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Sr. Juliana Heisler: Parish honours retiring parish life director

03/11/2012: Canada

Members of a Saskatoon parish recently gathered to express appreciation to the woman who has been their pastoral leader for the past 18 years.    

It was a pastoral leadership model that she pioneered, as the first parish life director appointed by the bishop — called to serve as a non-ordained pastoral leader who works in partnership with a priest moderator to care for a parish.

Rev. Ron Beechinor, vicar-general of the Diocese of Saskatoon, recalled the dilemma Bishop James Mahoney faced some 18 years ago when he did not have a priest available to serve as pastor for the east side parish, and the inspired solution to appoint a parish life director. Mahoney was confident the idea would work, because he had the right person to take on the challenge, said Beechinor.

Heisler had the heart, the gifts and the energy needed to make this new idea of a pastoral team a working reality, described Beechinor.

Her pioneering example has since led to the parish life director model of leadership being implemented in other parishes across the diocese, he noted.

Sister Kay MacDonald, NDS, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes, spoke about Heisler’s commitment as a Sister of Sion, which began with her entry into the community 62 years ago, and her final vows 54 years ago.

She “embraced the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, lived in a community and in total outreach to others. And in the past 18 years, those others have been the people here at Lourdes,” said MacDonald.

“Our vocation calls us to hold three aspects of the mission of Christ in our prayers and our work: love for the church, love for the people of Jesus, and for the Jewish people, and commitment to social justice in our world,” said MacDonald, describing how Heisler lived out the Sion charism throughout her life. “She has made it a point to be sure that her service here at Lourdes has also expressed Sion’s responsibilities in the church.”

Parish youth co-ordinator Dan Brulé spoke of Heisler’s profound commitment to youth, her welcoming spirit, and her enthusiastic efforts to involve parishioners of all ages in their faith and in the life of the community.

Parish Council chair Sue Dosman and her husband Jim concluded the program, expressing appreciation to Heisler for her years of service.

“After your skillful guidance for these 18 years, our parish has thrived, our numbers have increased,” said Jim. As a leader, Heisler juggled and blended a diverse group into a united parish, “and we have more excellent choirs than there are Sundays. Only you could pull this all off.”

Sue reflected that what enabled Heisler’s parish to thrive was her nurturing spirit. “You lead through relationship,” she said. “Your people are fuelled by you, and you are fuelled by your people and your God.”

Heisler, in turn, expressed her appreciation. “This was certainly the parish to come to, because of all the children who are here,” she said, noting how her love of teaching continued in the parish setting.

She recalled the assistance of the many priests she worked with over the years in providing pastoral leadership. “Little did I know I would be here this long!”

With Heisler’s retirement Bishop Don Bolen has appointed Rev. Phong Pham as the new pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, as one of the appointments in the diocese that took effect July 2.

Praierie Messenger