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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

St. Mary’s bids farewell to Father Vince

by Adam Gault

It was a bittersweet day at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Maidstone on Sunday, August 23, as parishioners gathered to say goodbye to Father Vince Gulikers ahead of his move to service at several different churches in the Goderich area.

Members of the congregation spoke with acclaim of Father Vince’s service to the church community over his three years at St. Mary’s, adding his devotion to the church and connection to its members had set a high bar for future priests within the ministry.

“Father Vince really knows his stuff, the theology part. It was like tapping into a deep well of knowledge,” St. Mary’s parishioner, Richard Bergeron, said. “I found him so inspiring at times.”

Adding to that interpersonal connection, St. Mary’s attendees said it was Father Vince’s ability to go the extra mile to attend to personal matters of church members at the drop of a hat that made his connection with the church one of an extra special nature.

“He has a very personal knack with people,” St. Mary’s Parish Council Chairperson, Jeff Gibson, said. “We had something unfortunate happen in our family, and it was quite amazing how quick he was on the ball and there to support us and guided us right through that situation.”

With that sentiment in mind, Father Vince said that from his perspective, the most rewarding part of his time at St. Mary’s was taking part in so many life milestones for members of the community, whether they were weddings, baptisms, or Sunday celebrations.

“It’s always wonderful to see their faith and their response to the faith,” Father Vince said. “Especially the big celebrations like Easter and Christmas, that’s when you see pretty much all of the community come together. Those are always highlights.”

While serving his final year at St. Mary’s during the COVID-19 pandemic proved to have its share of challenges for the clergy and parishioners, Father Vince said that despite an initial sadness from church members, the St. Mary’s community was able to stay connected throughout the nearly five months without Mass.

“It was a good connection,” Father Vince said of church initiatives to connect members through the sharing of phone numbers and other means of communication. “Most of the people were grateful that we made that outreach and tried to connect with them. A lot of the parishes have found with the COVID that we’ve learned how to communicate to the people in all kinds of different ways.”

In a parting message, Father Vince explained that over the course of his three years at St. Mary’s, he has come to know and love the members of the church, and despite his relatively brief time there, believes life-changing personal connections were made.

“You jump in and you really try to get to know them and love them the way they are, where they’re at, and help them walk through it,” Father Vince said. “Just to be able to say, I really care about them, and I’m going to miss them terribly.”

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