About Our Parish

There is a beauty and grace in coming together as a faith community to worship the Lord.  We are blessed in this parish to have vibrant ministries and faithful parishioners that help to make this happen.  We invite you to use this site to learn more about our parish.

May God bless you in your faith journey.

Deacon Rollie Comeau

Priest's Message

St. Augustine Parish, Ponoka, would like to welcome you to our website. We are delighted to be able to offer you this service in order to keep you updated with information regarding our parish services as well as providing you with information on events and important dates in our community.

Although we will do our best to keep you informed, we would appreciate your contributions and ideas, so feel free to contact us. This website will also be able to provide you with contact details and relevant information and links to help you access other sites and services.

Finally, we would like to welcome everyone to our community and hope this website will join us all together not just in our own local parish but throughout the world.

On behalf of St. Augustine Parish, I hope you will enjoy your online visit to our parish. If you live in the area or are visiting, I invite you to join us for worship at any of our liturgies.You will be made very welcome.

Fr. Shimit Abraham cfic

History of St. Augustine Of Canterbury

Parish, Ponoka, Alberta

St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish began as a mission of Hobbema (now known as Maskwacis) served by the Oblate priests. The missionaries could only visit the Ponoka mission periodically beginning in 1896.

1896

Father Dubois came in 1896, followed by Frs. Lizee and Dauphin. Mass was celebrated most often at the Thomas Kennedy home

1902

Travelling on foot or on horseback over trails carved through the bush, Fr. Vandendale, OMI began to celebrate Masses every 3rd Sunday in the Canadian Order of Forrester’s Hall over Peter Horn’s blacksmith shop.

The baptismal and marriage records show that the first Catholic families were: Fleming, Kennedy, Fink, Drummond, Hagemann, Brady, O’Donnell, Bednar, Bittner, Donovan, Kramer, Farrell and Stoddard

1903

Fr. Van Wetten from Wetaskwin served a very large territory which included Ponoka. The Mission of Chesterwold, about 22 miles west of Ponoka was added to Fr. Van Wetten’s “parish”. Masses in Chesterwold were often said in the Lawrence Doran home.

1904

Four lots were purchased at what is today the corner of 52nd Avenue and 52nd Street. The present church, rectory, garage, etc. (2015) stand on that property.

1907
February 17

Fr. Van Wetten advised Bishop Legal that the people of Ponoka had $100.00 in the bank, $547.00 pledged and were anxious to build a church. Four lots had been purchased for the new church. By June of that year the funds had grown to $600.00 and Mr. John Hagemann was willing to donate the rough lumber to build a church.

1908

Records indicate the initial starting date of St. Augsutine Catholic Church was in the spring of 1908 through the leadership of Louis Fleming, Michael Brady and P. O’Donnell.

1908

A small church 24 ft (7m) X 50 ft (15m) was built. It contained 20 pews along the outside with a “large” center aisle, a coal and wood stove, an altar, a screened confessional and a bell. The pews were rented annually for $10.00 for a full pew and $5.00 for a half. Fond memories spoke of the coal and wood stove that stood to one side at the front of the church and on many occasions would erupt and shower the faithful with soot and ashes.

1908

The first Mass was celebrated in the new church in the late spring or early summer of 1908.

1909
February 1

Fr. Karl Raab was appointed pastor. Fr. Leo Klug was appointed to the Provincial Gaol as its first full-time Catholic chaplain.

1909
February 17

Henry Cottman and Hazel Gartner were recorded as the first couple to be married in the new church.

1909
February 22

Fr. Delestre wrote to Bishop Legal stating that the faithful in Ponoka were very happy with their church and paid off the $760.00 owing for the construction of the church. There was still a bank note for $525.00 and plans were underway for a special celebration and social after Easter.

1909
May 16

Father Leduc blessed the church. Bishop Legal later administered the sacrament of Confirmation in July.

1909-1922

Priests from Wetaskiwin and Hobbema (Maskwacis) continued to serve the missions of Ponoka and Chesterwold.

1922

The arrival of Fr. Graydon Harrison, from Ontario, marked a new phase in the life of the Parish. He served a large area with Lacombe as his home base. His parish stretched west to Buck Lake, and east to Alix, Clive and Bashaw, then north to Ponoka and Chesterwold. Later his parish became smaller and included Ponoka, the mission at Chesterwold, and the Ponoka Mental Hospital (Centennial Centre)

Fr Harrison is remembered as a priest who served his far-flung mission unselfishly to the detriment of his health. He was generous to a fault, giving all he possessed to those less fortunate. Madge Graham of Chesterwold writes, “Our hearts ached many times as he genuflected before the altar and we could see his sock or bare foot through the holes in his shoes."

Chesterwold Mission continued to grow and in 1935 Father Harrison began to celebrate Mass at the Halfway Grove School.

1949

Fr Harrison formed a committee with V. Maloney, L. Morrisroe, K. Abt, R. Galvin, G. Badry and B. Fink. With Fr. Harrison as architect, the committee with the help of members of the Parish constructed the present church.(2015) The original church was salvaged by Killian Abt. The bell on the front lawn was part of the original church.

1950

The new church was officially opened. Under the direction of Fr. Harrison the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) was formed with Ben Haseloh as President. The youth entered floats in the Ponoka Stampede, did skits at the Christmas concerts, had dances and “balls”, organized ice skating in the winter and lawn parties in the summer. Lifetime friendships were formed and several couples were married after having met at CYO.

1950

The Mission at Chesterwold was growing and needed a bigger venue. The Pigeon Creek School was purchased and moved to a site on Sam Doran’s farm. This church was known as St. Mary’s.

1952

The St. Augustine of Canterbury Catholic Women’s Organization was formed.

1956
April

Father Murphy succeeded Fr. Harrison, who had served the parish for 34 years. Fr. Murphy was born in Dublin, Ireland on March 27, 1900 and ordained June 8, 1927 in Edmonton. He served as the first Parish Priest in Rimbey and its missions for 24 years before coming to Ponoka. He was an ardent sportsman and loved to fish, hunt and play golf. His Irish wit, good humor and untiring charity endeared him to all he met. He served Ponoka and Chesterwold until December 1964.

1957

The Knights of Columbus, Ponoka Council was formed in the Parish.

1959

The present (2015) rectory was built with accommodation for the parish priest as well as office space for the parish secretary. (The house just east of it had been the rectory since 1956)

1960-1964

During Father Murphy’s last few years here, the Parish was blessed with assistant priests. Fr. Malcolm Campbell served from July 1960 to August 1961. He was replaced by Fr. Archie Mackenzie who was Assistant Pastor until 1964.

1962

During this time, a new church was built at Chesterwold Mission. The twelve faithful families of that area outgrew the converted school. They began laying plans and cutting lumber for a new church. It was built in 1962 on land donated by Mr. George Fink. A great deal of work was donated by parishioners. The church was dedicated on September 8, 1963 with Monsignor Foran presiding. It was officially named “Our Lady of the Snows”

1962
June 2

June 2 Father Richard Bednar, son of Mr and Mrs Gus and Katherine (Dolly) Bednar of St. Augustine of Canterbury parish was ordained. Fr. Bednar served in the Parish for a brief time and often filled in when our regular pries was away. Fr. Bednar took early retirement due to health problems and passed away in July of 2006.

1962

Fr. Mackenzie, while serving as Assistant Pastor, was instrumental in the formation of St. Augustine’s Catholic School in Ponoka and having members of the Daughters of Wisdom provide teachers for the school. St. Augustine School opened its doors on September 4, 1962.

1962
until the late 1980s

Daughters of Wisdom

Sr. Jacques (Claudette St. Onge) helped to set up Montfort Convent which was situated at 5506 – 47 Ave. Sister Rosalie (Gaukler) and Sister Henriette (Harriet Hermary) were among the first teaching staff at the school. During the following years, Sr. Jean, Sr. Lillian Clark and Sr. Genevieve Hochhausen also taught at the school.

The Sisters played a vital role in the Parish. They devoted many hours in serving the poor, the needy, the handicapped and the elderly. They visited the sick and brought Communion to shut-ins. Sr. Martial (Rita Gilipeau) Sr. Irene, Sr. Lydia, Sr. Mary Cyrille, Sr Monica (Dorothy Cire) Sr. Barbara Dickinson and Sr. Patricia Dubitz served in these ministries. Sr. Monica was coordinator for the Volunteer Program established by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Sr. Harriet Hermary became Pastoral Assistant in 1981 and Sr. Rosalie, Sr. Barbara and Sr. Mary Hamill assisted in enlisting lay people in the Pastoral Care Program.

Over time, the Sisters were no longer involved in teaching at the school and many had moved onto other activities within the order. With only a few sisters left, it was decided to sell the Ponoka residence and the Sisters left Ponoka.

1963
March 24

In a quiet ceremony, Most Reverend A Jordan, OMI, Coadjutor Archbishop of Edmonton, blessed the new Montfort Convent of the Daughters of Wisdom in Ponoka. The convent was located at the Sisters’ house at 5506 – 47 Ave. Present for the occasion were Parish priest, Fr. Murphy, Assistant Pastor, Fr. Archie Mackenzie, Fr. K Raab, Rev. Mother Paul-Marie, Regional Superior of the Daughters of Wisdom, the Sisters of Montfort Convent and a few Sisters from St. Joseph’s Convent in Red Deer.

1965
January 31

St. Augustine Parish bid farewell to Fr. Murphy. A tribute to him was organized at St. Augustine Catholic School where a mock trial accused him and convicted him of stealing – “the hearts of the community”. Father left Ponoka for Edmonton, where, unfortunately he died shortly after on February 21, 1965.

1964-1967

Fr. Malcolm Campbell returned to Ponoka to serve as Parish Priest. In response to Vatican II, he began the first Parish Council in 1966. The sanctuary and interior of the present church (2015) were remodelled.

1967-1970

Fr. Bernie Bryden, was ordained in 1956 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. As our Pastor he was instrumental in setting up the Marriage Enrichment Program and contributed a great deal of time and effort towards establishing Adult Education programs within the Parish.

1970-1973

Fr. Henry Nowakowski was born in Derwent, Alberta and was ordained on January 2, 1962 at St. Andrew’s Parish in Edmonton. He served the parish very well and was especially liked by the elderly in the parish because he was so generous with this time. He will always be remembered for his Parish “family visits”.

1973-1978

Fr. Juniper Kuefler came to serve St. Augustine’s and was a very energetic pastor. He is credited with many successful projects in the parish. A heated breezeway linking the rectory and the church was built, a patio constructed, the church hall was renovated and the yard landscaped with many trees and shrubs.
The Bell from the original church was installed on the front lawn. Research into the history of this bell revealed it was a No. 30 and had been made by the CS Bell Co. It was an alloy of cast iron and steel. By itself it weighed 336 lbs and with its hangings it weighed 570 lbs

Fr. Kuefler was very interested in the Catholic School and served as a board member for two years. He reinstated Catechism at the church for Catholic children not attending St. Augustine School.

1977

“Our Lady of the Snows” at Chesterwold was closed and the Catholic families became part of St. Augustine Parish.

1978-1984

Fr. Lucien Robert helped St. Augustine Parish, Ponoka become the first parish in the Red Deer Deanery to offer RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). The Parish Council worked diligently with Father to shape the liturgical and material well being of the parish.

A committee of concerned parishioners under the chairmanship of Joe and Melda Bragg mobilized the Parish to sponsor a Vietnamese refugee family. They arrived on March 10, 1980. A house had been rented and completely renovated for them. The parishioners donated approximately $8,000.00 as well as countless hours to assist the family.

1983
May 29

75th Anniversary of St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish

Archbishop MacNeil concelebrated Mass with many of the former St. Augustine Parish Priests at 4:00 PM in the gym at St. Augustine School. The Mass was followed by a banquet at the Ponoka Recreation Center. The parish had grown to 350 families from its humble beginnings in 1908. A pictorial remembrance book was published to honor the 75th Anniversary. Many other activities including a Latin Mass and a picnic were also planned for the weekend.

1984-1991

Fr. Anthony Dittrich renovated the Church Hall and helped reorganize the Parish financial records. He was a great mechanic and liked old cars. He often had greasy hands from his labor of love.

1991-1993

Fr. Michael Blanch in his humble and persuasive manner initiated the new liturgy protocol- parishioners began kneeling less during the Celebration of the Eucharist. Church greeters were established and more parishioner participation was encouraged with smaller Christian Communities formed. The Pastoral Care Program was reinstated at this time. Fr. Blanch, who lived in Lacombe served as Administrator for Ponoka and served as parish priest for both St. Stephen’s in Lacombe and St. Augustine’s in Ponoka.

1993-1996

Fr. Tom Morley became our Pastor and lived here in Ponoka. Fr. Tom was responsible for the renovations in the sacristy and creating the chapel. A life size crucifix, altar table and tabernacle were purchased. Fr. Morley will be remembered for his beautiful singing voice, his love for his parishioners and his outgoing manner.

1995-1998

Our parish sponsored a family from Bosnia. In 1998 more members of the family arrived. These families are doing well and living in Calgary after spending five years here in our parish.

1996-1998

Fr. Mathias Kuefler was coaxed out of retirement by the Archbishop to serve the Ponoka Parish. Fr. Matt liked to weld and he designed and built the Advent wreath which is still used in the church.Fr. Matt showed strong financial leadership in our parish as did his brother, Fr. Juniper Kuefler.

1998-2005

Fr. Mitch Fidyka became our first Polish priest. Father Mitch will be remembered for his friendly face, his gentle manner and very inspiring homilies. He was the first Parish Priest in many years to serve another parish besides Ponoka and to have his home located in a parish other than Ponoka.

For one year, 1998, Fr. Mitch served the parishes of Bashaw and Ponoka, from his base here in Ponoka. In 1999, he moved to Wetaskiwin to serve Sacred Heart Parish, “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows” in Hobbema (Maskwacis) as well as Ponoka which made for a very hectic schedule.

1998 marked the last time St. Augustine’s would have a resident priest in our rectory in Ponoka.

2005-2008

Fr. Jim Corrigan enriched our parish with his zest for more parishioner involvement, his wonderful enthusiasm with “High 5s” and love for engaging young parishioners. Under his leadership the parish sought approval to build a new Hall that would be attached to the East side of the church. Fr. Jim had the same hectic schedule that Fr. Mitch did, serving the needs of the parishioners of Wetaskiwin, Hobbema (Maskwacis) and Ponoka.

2008

100th Anniversary of St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish

The year began with the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the lighting of the Centennial Candle by Fr. Jim Corrigan. The parish held a Centennial sleigh ride at the Fleck family farm for all the parish. The Knights of Columbus held a special Centennial Mother’s Day Brunch in May. The CWL organized an old fashioned Tea Party in June where the ladies wore traditional church hats. The parish built a Centennial float for the Ponoka Stampede Parade in June and the seniors of our parish along with some 4th Degree Knights rode on the float which also had a scaled down model of the original church.

September 14th was the official Centennial celebration. Archbishop Smith concelebrated the Eucharist with former St. Augustine priests, Fr. Archie Mackenzie, Fr. Michael Blanch, Fr. Matt Kuefler, Fr. Mitch Fidyka, Fr. Jim Corrigan and resident priest, Fr. Krzysztof Sobanski. The celebration was followed with a banquet emceed by Maria Lentz. Mrs. Laura Wierzba read a history poem she had written and members of our Filipino community performed songs and ethnic dances. Mr. Warren Mack composed a musical accompaniment to a prayer written by St. Augustine of Canterbury. This song was sung at each Sunday celebration throughout the year and is still sung at most 7:30 PM Masses. Our Centennial year was ended with the extinguishing of the Centennial Candle.

Evening Prayer of St. Augustine of Canterbury (written by St. Augustine and put to music by Mr. Warren Mack)
“Watch O Lord, with those who wake, or watch or weep tonight,
Give your angels and your saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend to your sick ones, O Lord!
Rest your weary ones.
Bless your dying ones, sooth your suffering ones.
Pity your afflicted ones.
Watch, O Lord with those who wake or watch or weep tonight.
Give your angels and your saints, charge over those who sleep, and
All for thy Love’s sake.
Amen.”

2008-2011

Fr. Krzysztof Sobanski became our second Polish Pastor. Fr. Krzysz was a member of the Salvatorian Fathers Society and spent 25 years serving in the African missions before becoming our parish priest as well as Lacombe’s. Fr. Krzysz could speak several languages as well as his native Polish. He was instrumental in the establishment of RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children). His kind and gentle manner was appreciated by all his parishioners.

2011-2015

Fr. Chris Gnanaprakasam became our Parish priest. Fr. Chris was ordained in 1976 and came from India. He continues to serve St. Stephen’s Parish in Lacombe and St. Augustine’s Parish in Ponoka.

Unfortunately Fr. Chris had a stroke in May 2015 and was unable to continue his duties as Parish Priest. He moved to Ft. Saskatchewan, the home of his order. He continues to undergo therapy and is improving.

2012
June

Deacon Rollie Comeau of St. Augustine Parish was ordained.

2012
October

St. Augustine School celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Fr. Archie Mackenzie who played such a large part in the formation of the school was able to concelebrate Mass with the present Parish priest Fr. Chris Gnanaprakasam and our former priest, Fr. Krzysztof Sobanski.

2014
December

A couple from Myanmar, became the third refugee family sponsored by St. Augustine Parish. Nan and Kotun were settled into an apartment and thanks to the work of the Refugee Committee, they are doing well and adjusting to a new life and culture. Both have jobs at a local fast food establishment. Learning English has been a challenge but with help from parishioners and St. Augustine School, both Nan and KoTun are making progress.

2015
August

Fr. Shimit Abraham (cfic) - Fr. Shimit became the new Parish Priest for St. Augustine Parish and St. Stephen’s Parish in Lacombe. Fr. Shimit comes to us from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Edmonton, where he was Assistant Pastor.