St. John the Baptist Church

Community bids farewell to Father Donato



By Ron Giofu


A beloved local priest is heading home to Africa but is leaving with positive memories of his time in the area.

Father Donato Lwiyando has left for his homeland of the Congo with his last day in Canada being Tuesday. Father Donato spent six years in Canada with stops at churches in Windsor and London before coming to St. John the Baptist Church in Amherstburg as associate pastor. His most recent church was Good Shepherd Church in Lakeshore. He also spent time assisting those of African origin in the area.

Upon his return to the Congo, Father Donato will look after the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter he founded.

“I have the shelter and I need to take care of it,” said Father Donato. “We have 40 girls living there in the shelter. I think it’s a good time for me to go and take care of those girls.”

ather Donato Lwiyando visits with parishioners from St. Jerome Church from Windsor during a farewell party March 4 at the Columbus Community Hall. He leaves March 6 to move back to the Congo.

Women and children both live in the shelter, with the shelter being a safe haven for the women who have suffered rape and abuse.

Father Donato said he has enjoyed his time in Canada and made many friends during his time in Amherstburg but it was time to go back to Africa. He said he started thinking about returning in February 2017 and made his decision in January 2018.

“I love the community of Amherstburg. I love it very much,” he said. “I had to choose between friends who are OK and friends who are suffering. I chose those who are suffering.”

Father Donato will also be a parish priest and also hopes to return to teaching in the seminary in the Congo. He will also try and help provide medical treatments to those in his homeland.

“When I went home to the Congo, I found people dying of sicknesses that could have been healed,” he said.

Father Donato’s time in Canada also saw him assist with the Spanish-speaking population near Sarnia. He would visit at least twice per month. He was also involved with other groups that helped spread love and peace in the area.

“I will miss the people. I really love the people of Amherstburg,” he said. “They were very, very kind. I will miss their smiles.”

Father Donato hugs a St. John the Baptist Church parishioner (right) during his farewell party at the Columbus Community Hall.

Adding he will always remember how he was welcomed to the area, Father Donato stated that he will always remember Amherstburg’s generosity.

“The people of Amherstburg are really, really generous,” he said. “I will miss that. I have very, very good memories of this community. I felt very loved, very welcomed. I will never forget them.”

Father Donato also spoke highly of St. John the Baptist Church priest Father Brian Jane.

“He has been very friendly, very supportive and very human,” Father Donato stated. “May God bless him.”

While Father Donato has gone home, fundraising for the Hope of St. Joseph Shelter continues. A pasta and salad dinner will be held at the Columbus Community Hall March 18 starting at 4:30 p.m. The cost is $10 and all proceeds will go to the shelter.

From humble beginnings, seamstress continues to help others



By Jolene Perron


“My life mission is for the love and helping of all people.”

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and raised in Windsor, self-motivated Pamela Murray has had a unique background.

In her younger years, Murray explained she was always involved in dance, and had a love and a passion for entertaining. She loved finding new talent to showcase. She was fresh out of Bruno’s School of Hair Design in Toronto and had just moved back to Windsor when an automobile accident changed her life forever.

“In June 1989, my life changed forever with a horrific car accident resulting in me now being a right leg amputee,” explained Murray. “My desire to do hair professionally and all the hours of hard work was over, but I remembered my love of sewing.”

Since she was a child, Murray had loved to sew. With the help of a friend from school, she started a business plan and learned how to use a computer. She said that was the beginning of her business, Rastafari Dynesty Designs By Dorcus.

“I had very little skills and I opened my first shop on Wyandotte Street in Windsor in 1995,” said Murray. “My first fashion show was in the parking lot of St. John Church, very humble beginning. My shows were very unique and for all ages. We showcased African clothes with live drumming, models and dancing. We did shows in Michigan and as far as Toronto. My love of people and seeing pure joy wanted me to go further. I had a calling.”

Pamela Murray stands with her most recent project, a car seat from a classic car, which she has completely reupholstered from fabric seats to vinyl.

Murray explained she wanted to join the masses and make a difference. She gave up her Canadian rights, packed her bags and travelled to rural areas of third world countries. This is where Murray explained she “met some of the greatest people.”

“These people are hidden and even forgotten about,” said Murray. “I would teach the children basic life skills, help with homework and ethics for work. Things that we don’t even think about, and often taken for granted, like being able to read and write. I would then take the same people young and old and train them. Who wanted to be drummers, who wanted to dance and who wanted to be models, I trained them all. I was teaching them to operate sewing machines. These students were starving to learn and their teacher was ready.”

Murray explained she visited many places by invitation and was always well received. She said everyone she met loved Canada and dreamed of seeing how great our country is. Some of her greatest memories were in Jamaica where she was involved in many shows and her designs were worn by a number of professionals and artists from their music industry.

“They loved me and my endless hours at the sewing machine making and designing school uniforms,” explained Murray. “They would call me a factory because I would work late into the night sewing. Everything that was earned was given back to the community.”

Her most memorable moment was her show, “Santa Claus Comes to the Ghetto,” where, through sponsorships, she was able to provide music, food, drinks and even Santa. The children at the show had never seen Santa Claus. Murray designed the suit and all of the elf clothes, and even had gifts purchased by the sponsors.
“I would do these shows for fund raising for community development,” said Murray. “I raised funds to build school washroom to homes for the elderly.”

Murray adopted five children after their mother died. She put them through school, and raised them to be adults, some of them even have children of their own. Murray said leaving them was the hardest part about returning home, but she had always dreamed about returning. When she came home with just one single suitcase, she didn’t intend on staying.

“I’ve been doing so much for others that I had forgotten about myself,” said Murray.

“I felt instant comfort and the people are so warm and friendly and always willing to offer assistance. I came with one suitcase and now I am living like a Queen because of all the kindness and generosity with the people of Amherstburg and St John (the Baptist) Church.”

Murray lives to serve her current community now, doing clothing alterations, making drapery, pillows and interiors all out of her King St. home. She said there’s nothing she can’t do, and encourages anyone to call her at 519-713-9051 for anything they may need. Since she’s been home, she made friends with Jennifer and Brent Sousie who she said helped to direct her to a whole new level of sewing. Murray even does car seat upholstery, she said she has her friends to thank for it.

“Whether I am in my wheelchair or on my crutches I will work very hard for the people of Amherstburg. I also offer to teach sewing in a group environment,” said Murray. “I have a common sense approach to sewing and I can show how easy sewing can be and I want to share my very special gift.”

St. John the Baptist Church holds Christmas concert to raise funds for new roof



By Jolene Perron


After spending $150,000 on a new roof for the church and the rectory, St. John the Baptist Parish was looking for a way to help ease the weight of the cost when a local group of artists approached them.

Titled, “A Joyful Christmas,” the concert has been played at a number of churches in the area. Daniela Marentette, organizer with Alex Leigh, said they have been trying to help out churches in the area bring in money for a number of reasons.

“We approached Father (Brian Jane), and Father was very open to it so that’s why we are here,” explained Marentette. “We are trying to help out as many churches as we can because they are in need. I am blessed with a gift God gave me, so I’m hoping I can give back to the community.”

Christine Baribeau (right) sings “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” with Dave Banwell during their Christmas concert, “A Joyful Christmas” Dec. 17 at St. John the Baptist Parish.

The group consisted of Lillian Scheirich as concertmaster with WSO, Leigh as a baritone, Marentette as a spinto soprano, Dave Banwell as a tenor, Christine Baribeau as a soprano and Anna Zaidman as a pianist. The group performed an array of songs, from classic Christmas tunes such as “O Holy Night,” “Mary Did You Know,” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” to more eclectic songs such as “Gesu Bambino,” and “Adeste Fidelis.”

“Usually we have the Windsor Symphony Orchestra come in this time but they aren’t coming in this year for the first time in many years, so this seemed to fit since it’s a Christmas concert,” explained Father Brian Jane. “I think it’s a good opportunity for us to experience their particular skills and music. We haven’t heard them before, I haven’t heard them as a group, I have been looking forward to it.”

Daniela Marentette sings “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” during her group’s Christmas concert, “A Joyful Christmas” Dec. 17 at St. John the Baptist Parish.

Father Jane said the new steel roof has already been installed on the church, while they are currently working on installing it on the rectory. This is the first fundraiser they have had to specifically offset the cost of the roof. He said the parish has been looking forward to the concert.

“I feel like it’s great because it’s not only helping these churches that are in need of the funds but also it helps bring music back into the community which is something I think has been kind of deteriorating over the last few generations or so,” said Leigh. “It seems like the arts are being considered less and less important and it’s very nice to see an opportunity to bring it back to life in the community, so to speak.”

Good Friday happenings in Amherstburg


By RTT Staff

There are a few events happening on Good Friday in Amherstburg.

St. John the Baptist Church is hosting its annual procession through the streets of town, weather permitting.

The route is expected to be similar to what has been used in the past. It is scheduled to start at approximately 10:30 a.m. so motorists are asked to be patient should they encounter it April 14.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is also hosting a Good Friday breakfast. It starts at 9 a.m. in the church hall. A free will offering will be collected and there will be gluten-free options available.

St. Andrew’s church service will follow at 10 a.m.

First Baptist Church teams with other parishes on Black History Month event



By Ron Giofu


The crowd that filled St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Friday night got a chance to learn about black history and help another church at the same time.

First Baptist Church held the event in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. John the Baptist Church and Amherstburg Community Church with the evening starting with a tour of First Baptist Church before it headed to St. Andrew’s where the presentations and meal occurred.

“It’s amazing the reception we got from the community,” said Abiola Afolabi, director of outreach with First Baptist Church. “This is a great community.”

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Afolabi, who was born in Nigeria, said she is very interested in black history and wanted to do something for Black History Month. She said it is not only about those of African-Canadian heritage, but those of other cultures who helped during the days of the Underground Railroad.

“It is your history, it is my history, it is everyone’s history that is part of this land,” she told the crowd.

Not only did she thank the churches that teamed together, she also thanked everyone who had a hand in presenting the event. She particularly thanked all of those who attended Friday night.

“It would not be what it is without you guys,” she told the crowd of nearly 100 people.

The evening’s guest speaker was Irene Moore Davis, who educated the crowd on the area’s black history. Among Davis’ many titles are her presidency of the Essex County Black History Society and she told the stories of courage of those who travelled the Underground Railroad and those who helped them along the way. She noted that there were laws in northern U.S. states in that era prohibiting people from helping slaves to escape.

“There were pretty serious legal consequences for people caught doing that,” said Davis.

There were eight readings from community members woven into Davis’ presentation to illustrate what was going on during the Underground Railroad period. Davis noted that slave catchers would cross into Canada to try and capture slaves and bring them back though many escaped slaves still chose to live near the Detroit River in places like Amherstburg.

It is said that 30,000 escaped slaves crossed into Canada, though Davis called that “a conservative estimate” as many didn’t want to let anyone know they were in Canada for fear of being caught.

With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Davis said there is no better time to reflect on lessons people can learn from the past.

“It is important to know the Canada we now have did not take place by accident,” she said, adding the decisions and actions taken years ago by people overcoming obstacles helped shape the country.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also brought greetings and said the stories of African-Canadians have shaped Amherstburg as well.

“We are so rich in history and part of our history is our belief in human rights and that we are all treated equally,” said DiCarlo.

First Baptist Church also held a free will offering to try and fundraise for their church. The George St. church is over 180 years old and sustained water damage about eight years ago. There have been some repairs but church members continue to appeal for funds as they want to further upgrade their church.