75th anniversary of the Diocese of St. Paul
St. Anne's Parish, Thorhild.
(Information taken from the parish 100 anniversary booklet)
Franciscan Friars: Fathers 1915-1920 After being invited by Tom Parranto to hold Martin, Gregory, Ladislas, mass in his house, the Friars continued to Celestine and Boniface offer masses in the homes of parish members
Fr. Bernard 1921-1926 Masses were held twice/month in the school.
Construction of the church took place from 1925-1926.
Fr. Peter Sullivan 1926-1928 A room built onto the hospital in Radway became the rectory.
Fr. Hefferman 1928-1935 Catechism lessons were taught in classrooms of area rural schools. In 1935 a
small house was built next to Radway hospital for a rectory.
Fr. Rolheiser and Fr. Elkin 1935-1943
Fr. Nestor Therien 1943-1945
Fr. Norbert Schmeltzer 1945-1948 The church interior was finished and a concrete foundation poured.
Fr. William Young 1948-1951 Thorhild joined St. Paul Diocese. The basement of the church was completed
Fr. Stanislas Roberts 1951-1955 Polinski family offered Father a place to live, allowing mass to be said every Sunday. In December 1951 the church burned down. Mass was held in the hall and school until a new church was built in 1952-1953
Frs. Lawrence, Alesksa and Knapi 1955-1956
& Piarist Fr. Monsignor Joseph
Kochan and Fr. Naumowicz
Fr. Edmund Croteau 1956-1959 A house for a rectory in Thorhild was purchased in 1956. Solid wood pews were bought in 1959. The local CWL started.
Fr. Anthony Korewa 1959-1966 A small bell from CNR was put in the south steeple in 1960. In 1961 Mapova church
closed, so members joined Thorhild parish. A large church bell was installed in the bell tower in 1962.
Frs. Ronaldo Benoit, Andre 1966-1967 An active youth club operated.
Piquette, Alfred Houde
Fr. Henri Bois 1967-1978 A new rectory was built.
Fr. Georges Primeau 1978-1981
Monsignor Joseph Kochan 1981-1982 A large wooden cross and a statue were blessed and installed in the cemetery.
Fr. Matthias Lugowski 1982-1985
Frs. Grondin and Derome 1985-1986
Fr. Chester Kochan 1987-1988 CWL purchased stained glass windows and drapes for the High Altar.
Fr. Albert Cizewski 1988-1988
Fr. Walter Laliberty 1989-2002 New metal front doors put in the church and a wheelchair ramp into the church was built.
Celebrated Fr. Walter's 25th anniversary of his priesthood in 1998.
Fr. John Paul Maliakkal 2002-2003
Fr. Anthony O'Riordan 2003-2007 Wheelchair accessible washroom and lift project started
assisted by Fr. Casmir Muobike
Fr. Zbigniew (Zbigi) Bebenek 2007-2008
Fr. Peter Tran 2008
Fr. Joseph Chirappanath 2008-2010
Fr. Damian Nwachuksu 2010-2014
Fr. Francis Khai Phan 2014-2018 Church roof repair project
Fr. Augustine and Fr. Paulson 2018 (later)
Fr. Sebastian Chittilappilly 2019- Led us safely through the COVID-19 pandemic with grace and humor.
St. Anne's Parish, Thorhild, Catholic Women's League
(Information taken from the St. Anne's CWL 40th and 60th anniversary pamphlets)
Established in 1959 with president Phyllis Polanski, vice president Rose Bukach, secretary Lucy Olchowy, treasurer Augustine Poirier to lead the 35 members. The CWL replaced the St. Anne's Ladies Club. It was more spiritual in focus, but continued the fundraising program for church initiatives and items. Members consistently attended the St. Paul Diocesan conventions and participated in both provincial and national conventions.
1970 Hosted Diocesan convention.
1971 Two young CWL members, Phyllis Hickle and Janet Kudlik, attended a catechism teach-in in St. Albert. This was the beginning of lay catechism teaching in the St. Paul Diocese. This initiative earned for St. Anne's CWL the Monsignor Rooney trophy for best report at the 1972 Diocesan convention.
Mid 1970s CWL members purchased hymn sheets and hymnals so the congregation could join in singing during mass.
1980 Hosted Diocesan convention.
1984 Eight members and one husband flew to provincial convention in Yellowknife, for some, their first airplane ride.
1987 Purchased stained glass windows for the church.
1989 Hosted Diocesan convention and celebrated 30th anniversary
2000s Began annual collection of Operation Christmas Child boxes, involving entire community
2002 Hosted Diocesan convention
2009 Celebrated 50th anniversary with mass followed by a potluck meal.
2019 Celebrated 60th anniversary
Participation in conventions continues, with members serving as diocesean and provincial CWL presidents. As well, fundraising activities, hosting coffee Sundays and annual Christmas parties, and contributing to numerous charitable organizations remain important aspects of the local CWL ladies.
St. Anne's Parish, Thorhild, Music Ministry
For many years St. Anne's music was led by Mary Olchowy with her daughter Elsie playing the organ and other members of her family singing in the choir.
Long time choir member Lorraine Iwaskow said, “One of the things that stands out for me with the choir was on Christmas Eve after midnight mass, Elsie would always continue to play Christmas carols after the church had emptied and it was always so much fun and made the night seem even more special as it brought back lots of good memories of Christmas concerts at school when we learnt all of these carols.”
When Mary retired from this position, Elsie (Olchowy) Hrycun took over and served as organist and music director. During her time as music director, she expanded the program to include other musicians and guitar Sundays became another way for parishioners to share their talents and participate in mass.
Current music director Sandra McWilliams stepped into this position after Hrycun passed away in 2006. McWilliams provided the following:
“I am the current music director for St. Anne’s Parish. My husband, Marc, and I have been members at St. Anne’s parish since 2005, and were part of the music ministry at Our Lady of Peace parish in Fox Creek, Alberta from 1988 until we moved in late 2005. Prior to that, we each had our training in liturgical music at the John Paul II Catholic Bible School formerly in Radway, Alberta, in 1986 and 1987 respectively. My own liturgical music preferences have changed over the years, leaning heavily on the Glory & Praise hymnals early on, to now having a deeper appreciation of the old, sometimes under-rated classic hymns. I like the sound of acappella choirs and am very much attracted to the beauty of the Church’s rich musical heritage that includes Gregorian chant and plain chant.
“There are currently three music groups at St. Anne’s parish, and my main job is to ensure that we have a music schedule that works for each group. In order for the schedule to work well, there needs to be open lines of communication with each group’s music leader. Should something come up and our scheduled date doesn’t work for us, the groups pull together to take the others’ turn where possible. The Sunday masses at St. Anne's are never left without music.
“A priest once said that the job of the music ministry is second in importance to that of the priest, that the music ministry plays a supporting role. As music leaders, we set the tone for communal worship through our hymn selections, which are based on the day's readings. It is our collective hope that our various music selections will foster a deeper sense of prayer and gratitude for the Holy Eucharist in the Mass.”
Stanley and Helen Olchowy were the last couple to be married before the original church burned down.
Stanley Olchowy and Helen Prodaniuk were married on November 21, 1951. They were the last couple to be married before the original church burned down on Christmas eve, 1951.
“There was lots of snow, but it wasn't very cold,” Helen recalled.
After her marraige, Helen joined the parish and became an active volunteer. She loved to sing, and joined the church choir, which was led by her sister, Mary Olchowy. One of the ways they helped to raise funds for building the new church was going house-to-house, carolling. Caroling around the community at Christmas time continued for over 6 decades.
“I liked going carolling,” said Helen. “I enjoyed it.”
In addition to the fun of singing, caroling was an opportunity to visit with the friends and neighbors in all the homes where they sang and to enjoy their hospitality. People who welcomed the Christmas carollers offered them drinks, treats, snacks, and even complete meals.
Carolling also had its challenges, most often the weather, sometimes special requests.
“I remember one year, we were singing at the lodge,” Helen said. “Mrs. Jack Chizen asked us for a Polish song, so we sang one for her.”
Stanley and Helen had five children. All were baptized in St. Anne's Church, and the four who married all had their weddings there as well.
As a couple, Stanley and Helen volunteered with many projects and events to support their parish. Stanley was one of the men who helped build the new church.
“He wasn't scared of heights,” said Helen. She volunteered with one of the church lunch groups and a monthly cleaning group.
In 2003 Stanley and Helen moved from their farm to their retirement home in Thorhild. Fifteen years later, they moved a few blocks east into the Thorhild Lodge. Stanley passed away in 2019. Helen continues to live in the lodge, and appreciates the opportunity to attend mass there Wednesday mornings.
Mr. & Mrs. Olchowy Wedding Day Picture: www.dostp.ca/mass-times/thorhild-st-anne#h.52ymhsj5xnja
Stanley Olchowy and Helen Prodaniuk were married on November 21, 1951. They were the last couple to be married before the original St Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Thorhild burned down on Christmas eve, 1951. Photo provided by Helen Olchowy
Jenny Gutek and Mike Krupa were the first couple to be married in St. Anne's after the new church building was completed.
Jenny Gutek and Mike Krupa were the first couple to be married in St. Anne's after the new church building was completed. Their wedding was held July 18, 1953, a day with perfect weather.
“It was just nice,” recalled Jenny.
Rose Zolkewski made her wedding cake, and they went to the studio in Redwater for wedding photos.
Growing up, Jenny was part of two church communities, St. Anne's Roman Catholic Parish in Thorhild and Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church, often referred to as Sandhills Church, west of Egremont. With her parents, Steve and Mary Gutek, and her siblings, Jenny attended many church services and events in Thorhild, being part of church picnics, lunches, and volunteer efforts. She also took catechism lessons from the nuns.
That meant going to town.
“We did a lot of walking, there and back,” Jenny said. “Sometiems Dad came with the buggy. Shortly afterwards he got a car.”
Because at that time the church services at St. Anne's in Thorhild were often in French, her family frequently attended church at Sandhills, where the Ukrainian services were more familair. That led to her taking catechism there for three weeks during the summers.
“They tried to teach us to read and write in Ukrainian,” Jenny said. “I never learned that.” To attend those lessons, she and her siblings would walk four and a half miles. Roads were being built, and being in summer, it rained a lot.
“We were all mud when we got to the church,” she said.
When Father Roberts came to Thorhild in 1951, Jenny's family again began attending mass in Thorhild consistently.
“He was very Polish,” said Jenny. “My dad was, too.”
Jenny and Mike were blessed with four children, three girls and a boy, and nine grandchildren. They raised them on a farm a few miles north of Sandhills church while continuing to be active parishioners. Jenny liked to sew, and even made one of her daughter's wedding gown.
Mike passed away in July 2020. Jenny now lives in Thorhild Lodge, her comfortable home where she can regularly attend mass and see her daughter, staff member Brenda Chomay, just about every day.
Mr. & Mrs. Krupa - Wedding Picture: www.dostp.ca/mass-times/thorhild-st-anne#h.q34su4x221ft
On July 18, 1953, Jenny Gutek and Mike Krupa were the first couple to be married in St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Thorhild after the new church building was completed. In the photo are Dave Kolasa (L-R), John Klymchuk, Peter Makar, Leon Gutek, Mike and Jenny Krupa, Mary Gutek, Sylvia Pasemko, Ella Nimchuk and Violet Gutek. Children in front: Ruby Gutek and Terry Stroich.
Photo provided by Jenny Krupa
Joe and Phyllis Hickle are long time members
Joe and Phyllis Hickle were married in St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Thorhild on February 7, 1957. In the 65 years since then the church has been an important part of their lives.
Joe grew up attending St. Katherine Roman Catholic Church in Mapova, while Phyllis went to church in Waugh, just outside the St. Paul Diocese. Their marraige was the the first one performed by Father Edmund Croteau after his ordination.
“It was a Thursday,” recalled Phyllis. “The weather was beautiful that year.” While the new church building had been completed several years earlier, it still did not have pews. People attending church sat in rows of chairs.
Phyllis joined the St. Anne's CWL and has been an active member for over 60 years. She served on the executive for decades, putting in many years as secretary and treasurer and one term as president.
A highlight of her service with the CWL was teaching catechism. In 1971 she and fellow CWL member Janet Kudlik attended a catechism teach-in in St. Albert. This was the beginning of lay catechism teaching in the St. Paul Diocese. This initiative earned for St. Anne's CWL the Monsignor Rooney trophy for best report at the 1972 Diocesan convention. Phyllis taught local youngsters catechism for 15 years.
“I started when our kids were small,” she said. “I wanted our kids to learn and take part. I felt it's very important for the young people for First Communion and Confirmation. Some of the answers I got to questions made me laugh.” All five of the Hickle children were baptized at St. Anne's and received First Communion and Confirmation there. Two of them were married there.
Joe served on parish council for ten years. He also dedicated many decades to maintaining the church and gronds, fixing equipment, cutting grass and bringing his cultivator to town each spring and fall to work up the garden.
Mr. & Mrs Hickle - 25th Anniversary Picture: www.dostp.ca/mass-times/thorhild-st-anne#h.p7jk5hjyetpv
In 1982 Joe (L-R) and Phyllis Hickle celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with their children, Nicole, Bob, Angela, Greg and James.
Photo provided by Joe and Phyllis Hickle.
Mr. & Mrs. Hickle - 60th Anniversary Picture: www.dostp.ca/mass-times/thorhild-st-anne#h.zfljwta9pgj1
Joe and Phyllis Hickle stand with the certificate they received from Pope Francis for their 60th wedding anniversary in 2017.
Photo by Juanita Krause