Youth help build new parish

By  Daniele Muscolino, YSN
  • November 2, 2006
SUDBURY, Ont. - When Matthew Schouten found out his parish church was closing and merging with another, he immediately decided he would lend a helping hand. The 18-year-old was one of many young people who came together to create a brand new place of worship for their small town of Espanola, 45 minutes outside of Sudbury in the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

Approximately 3,000 Roman Catholics in the small community now have a new place to call their spiritual home. The bilingual St. Jude parish officially opened Oct. 22 and it was dedicated by Sault Ste. Marie Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe after almost one year of discussions and plans.

St. Jude parish replaces two former places of worship in the small community. Earlier this year the churches of Good Shepherd and St. Louis-de-France closed while Good Shepherd was renovated to eventually fit the needs of both communities.

Schouten saw the project as an exciting challenge for his hometown.

"I think the merger was a great idea — it brought two communities together into one," he said.

Schouten spent many hours helping in any way he could during the renovations.

"I would stop here on the way back from school just to give a helping hand."

Four months and more than 12,000 volunteer hours later, the impressive new church was unveiled to parishioners who stood in awe and let out gasps of joy. Plouffe described the day as a "powerful sign of unity and dialogue among the people." 

Espanola, which was hit with devastating news recently after hundreds of jobs were cut at the local paper mill, had something to celebrate this day as it had created a stronger, tighter community.

"I am so grateful to all of you," Plouffe told the more than 250 parishioners who filled the church. "This new parish has become a place of hope for your community, a place where the presence of God can be experienced."

Fr. Terry Fournier, Good Shepherd's pastor, commended the youth of the community for their hard work in helping the parishes merge.

"The young people have played a vital role in the merger and will continue to in the future of this new parish," said Fournier.

Many of the youth did anything they could from moving filing cabinets, lifting pews and even sharing ideas on how the church should look.

"I think it was important to involve the youth (in the renovations) — youth have good ideas and we think a little differently than adults," said Schouten.

"It was sad to see my parish close, but everyone is happy today. We have a new building, a new community," said Ryan Arbour, 19. "Everyone came together to make this day happen, and the church looks great."

Jodi Telfer, 24, looks after youth events in the parish and is eager for this new adventure.

"Our youth involvement continues to grow and much will remain the same," said Telfer.

The young people of the two parishes were used to being together, as most of the youth events were joint efforts before the merger.

"We want to focus on bigger gatherings this year as the parish gets acquainted with itself. We have a musical production based on Noah's Ark coming up and the young people are excited," said Telfer.

Fournier has high hopes for youth involvement in the new parish. He calls his parish a vibrant young community and with more resources he hopes the parish will be able to offer the community more.

"Now that we are under one building we will have some financial resources to focus on pastoral outreach and youth is one of our priorities."

(Muscolino, 22, studies communications at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont.)

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