St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church is a quiet oasis of kindness and caring. An integral part of the church is Father Frank Stempfle, who has been a priest for over 60 years.
Stempfle was born in 1926 and lived on a farm near Strome, Alberta. He later resided in Primate, Saskatchewan, before returning to Alberta to live on a farm near Hayter.
He was inspired to enter the clergy by the priests he came into contact with as a boy and young man. “We had a very fine parish priest when I was growing up,” said Stempfle. Later on, he attended St. Anthony’s College in Edmonton where he was influenced by the Franciscan priests who ran the school. He spent seven years at St. Joseph Seminary and was ordained in 1952 by Archbishop John Hugh MacDonald.
Stempfle has been a priest at St. Patrick’s twice. His first position at the church began in 1970 and ended in 1978, when he left to be a priest for Assumption Parish. He returned to St. Patrick’s in 1985 and has remained there since then. “It’s a delightful little parish … people are so good to me,” said Stempfle.
The church has a history as well. Archbishop Henry Joseph O’Leary started St. Patrick’s parish in December 1934. The first chapel was at Fairview School at 120 Avenue and 95A Street. Formally opened in 1950, the present building has had only three priests. Monsignor Donahue served from 1949 to 1970. Father Stempfle had his first stint from 1970 to 1977, and then Father Purcell remained until 1985 when Stempfle returned.
Attendance at mass is now “holding its own” said Stempfle, with somewhat fewer than 100 people attending on Saturday afternoons and 100 on Sunday mornings.
At its height, St. Patrick’s had an active Knights of Columbus youth group and men’s club. Some parish women were affiliated with the Catholic Women’s League (CWL). No longer tied to the CWL, this group of women have a history of providing light meals for bereaved families in the church basement. They also run tea and bake sales.
The functional styling of the church is typical of post-war architecture. The idea that form should follow function has resulted in a design that’s functional and simple without a lot of detail. Another characteristic is the use of materials at 90 degrees to each other.
When he’s not attending to his priestly duties, Stempfle is an avid golfer. By all appearances a content and happy man, he credits his good health to walking the green, saying that he plays “three, sometimes four times a week” and still manages to keep up his work at the church.
Members of the parish cherish the priest. “We just love him,” said Kay O’Brian, the church secretary.
Chantal began professional writing while attending Carleton University. She enjoys the history of the Norwood area as well as the cultural diversity along Alberta Avenue.