In order to celebrate the Dedication Mass as well as Masses for Christmas and New Years, the parish sought a temporary occupancy permit from the city. A permit could only be granted after the building passed a safety inspection. On Wednesday the 20th, just two days before the dedication, the building did not pass. Several things needed to be done in order for the building to be considered safe for the public to access the Church. The city is responsible to ensure the safety of anyone who enters a building under construction explained Fr. Avi.
“The pews needed to be anchored down, exit signs needed installing, the roof needed to be clear of all debris, the construction materials like dumpsters had to be fenced and the parking lot cleared of ice,” said Fr. Avi.
On being asked by an inspector if he had a back-up plan, Fr. Avi motioned to the heavens saying, “He is my back-up plan.” Then he, along with the renovation committee and many gracious volunteers set to work.
Finally, on December 21st with just a half-hour before the rehearsal for the dedication would begin, the inspection was complete and the permit was granted.
“There were people crying when I announced it,” said Fr. Avi, “We had all worked so hard. The inspector was surprised that we were able to get so much done in such a short time.”
When the dedication Mass took place, emotions ran high for the people who knew what had occurred in the days before, “I was numb and I was praising the Lord for the miracle that he’d performed,” said Fr. Avi.
Though the walls of the church are still unpainted and there is still work to do, the Dedication Mass was a moving event, especially for those who hadn’t yet seen the new worship space.
Christopher Rappel, renovation committee member who is active in many roles at the parish cited Bishop McGrattan’s homily saying that actually, perhaps it was fitting that the Dedication took place amidst the renovations because the church is a work in progress, and so are all of us.
Sandra Will-Krile who serves as part of the renovation committee among other jobs within the church noticed the awe with which the parishioners entered on the day of the dedication. With newly anchored pews, a high sloping ceiling and lines that point to the altar, the new space certainly made an impact.
She said the renovation committee were constantly updated on the progress, so in preparation for the temporary opening, they saw what needed to be done more than what had already been done. “But when the people walked into the space and I saw their faces,” Sandra said, “it was then that I saw it through their eyes.”
The church was full for the Dedication Mass, which “went so smoothly,” according to committee members, despite the seeming chaos that had ensued in the days prior. It was a beautiful moment for all of the parish to see their work and care come to fruition.
To a few parishioners, the anointing of the altar stood out as one of the most beautiful moments during the dedication Mass. The time and care with which Bishop McGrattan took to anoint the altar and walls was noteworthy, as this is the first time that many in the parish had witnessed a rite of this kind.
The feeling of welcoming within the walls of Ascension doesn’t happen by chance; with nearly seven thousand parishioners, Ascension boasts over 900 volunteers active in the parish who might be called the lifeblood of the community. On top of those volunteers there is an active chapter of Knights of Columbus and of the Catholic Women’s League.
Fr. Avi, along with the renovation committee members are ever grateful to these families for their support both financially and physically as the process of taking the building from two semi-separate spaces to one unified sanctuary.
The community currently celebrates Mass in the hall and downstairs rooms. The Mass is projected on screens for the people not present in the main hall. During this time, the outside perception is that this is a rather painful burden for parishioners, but volunteer coordinator Sharron Robinson, along with renovation committee members are telling a different story.
“I think the sense of community is probably even greater with the renovations,” Sharron said,
“The volunteers step up that much more.”
When asked if the current Mass arrangement feels like fragmentation of the community, both Christopher Rapell and Sandra Will-Krile disagreed saying “No, in fact, I think people have adapted to the space that we have quite well.”
They both spoke of the parishioners as a resilient community pulling together to make the space at the church work rather than attending Mass at a school, which was their alternative.
To that end Fr. Avi who had been through parish renovations before said that it is challenging to maintain the sense of community in a different building, “so I asked the construction company and consultants if we could do this in stages.” Evidently, that approach has worked for the congregation, who have worked together to make not only two parishes one, but two sanctuaries into one unified space.
The big hearts of the community has never been more evident, said Sandra, than after New Year’s Day Mass when the new sanctuary had to be cleared of everything but the newly installed pews so that the work could restart.
“We expected maybe fifteen or sixteen people to help move things back into the hall, but we got fifty or sixty!”
As their pastor and renovation committee members would tell it, the people of Ascension are unafraid of hard work and lending a hand to anyone who needs help. With that spirit pulsing through its veins, they have every reason to look forward with hope to the future.
Written by: Jessica Cyr
The theme of Rise Up 2018 was “Come and See” (John 1:39). I was amazed at how much I felt called to “come and see” what God was doing throughout the conference. I was raised Catholic and have placed God at the centre of my life, but I knew that there was still so much that the Father wanted to reveal to me.
On the third night of the Rise Up, all of the students were given the opportunity to be prayed over by a CCO missionary and member of the religious. While I was being prayed over, I could tangibly feel God’s presence and knew that He was calling me to be bolder in my faith and how I share it. Having been Catholic my whole life, it had been easy to fall into the routine of the sacraments and campus ministry, forgetting how life-changing the message of Jesus is.
After being prayed over, I went back to my seat and told God in prayer, “Before I can go out and do your work, I need to be truly convicted in my Christian identity”. Right away, He answered my prayer. God gave me a beautiful image of myself adorned with a crown of flowers and spoke the word “daughter” to me! This reminded me that I truly am a child of the King and that God desires for all His children to come to this realization, as well.
The conviction I received that night at Rise Up gave me the confidence to be more courageous in how I evangelize to the people in my parish, school, and day-to-day life. Experiencing God again and His personal love, I’ve been filled with the desire to invite other people into a relationship with Him and to “come and see” what He has to offer them.
Written by: Mary Serafini
Photo: Catholic Christian Outreach
You are called to become a saint. You have a God-given mission. Catholic Christian Outreach has been speaking these truths into my life since I met the university student movement while on campus 13 years ago.
I came to know the personal love of Jesus by doing a faith study with a CCO missionary when I was 22. Since then I’ve been to the annual Rise Up Conference seven times in six different Canadian cities, but this time was different. I got to go as a workshop presenter with my husband on the topic of ‘holiness in the world.’ It was inspiring to hear the ways young adults are boldly living their faith in the world, and eye-opening to hear the challenges they are up against in the culture.
Sharing with you a baptism story of Yuan Wang, a member of the University of Calgary Catholic Community. Wang is a Mechanical Engineering student at U of C, and he was baptized on Dec. 8 (Solemnity of Immaculate Conception) by Fr. Cristino Bouvette at Sacred Heart Church, Calgary.
After being baptized and living a Catholic Christian life for a couple days now, I can definitely say that I’m so glad I made this decision and I couldn’t be more happy and at peace. However, to be frank, I was a little nervous the last half hour before my baptism. But as the mass began, the nerves started going away and I just got more and more excited. To be supported by so many loving friends and to be part of such an amazing Catholic community is such a big blessing.
I am beyond grateful and so thankful for everyone that has been supporting me and helped me be where I am today. I am super excited and happy to be part of such an awesome family. Being able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time was an amazing experience. It has given me a whole new meaning to mass. After being a spectator, more or less, for the past 3 years, being able to finally take part in communion has been amazing. It is still surreal and crazy to think about the fact that I’m a Catholic now. This was a crazy and long journey, but everything worked in God’s time. Now it’s the beginning of a new journey as I try my best to live a Catholic Christian life.
Written by: Yuan Wang
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers