St. Patrick Parish in Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue neighbourhood celebrated its final mass on Sunday — and the retirement of its long-serving pastor.
Father Frank Stempfle, 91, is retiring after 66 years as a priest, including 39 years at St. Patrick Parish.
“I’ll miss the people,” Stempfle said. “I’ll miss coming to this little church every day to celebrate mass and especially to celebrate the weekend mass with the whole parish.”
The parish, established in 1948, was originally set to close in 1998, when a review recommended its merger with St. Alphonsus Parish down the street. After pressure from parishioners, St. Patrick kept its doors open until its 50th anniversary in 2000, after which the Archbishop of Edmonton agreed to keep the church running until its pastor decided to retire.
Many of the parishioners have attended the church for decades. Ida DiCesare has since around 1957, when her family emigrated from Italy.
“It’s always here for anyone,” DiCesare said. “It doesn’t matter what race, what colour — it’s always here for you. You’re never let out. You’re always welcomed in.”
Father Andrew Leung, who is the pastor at St. Alphonsus Parish, said it’s always sad when a church closes down.
“There’s a time of reflection. There’s anguish — because you built this church,” Leung said. “The parishioners gave their lives, their hearts and their monies for 68 years to St. Patrick’s. But that doesn’t mean their faith as disappeared. Their faith is still there.”
St. Patrick Parish is set to be sold sometime after the final mass. Its future use is unclear.
Father Stempfle plans to stay involved with the church as he enters his next chapter.
“I could have retired a long time ago but I found that the people were so wonderful and so easy to be the priest for,” Stempfle said. “It was a joy to be with them.”