I would like to stay in Grande Prairie and take over what Fr. Claude Lemieux was doing here before he died. Little did I know how much Fr. Claude was doing during that time. He helped out in the Grande Prairie parish. He was involved with the parish Social Justice Committee and spiritual director for the Grouard/McLennan Archdiocesan CWL Executive, the Grouard/McLennan Archdiocesan Cursillo Movement, Chaplain to the K of C Council #3241; all of which I am now more-or-less involved. The big one, however, was that Fr. Claude was ever available for as long as he was able to help out in parishes throughout the Archdiocese when priests would go on holidays or need help for special occasions. I will skip all of those involvements of his I mentioned earlier and just mention briefly the last of these, namely parish pastoral supply. I even have a few recent pictures from my latest trips helping out over Holy Week and Easter in John D’or Prairie and Garden River, Alberta.
Fr. Gerald Mendoza, a newly minted diocesan priest in the Archdiocese asked if I could help him out in these two places during Holy Week and Easter because he knew that he would not be able to get back and forth between the three First Nation parishes because of the muddy roads and Spring break-up. These are among several most Northerly parishes in the Archdiocese. He would stay out on the Fox Lake reserve, if I would look after the other two for him. I agreed to do that if he could arrange to have people from the parishes pick me up at the High Level bus stop and drive me back and forth from the parishes. He agreed.
It was a wonderful experience. I had already been to John D’or and Fox Lake, but I had never been to Garden River. This is a more isolated community located near the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta. It is located on the juncture of the Peace River and Garden Creek. They do have electricity, but the rectory had no television, no internet connection and no telephone connection either land-line or cell. It was the most leisurely Holy Triduum I’ve had for many, many a year. I would recommend it to anyone. Come join the Leisure Class.