The story of the Nativity shows how the love of God shines from the Holy Family to light up the world. Therefore, it is fitting, that when Ken and Debbie Webb put their family’s Christmas lights up on Holy Family Church in Ucluelet, the locals said it made them feel really happy. Ken is in charge of maintenance for the little Mission Church and Debbie is Treasurer of the Parish Pastoral Council.
Ucluelet is a tiny close-knit community on the west coast that, before COVID-19, would burst into life in the summer with visitors from all around the world. “It is so beautiful to meet those who go to Mass, even on their vacation” say Katherine Loiselle, Chair of the Pastoral Council. The parish is like a family, everyone knows each other. “We know if someone is sick. We know all the children running around in church, (before the pandemic, of course)” Katherine says. Normally, the parish is visited bi-weekly by Fr. Michael Tran, Pastor of the parish in Port Alberni. Fr. Michael celebrates Mass, hears confessions and anoints the sick in all three West Coast Mission churches: Ucluelet, Tofino and Ahousaht. Two Sisters of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, Sister Janet Bayron RVM and Sister Lilia Semeniego RVM care for Holy Family Parish. Sister Lilia explains that when Bishop Gary invited the Sisters to serve as Administrators of the West Coast Mission, he gave them the Faculties to celebrate baptisms, weddings and funerals. The Sisters administer the church, invite and coordinate the volunteers and ensure that everyone’s needs are met. After COVID-19 hit, but before the recent shut down, safe physical distancing meant that the church could only hold 14 people. Sister Lilia is sad because such small numbers meant that often children did not accompany their parents to church. She really misses the children and will try to find ways to safely include them when small gatherings are once again permitted.
The Mission Church both needs and serves the community around. Holy Family Ucluelet relies on trained parishioners to lead the Celebration of the Word with Communion. Katherine explains that catechism classes are ecumenical, all the Christian children in Ucluelet would come and have lunch together. She says that on Good Friday everyone followed the Way of the Cross - along the Wild Pacific Trail, each year everyone got together to make pies and, at Christmas, all the children were in the Christmas pageant. “It was really cool because we always had a pot luck dessert party afterwards,” Katherine chuckled, adding that she is sad that the pandemic means that none of these events will be held this year.
“In addition to being a Mission parish,” Sister Janet says, “our members are also missionaries. Last year when I was away, Katherine and Debbie braved the waves and travelled by boat to help out the Church in Ahousaht.” “We are a small Mission and we would not survive without help from others,” says Katherine. Everyone is grateful for the prayers and financial support of the Diocese. Last year, the Bishop, in his Appeal, mentioned that the church needed a new door. Ken described the old door as rotten all the way through. “The door is our sign of welcome,” he said but one side of it wouldn’t even open!” Hearing of the plight, someone from another parish bought a new door.
“Ask and you shall receive,” Katherine says. She is constantly amazed by how God provides. “Our last priest left, and the Sisters arrived. We did not have Mass, and the Bishop came. Ken was able to put in a new door! God takes care of us.” Sister Lilia shows the light that the Missions draws from and gives to everyone in the Diocese. “By helping out the West Coast Missions, those in our Diocese are all Missionaries, we all grow in faith. We are all one Holy Family.”