The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada’s newest District Priest in the St. Paul – Bonnyville Parochial district, Reverend Father Peter Haugen, who came to the area on Sept. 1, says he is enjoying St. Paul and described the town as having “a true sense of community.”
“I’ve been here about a month and a half, and from what I’ve seen taking part in parade and rodeo week events in September, there’s an interesting sense of community and fellowship in this town that I’m not used to seeing,” says Haugen.
He adds, “After having lived in Winnipeg while attending my church seminary, as well as in Nanaimo, Vancouver, and Edmonton, it’s different to see how close everyone is in a rural place like St. Paul. I’m thrilled to be back in Alberta, as well.”
Haugen says one of the first experiences that stood out for him in the area was near Lac Sante, where he’d been living, before moving into town.
“It was mind-blowing and exciting to see the harvest. It was something I’d never seen done before.” He adds, “My sons and I got to go on a combine ride and that really gave us an idea, first hand, of the type (of culture) out here. It’s almost shocking how much of a sense of community there is here. People just drop by, and they leave their doors unlocked, and are very friendly. It’s different from what I’m used to, in a good way.”
He says he looks forward to the unique challenges and benefits that being a district priest for a rural area will entail. Haugen says one of his biggest objectives is to work with the six parishes in the area he looks after, to bring the entire district together with a sense of fellowship.
Other important objectives to Haugen include working with the youth and getting more programs for youth running in the area, as well as working with seniors through local programs with care homes in the area.
“I’m trying to get youth involved with the church more, through programs, and am working to have services done at some of the care homes for elderly members of the church,” says Haugen. “Additionally, I’d like to get parishioners involved as well, visiting some of the elderly more often, and helping out with running the services.”
Another important thing to Haugen is establishing a spiritual presence for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the area.
“Everyone knows the cultural centre for their hosting of events, for their catering, and those kinds of things. I’m trying to change that, so we aren’t just known for our food.”
He adds, “We’re already looking for ways to engage the community and show everyone that the cultural centre and orthodox church have a spiritual presence as well. My biggest focus will, not so much, be on the cultural centre, but on the faith and how we can give back to the community as a church.”
Other activities Haugen plans to work with in the community include the Great Lent food drive, and Baskets for the Sick, fundraisers that give back to the community.
He adds, “We’re brainstorming on ideas and options for what else we can do.”