For decades Louise Ripley has served St. Dominic Savio Parish in different roles as lector, catechist, Eucharistic minister, parish council member and more.
She joined the northeast Edmonton parish 40 years ago when it was twinned with St. Francis of Assisi Parish. She arrived just after the parish rectory was built in 1972 and the church building was erected in 1974.
Ripley witnessed the church hall renovations and new kitchen facility in the basement in 1998 and the five year church interior and sanctuary update starting in 2010.
“The area served has had population growth, and individuals and families from many cultures have embraced and brought rich cultural diversity to our celebrations and parish life,” said Ripley, a former St. John Bosco School principal.
“The Catholic community of St. Dominic Savio is a nice little family: humble and simple,” said pastor Rev. Sagayaraj Devadoss.
The community began meeting in St. Dominic School Hall 50 years ago. Today it’s an active Salesian parish with more than 2,500 registered parishioners.
In the beginning St. Francis of Assisi Parish covered such a large pastoral territory that several families saw a need to begin a new parish. In 1970, they approached the Salesians to pastor their fledgling community, and since the religious order was already serving at the nearby St. Mary’s Catholic school, they agreed.
The Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious order founded in the late 1800s by Italian priest St. John Bosco to help poor children. It’s named after St. Francis de Sales. And St. Dominic Savio was an Italian student of St. John Bosco who led a holy life before his death at age 14. The jubilee anniversary falls on the weekend closest to St. Dominic Savio’s feast day, May 6.
“Our parishioners love to identify themselves as ‘Dominics’ and they are proud of it.” Is this not something wonderful,” said Father Devadoss.
St. Dominic Savio Parish shares the Salesian mandate to focus on serving the needs of young people. The Salesians have primarily served the parish, but the Fransicans, the Congregation of Holy Cross and diocesan priests have also pastored the parish.
When Father Devadoss took over from diocesan priest Rev. Gabriel Udeh three years ago, his main goal was to revive youth and family outreach. For the last couple of years he’s worked with the Archdiocese of Edmonton and local parish to come up with a plan to hire a new youth and family minister this summer.
Currently there are 15 or so youth who faithfully participate in parish life and Father Devadoss believes the parish can reach even more young people.
“We will try to help young people to grow as good Catholics. We will have activities all geared toward this,” Father Devadoss said.
James and Maureen Merkosky are grateful for the support they received from the St. Dominic Savio community in raising their family. Over the course of 27 years all five of their children have received their sacraments there and they have all been actively involved in many parish ministries.
“Most of us play an instrument (guitar, piano, trombone, flute, cello) and sing with some degree of proficiency, so the music ministry is close to my heart,” said Maureen Merkosky. “Our love of music has brought us many hours of making a joyful noise to the Lord, and I am a strong believer in sharing our talents with our parish.”
Their active participation has allowed them to make lasting friendships and feel a sense of belonging.
“One of the best parts of St. Dominic comes from it’s smaller size where you actually get to know the parishioners and priest,” said Maureen Merkosky. “We have been blessed to make friendships and relationships in our parish, and we truly feel part of the community here.”
Lucky and Henrietta Eremionkhale couldn’t agree more. The last Sunday of every month they attend an African Mass with their two children at St. Dominic Savio (either in person or online due to COVID-19 restrictions).
“The African Mass can get loud, interesting and very lively,” said Lucky Eremionkhale, president of Nigerian African Catholic Community Edmonton and Glorious Voices Choir leader at St. Dominic Savio Parish.
“Praise and worship songs are sung in English, Latin and many African languages, including Igbo, Esan, Yoruba, Hausa, French. We clap, sing and yes, we dance to the glory of God. The clothing at Mass can be flashy and very colourful, with the rich culture of African attires.”
Since the Edmonton African Catholic community began gathering in 2016, it’s grown from 50 members to 250 people from across the city and as far as Fort Saskatchewan.
“St. Dominic Savio Parish has been a wonderful host parish for the African Catholic Community Edmonton,” said Lucky Eremionkhale, a member of the St. Dominic Savio parish council and the youth advisory committee.
“The parish is a family friendly community church, with open doors for everyone and a lovely place to serve God and develop your faith.”
Father Devadoss is proud of the diversity that has always existed in his parish. His love and enthusiasm for his parish is evident in these words of prayer, stewarding his flock into the next 50 years.
“May God bless our efforts and may St. Dominic Savio, who was formed in the school of St. John Bosco, inspire our young people. May Mary, Help of Christians, protect all our parishioners.”