On Saturday Sept 16, 2017 the St. Joseph Parish hosted a community picnic “To celebrate God’s abundant goodness.” There was food and entertainment with a barbecue, games, a little petting zoo, a jumping castle, activities for the kids and tours of the chapel showcasing the building beautification projects. It was a well attended event and the weather was perfect.
The first mass to consecrate St. Joseph’s Parish was held a hundred years ago, on Sept 1, 1917. The church has occupied the current property since 1926 when a little chapel building was moved to the site, but fifty years later the original timber foundation was no longer sound and rennovations did not make sense, so a new, larger chapel was built in 1977.
In the past two years the chapel has undergone some beautification under the leadership of a beautification committee. There are new stained glass windows and the sanctuary now has curved white wall panels in front of the original dark wood. “It lightens it up and gives it a bit of life,” says parishoner Jim McClellan who has lived in Vanderhoof for 21 years.
Maggie Saito headed up the stained glass window project which has been completed in time for the 100 year anniversary. Six new stained glass panels have been placed infront of previously plain yellow-tone textured glass. “We wanted to beautify it a bit and make it more inviting, said parishoner Laurie Wallace smiling, “It’s like when you’re expecting guests over, you get your house ready. We had the goal of getting the projects done for our 100th birthday celebration.”
The rennovations aren’t limited to the chapel. There is new panelling on the south side of the school building. And the school gym has been painted and the floors stripped, waxed and polished. There are plans to continue the work and replace the hall blinds and stage curtains.
“It’s nice to see that people within the congregation are working together to try to beautify the property and the premises somewhat,” he continues. “And you know, it’s not all about the property and the buildings, however, when you see new things are happening and initiatives occurring it means maybe that their faith is alive too. And it helps people. It revitalises people when they see that we are revitalising the property. It adds a little life,” says McClellan.
“People who have come to join the anniversary picnic today maybe have not had a reason to visit before. I’ve seen people here I haven’t seen in years,” he adds.
Former priests have also come to visit on this occassion. Father Pier is the new priest who started in August. He has moved to Vanderhoof from Smithers to take over from Father Rene Antonia who moved on to Chetwynd.
Stained glass windows
St. Joseph’s 100 anniversary brochure on the history of the Parish explained that the stained glass windows in the church were created in the 1990’s but finishing all of the windows was halted due to time and expese limitations. Last year, efforts renewed to fundraise and find a method that was not as costly to finish the six remaining windows.
“We are happy to say they are in place and finish telling the stories they were meant to represent. The vestibule is now home to a three-paned depiction of the nativity, while the remaining church windows depict the ‘Annointing of the sick’, ‘Community’ and ‘Reconciliation’.
The six new stained glass windows are faux stain glass panels. Each one is “a big piece of plexiglass with lead tape to give the stain glass look.”
“The plans are to eventually to make the actual stained glass, but we know it’s going to be expensive and it’s going to take some time. So we did this for the 100 anniversary,” says Saito. “People from the congregation gave their ideas for the designs. We used the ideas and made these so that when we do the real stain glass one day it will be easier.”
Even though most of the ground work was done by Maggie, she insisted she got a lot of help. “What was really great was it was a group effort. There was a table for each panel and everybody just came and painted them.” That brought on the idea to provide printouts of the stained glass designs for children to colour at the community picnic on Saturday.
“With the rennovations we want to hold more community events,” says Saito. “The school has been shut down for several years now.”
“A lot of people still miss the school of course, but the church remains active. The chapel is the focal point of the property,” says McClellan.
“We would to invite the community to use the school building, especially the gym. Every Spring we host a community yard sale,” says Saito. “The concession part of the event raisies funds and we split it with something in the community, a community project. So every year we choose something different to put the money towards”, she says. They put money towards the pool and helped Northside Church to help raise funds for a refugee family last year.
“It’s especially great to support interfaith projects. Vanderhoof has over 14 churches but there isn’t conflict. For example, all the churches come together and do the soup kitchens at Neighbourlink. Every church takes on a different week. It’s so nice.”
Maggie Saito has been in Vanderhoof for 7 years now. She moved here from Edmonton. “In a big city there are a lot of things that are convenient. But here you can actually make a difference for your community.”
”You can join any group and you get to know most of the population. When you do something you can see the difference, as opposed to in a big city you’ll do something and just a small group of people notice it. Because it’s interfaith things, not just one group, so there is a bigger outreach.”
Father Pier Pandolfo
There has been a new priest for St. Joseph’s Parish since August. His name is Father Pier of the Prince George diocese, and he is celebrating an anniversary of his own; 25 years as an ordained priest. His last assignment was in Smithers and before that Kitimat.
“The people here in this church community are very generous and hard working,” says Father Pier. “What animates them all is they are very creative they don’t wait to form a committee, they just get the work done. There is a core group here that has been here for a long time, that has formed a back bone to help the work get done.”
“This is the first time that I’ve lived in what I would call a farming community. And there’s just a rootedness to the ground. Like when you plant a seed here, it’s going to come up no matter what,” says Father Pier.
”The people here look for the goodness in everything. They look for the good out there. It makes a difference in conversations.”
Father Pier concluded by saying on behalf of everyone at St. Joseph’s Parish “Thank you to all the people of Vanderhoof for helping us celebrate this jubilee anniversary.”