Saturday, August 14, 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of St Mary’s Cemetery.
Prior to the anniversary celebration, the outside of the old St Mary’s Church was repainted and the inside cleaned up.
The commemoration began with a special mass at St Joseph Church followed by an on-site blessing of the graves at St Mary’s Cemetery.
The old St Mary’s Church was opened for viewing – a rare opportunity.
Then everybody proceeded to a blessing of the graves at St Mary’s Visitation Cemetery.
The day concluded with a potluck lunch at the seniors centre in Derwent.
In this article:
- History of St Mary’s Cemetery and Church
- Blessing of the graves – St Mary’s Cemetery
- St Mary’s Church painted
- Blessing of the graves – St Mary’s Visitation Cemetery
- Potluck lunch
History of St Mary’s Cemetery and Church
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, located four-and-a-half miles south of Derwent, was established in 1921. The Bielech family donated land for the cemetery. A main carpenter was hired to manage the construction of a church on the cemetery property. With the help of parishioners, the shell of the church was built. Parishioners worked to complete the building as time and resources allowed.
The first furnishings of the church included plank benches and an air-tight tin heater. There was no lighting in the church, so mass could only be held during daylight hours. Mas was held once every two months, with a priest from St. Michael Parish near Lamont officiating. Priests travelled to the area by train.
In 1938, a bigger, more central church, St. Joseph’s in Derwent was built, and the church on the St. Mary’s Cemetery site was closed. However, gatherings of the faithful at the cemetery site continued twice a year – in May and on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15) – with Mass and a picnic-style potluck meal being enjoyed by all.
The original church, built by Polish pioneers, stands on the St. Mary’s Cemetery site to this day. It is a reminder to us of the sacrifice made by out ancestors in order for the faith to flourish in the area. In recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the St. Mary’s Cemetery site, family & friends in the area gathered to repaint and restore the exterior of the church. The building which brought families together to celebrate their fate an hundred years ago continues to bring people of faith together in the present time.
May we continue to cherish an carry on the legacy of faith handed down to us by the early pioneers.
Blessing of the Graves – St Mary’s Cemetery
After a special mass at St Joseph Church in Derwent, everyone was invited to the ceremony at St. Mary’s Cemetery.
St Mary’s Church Cleaned and Painted
In the weeks prior to the anniversary, the old church at St. Mary’s Cemetery, which has been closed and boarded up for years, was cleaned up and the outside painted.
Trees and weeds were cleared away from the walls.
It was a rare opportunity to enter the old church, still dry and solid, to get a feel for the past.
Blessing of the Graves – St Mary’s Visitation Cemetery
Next, the procession drove to St Mary’s Visitation Cemetery for another blessing.
Jan Noster donated the land for St Mary’s Visitation Cemetery. He placed the cross at the top of the hill.
The original cross still stands today, after 102 years.
Jan later became the cemetery’s first resident.
Afterwards, everyone was invited to the seniors centre in Derwent for a potluck lunch.
Dave Myshak presided and spoke of the history of St Mary’s Cemetery, and of the project to clean & paint the old church.
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