A History from Kaleidoscope

(Diocesan history book)

Until 1940, Sacred Heart Cathedral was the only Catholic Church in the city. Then one day, a young newly ordained priest, Fr, Stanley Raczynski, arrived on the scene. Born in Vonda, of Polish parents, he had received a mandate from Bishop Duprat: “Go and organize a parish in the East Flat of the city of Prince Albert.”

Fr. Boucher and Fr. Stanley travelled on the same train and arrived in Prince Albert to take up their duties on June 16, 1940. Fr. Boucher was to be the rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Fr. Raczynski was to carve the new parish of St. Mark. When they arrived at their destination, the two priests found no records of the Catholic families of Prince Albert, and no boundaries had been set as to where the new parish of St. Mark was to be located. There was no money, no building for the new parish, and the newly appointed pastor had no ministerial experience whatsoever. For the first 15 years of his ministry Fr. Raczynski lived in the Bishop’s Palace. He was allocated a small bedroom and used his bicycle for transportation within the city.

The experience of the young priest may have been limited, but it would seem Fr. Raczyrski did not lack expertise. Undaunted by his trials, he immediately started his ministry with a few Polish families living in the area of St. Mark School. Mass was celebrated on the premises of the school. At the beginning the attendance was very small; the collection at one of those early Masses yielded $3.00. The Catholic people of Prince Albert had developed an allegiance to the Sacred Heart Parish, an allegiance which seemed hard to break.

Organizational work for the parish was started at once. By 1944, however, due to an increasing school population, space was no longer available at the school, and the fledging congregation had to resume its attendance at Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was obvious that a building had to be provided for the community of St. Mark. Bishop Duprat, seeing the urgency, appealed to a personal friend of his--Mckenzie King. “We are at war,” replied the Prime Minister. “Build a basement church and later on you can complete it.” So it was that the basement of the present St. Mark Church was built on 9th Street and 6th Avenue East. One of the reasons it was not constructed further east, is at the time, the part of the city east of 6th Avenue was not yet serviced with water.

Started in 1945, the basement was completed in the fall of the same year. Louis Gervais dug the hole with two horses and a scraper. It took two months for the digging alone. The basement of the church was to be used for church services for 12 years.

Fr. Raczynski and his parishioners were not truly satisfied with a basement church. Money had to be obtained for the construction of a proper church. Fr, Stan was an organizer and successful at collecting money. Nothing was to stand in the way of his dream. He travelled throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba selling raffle tickets.

There were also a number of church based groups, such as: the CWL, the Polish Catholic Women’s Club, and the Knight’s of Columbus; all who worked diligently for the Building Fund. With the help of his parishioners, Fr. Raczynski ran regular bingos from 1945 to 1965. A booth at the exhibition grounds, as well as a banquet hall at the fair, were regular enterprises. In 1961, there was a financial drive followed by a spiritual drive in 1963. Because of these projects, generous donations of parishioners and regular Sunday collections, the church was built and completed by 1957. It was an imposing brick structure, blessed by Bishop Leo Blais on May 25, 1958. All the church furniture had been donated by individual parishioners. In 1963, a rectory was attached to the church and opened in the fall of that year.

Those were good years for the parish of St. Mark. All of the activities were a continuous manifestation of the generosity and good will of the parishioners, and fostered a strong community spirit in the parish. As a result, the priest and his flock cleared the total debt of the church and rectory in 1968.

Two Catholic schools helped establish the principles of faith and religious training in the parish. St. Mark School opened in September 1931, with the Sisters of the Child Jesus as well as two lay teachers. The Sisters of the Child Jesus were replaced later by the Sisters of Presentation. The other school was St. John’s, opened in 1949, by two teachers: Alice Georget and Helen Leia. Ukrainian Sisters came to teach at that school as well.

The population of St. Mark Church was growing during the years following the completion of the building. However, trouble was brewing. The original community, which consisted of a majority of Polish families, was feeling apprehensive. By the mid 1970’s the diversity of the Christian community was fairly extensive. Fr. Raczynski states that there were at times at least thirteen different nationalities in the parish.

A group of original Polish parishioners were of the opinion that St. Mark should be designated “a Polish church.” They felt that they had invested a lot of money, labor and sacrifice in the building. They wanted to form a separate group or community within the parish. It was decreed by Church authority that St. Mark could not be a national parish. This led to bitter feelings, misunderstandings and resentment. There were anguishing displays of anger and frustration. Eventually in 1987, the Polish segment of the congregation was allowed by the bishop to form its own parish—Our Lady of Czestochowa. With this authorization, Bishop Morand appointed Fr. Andrew Pietrzyk M.S.F., to minister to the needs of the Polish people. They bought the Lutheran church situated at 160 – 12th Street East. (Editor’s note: That parish has since closed)

As is often the case in communities where culture and language are deeply cherished, the emotions of the people seem to be very vulnerable. As stated by Bishop Morand in an interview on the subject. “This is the price we have to pay for living in a country that has a kaleidoscope of cultures and languages.”

For everything there is a season: a time to weep and a time to be happy. There have been unhappy and stressful times at St. Mark, but there was a joy and consolation as well. There was the first wedding celebration held in the church in 1946, that of Leo and Mel Boran. There was the first baptism, that of Colleen Slater. There were plays directed by Mrs. Shannon Hammel. There was comradeship and strong bonds of friendship developed as the community built its church. There were anniversaries celebrated: the 25th and 40th of Fr. Raczynski’s priesthood, the 30th of Fr. Deschamps, the 40th of Mgr. Ulinski and Fr. Van den Akker. (Editor’s note: Also Fr. Cliff Trembley’s 50th and Fr. Jim Kaptein’s 25th.) Bittersweet memories of touching and sad events are part of history too. In 1983 the parish gave a farewell banquet to its priest of 43 years—Fr. Raczynski. St. Mark was his first and only parish. No pastor in the diocese has ever remained with the same congregation for that length of time.

Another priest that needs to be mentioned in the annals of St. Mark is Fr. Nick Castelyns. As assistant pastor for 25 years, he certainly left his indelible mark on the life of St. Mark Parish.

In 1968, as a result of the changes introduced by Vatican II, the sanctuary was remodeled. In 1979, the sanctuary behind the altar was remodeled in brick and wood, in keeping with the original architecture of the church.

The 1980’s were an active time at St. Mark. A parish council was set up with committees for liturgy, social justice, building maintenance and grounds and others. Organizations such as the Ladies of St. Mark, the Knights of Columbus, the music ministry, altar servers, and others were alive and working tirelessly to build the community. Charitable works are flourishing. These include projects such as: a soup kitchen serving meals to the needy, breakfast at St. John’s Community School, scholarship for students, Christmas hampers and help for the needy of the parish. Besides these works, the church community supports Development and Peace, Catholic Family Services, Tele miracle and Christmas Cheer Fund.

Pastor Fr. Manh Nguyen

Assistant Deacon Brad Taylor

St. Mark Parish

581 – 9th Street East

Prince Albert, SK

S6V 0Y4

Phone Number: 306 764 4637

Fax: 306 764 1089

Office Email: office@stmarkparish.com

Sunday Mass Time: 11:00am

Weekday Mass Time: 9:00am Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (Usually)

(Subject to change so consult the current Bulletin) (Highlight Bulletin)

Office Hours:

Secretary: Ghislaine Painchaud

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:30am to 12:30pm

Bookkeeper: Bev Robin

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 1:30pm to 4:30pm