St. Louis Church served all the Catholics in Waterloo until 1949. It soon became apparent that ore churches were needed to serve the growing Catholic Community. Our Lady of Lourdes Church was built in 1952, followed by St. Michael’s in 1962.
St. Agnes school opened in 1956 with Fr. Hubert Gehl, pastor of St. Louis, tending to the pastoral duties and spiritual needs of the school children.
Later, when an addition and gym were added to the school, Fr. Clarence Weiss, who succeeded Fr. Gehl, celebrated the first Sunday Mass at St. Agnes on December 13, 1964.
At the request of His Excellency Bishop Joseph Ryan, the Pallottine Fathers were invited in August 1967 to establish a new parish in Waterloo – St. Agnes. The first pastor was Fr. Alois Justen, SAC. He celebrated his first Mass for the new Parishioners of St. Agnes on the First Sunday of September 1967, in the school gym. With approximately 450 families to care for, five Masses were scheduled for each Sunday. In 1968, a sixth Mass was added at 5 p.m., and usually took the form of a Folk Mass. Daily Masses were said at 8:20 a.m. in the rectory at 241 Vermont Street – a house located at the top of the large staircase by the rear of the parking lot. It was clear that a church was needed and discussion with the Bishop in request of a proper church was regularly brought forth.
A key obstacle in being able to proceed with the building of a church was funding for land and availablility of land on which to build. The John R. Kieswetter Sr. family owned the farmlands on which sit the current Bluevale High School and our church lands. Sons & parishioners Jerome & Harold Kieswetter steered a decision made by the family to donate a portion of their lands to make possible the building of the church. This donation paved the way for commencing the construction. The architects, Horton and Ball of Kitchener, unveiled their sketch plans to the building committee in June 1968; a model, presented at the June Parish Council meeting, was favourably received. The lowest of five tenders was awarded to Karley-Kroetsh Construction, at a cost of $444,000. The sod-turning ceremony was held on November 24, 1968, and construction began the next day.
The blessing and dedication of the present St. Agnes Church was held on Sunday, November 2nd, 1969.
Agnes the Saint
A statue of our patron saint stands watching over us from the vestibule of the church. Agnes died in the year 304 AD at the tender age of thirteen. She was brought to the attention of the Roman emperor Diocletian, by unsuccessful suitors who resented her devotion to Go an not to them. She was tortured, humiliated, and finally beheaded because she resolved to live a life of purity, consecrating her virginity to God. She was buried on the Via Nomentana, where a cemetery was later named for her.
Agnes came to represent innocence and purity. She is a constant reminder of the words that Jesus spoke: “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a childe will never enter it.”
We remember and pray to our patron saint at every Mass, and we honour her on her feast day, January 21.
In 1992, the children of St. Agnes school filled a book with prayers devoted to her. We would like to share this one with you:
Prayer to St. Agnes
You devoted your life to Christ, You died for God Above,
Thank you for all the things we have,
Our friends, our families and love.
Please watch over us, and keep us from sin,
Help the less fortunate who have no house to live in.
Also please forgive our faults, Help us not to lie.
And we will pray to you, St. Agnes, Until the day we die.
– Melissa Fitzgerald, Gr. 7/8 (1993)
The Bells of Saint Agnes
Each of the four bells in the tower has a distinct sound and a separate dedication. They can be rung one at a time or in unison.
The first reminds us of the Beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The second, the Angelus or Peace bell, reminds us of “Mary, Queen of Peace” and our wish for “Peace on Earth.”
The third recalls a hymn by St. Thomas “Godhead Her in Hiding Who I Adore.”
The fourth bell signifies the motto of St. Vincent Pallotti, “For the infinite glory of God.”
May the sound of the bells ring clearly in our hearts, and remind us that we are part of a building that has the apostles an prophets for its foundation, and Christ Jesus for its cornerstone.
St. Vincent Pallotti
New members of St. Agnes Parish will soon hear about St. Vincent Pallotti and the Pallottine Fathers, and may wonder who these people are.
Vincent Pallotti was born in Rome in the year 1795, and was ordained as a diocesan priest on May 16, 1818 in the Lateran Basilica in Rome. He did not wish to seek appointment as a parish priest, but instead chose a more ‘freelancing’ type of priestly career that gave him the opportunity to do pastoral work in a variety of fields.
After finishing his doctoral studies, he worked as a tutor at university. In 1825, he became spiritual director at the Roman Seminary, a position that he held for ten years. During all this time, he also worked as a spiritual director of various youth groups and ‘young worker’ organizations. Other activities included giving religious instruction, preaching sermons, hearing confessions, and providing aid to destitute people.
In 1835, he was given the responsibility for the missionary training of young men from foreign mission territories. It was at this point that Father Pallotti became involved in organizing aid to foreign missions, an activity for which he enlisted the help of lay people. It was also around this time that he started forming the idea to mobilize and organize the laity in the apostolic work of the Church.
Vincent Pallotti tried to implement his idea on a small scale by forming a community of priests and lay workers that he called the Society of Catholic Apostolate. The young community grew and became very active in the education and housing of the unemployed and homeless youth, and proved itself by providing extensive spiritual and material aid to people when Rome was hit by a cholera epidemic in 1837.
Vincent Pallotti’s idea of enlisting the laity in the apostolic work of the Church was, for that time, very unusual and progressive, since that work had always been considered to be the exclusive task of the priesthood. Some Church authorities opposed Father Pallotti’s idea, and gradually caused the transformation of the original community of priest and lay workers into a society of priests and brothers who had been original core members of the Society. These men are the predecessors of the present-day Society of Catholic Apostolate, also called the Pallottine Fathers
Vincent Pallotti died on January 22, 1850, was beatified by Pius XII in 1950, and declared a saint on January 20, 1963 by Pope John XXII during the Second Vatican Council.
The Pallottine Fathers
In August 1967, the Pallottine Fathers were invited by Bishop J.F> Ryan of Hamilton to establish a new parish, St. Agnes in Waterloo Father Alois Justen, SAC, was appointed the first pastor. Since then, St. Agnes has been guided and cared for by ten Pallottine Fathers, including our current pastor, Father Joseph Dephoff, SAC. During the past 27 years, our parish has grown under the leadership of the Fathers, into an active and flourishing faith community with abundant involvement of the laity, in keeping with the spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti.
At the turn of the century, the Pallottine Fathers were branching out to Germany and other countries. Provinces were established in 1909. The German province headquarters in Limburg was the largest. After the Second World War, the Society of Priests was organized into 10 provinces and 6 regions.
It was during WWII that the Pallottine Fathers came to Canada. Today, they are working on all continents.
During Vincent Pallotti’s life, the mission congregation of Pallottine Sisters was founded, and its members now work in various mission fields. The modern Pallottine community is made up of ore than 2000 priests an brothers, and several hundred sisters.
It is within the Pallottine community that the vision of Vincent Pallotti, the involvement of the laity in the apostolic work of the Church, has been kept alive. It was the Second Vatican Council that opened up the possibility of implementing those ideals.