Centennial reinvigorates St. Leo's parish

  • November 6, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - One hundred years have passed for St. Leo’s, the first church established in Etobicoke, but the small parish is showing a quicker pace. With repairs and purchases planned to restore the church’s beauty, involvement from its community has increased, said Margaret Innes, a parishioner for 35 years.

“There’s lots of hope for St. Leo’s,” she said. “It’s like we’re building it again. It’s neat to go into the 100th like this.”
Innes describes the parish as a very tight-knit community that helps each other out, but that for a few years the parish had been losing members. Now with plans to celebrate the 100th year, beginning with an inaugural Mass Nov. 16, St. Leo parishioners began to raise funds in August for new altar items such as candleholders, a cross, a chalice, an incensor and a ciborium. As of the end of October, the parish was only about $1,200 short of its $13,000 goal. The parish had also raised more than $6,000 to buy festive vestments for the priest, which the parish never had before.

“Beauty is God’s way of seducing us into Himself,” said Fr. Frank Carpinelli, St. Leo’s pastor. “And therefore, we must have a beautiful liturgy and to have a beautiful liturgy, we must also have beautiful churches. The people of St. Leo’s, in renovating the present church, want to create a beautiful space which our children can feel is a sacred space.”

A mission parish since the early 1900s, the current church building was erected in the 1950s. Since then, barely anything has been done to keep it maintained, Carpinelli said, although parishioners “keep it very clean.” Something had to be done to bring its eroding beauty back which is why the building committee has estimated a cost of $1.2 million for building renovations, a plan still in the works.

Building plans include purchasing an air conditioning system and a new heating system. Carpinelli said that among many other things, the building committee hopes to insulate the walls and fix the floor, which was recently stripped of its carpet and now consists of a cracked and hard glue-covered surface.

The community hall, for sale across the street, should help the parish gain some more money to help with the restoration, Carpinelli added.

Along with fund-raisers, the parish also plans to hold celebratory events and activities throughout the year.

Juliet Taguinod, a St. Leo’s parishioner since 1980, came up with the idea to plan a May 2009 long-weekend pilgrimage to a Carmelite shrine in the United States.

“I don’t remember the church having a trip like that,” she said.

Taguinod describes the parish as a place where her faith was strengthened. Having moved six times after she and her husband immigrated to Canada, St. Leo’s was the first place they felt welcome and at home, she said.

“We got more involved and our spiritual life got strong in this parish,” she said.

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