At the invitation of local pastor Fr. Augustine Osei-Bonsu, Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen visited the parish communities of St. Mary, Wynyard; Christ the King, Foam Lake; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Wishart, SK, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2022.
The pastoral visits Dec. 17-18 included celebration of Sunday Mass in each parish, as well as parish and community social gatherings. The bishop also heard more about some of the pastoral challenges facing the Catholic communities.
“The parishioners that make up these Catholic communities are very faithful and supportive,” said Bishop Hagemoen, reflecting on the pastoral visit.
“In spite of that, the shrinking community in Wishart has been struggling with its operation since the pandemic, and has been discerning whether the parish should close,” he said.
Unlike Wynyard and Foam Lake – who have seen their communities stabilize over the last few years – Wishart has been more affected by the shifting demographics that many prairie communities have experienced when population declines and services such as schools and businesses leave the community, the bishop noted.
“The visit was therefore an opportunity to discuss with the parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Wishart, about ways to continue to operate, and also – if they ever made the decision to seek “decommissioning” as a parish — about the vision for the community beyond such a decision,” he said.
A meeting with parishioners following Sunday Mass in Wishart featured much discussion and many questions. Following the meeting the community continued their time with the bishop by joining together for a pot-luck lunch.
“My own impression is that the community will take at least the coming New Year to continue to discern next steps and their future,” Hagemoen said. “However, whatever happens – this is a faithful community that will persists in their faith life, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months.”
Community celebration in Wynyard
The visit to St. Mary Parish in Wynyard, SK for Saturday evening Mass on Dec. 17 was followed by a community celebration in the local hall, that included the participation of Filipino Catholic parishioners, and the donation of $700 that they raised in support of the parish at Wynyard .
History of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Wishart: