St. John the Baptist Church

Catholic Women’s League’s “High Tea” popular with local ladies


By Jonathan Martin


Columbus Community Hall was filled to the brim with tea, music and very fancy hats thanks to a recent sold out event.

The St. John the Baptist Catholic Women’s League’s (CWL) annual high tea was once again held at the hall, and, as in previous years, the event sold out.

According to CWL president Sharon Barron, all 150 tickets were gone “almost immediately.”

Bernice Deslippe listens to her friends chat at CWL’s high tea event. (Photo by Jonathan Martin)

“That (ticket number) is really all we can handle,” she said.  “We make all of the food ourselves.  We were here until late last night and were back early this morning preparing it.”

The menu featured a variety of sandwich types, scones, desserts and, of course, tea.  Between the wide assortment of refreshments and the incredible variety of hats, the afternoon was certainly one of heterogeneity.

While the women munched, sipped and chatted, Lauren Baillargeon and Allison Brown provided entertainment in the way of country fiddle, ukulele, mandolin, guitar and vocal tunes.

In addition to playing music, 13-year-old Baillargeon does a little bit of fund raising of her own.  Along with her mother, brother and sister, she has raised around $40 thousand in the fight against cancer.  She and her siblings have even earned themselves a nickname.  Together, they make up the Kids Curing Cancer (KCC).

“All of the money I’m making today will be going towards that,” she said. “The money they will be giving me tonight, the CD sales and the tips from the (instrument) case will all be going to it.”

By the end of the night, Baillargeon had added another $778 to KCC’s list of raised sums.

Carol Laing poses for a photo at the Columbus Community Hall. The Amherstburg Catholic Women’s League used the venue to host their annual high tea. (Photo by Jonathan Martin)

All the CWL’s proceeds were donated to Saint John the Baptist Parish and to local charities.  Its revenue came from ticket sales and purchases from an “accessories table,” where attendees could pick up wearable baubles, purses and the like.

“The generosity of our women is amazing,” said Barron.  “They’re very involved both within the church and in the larger community.  They have very big hearts.”

If the recent event was any indication, they also have very big hats.

Pasta dinner held for Hope of St. Joseph Shelter in the Congo



By Ron Giofu


A pasta dinner fundraiser was held in Amherstburg for a shelter in the Congo with the priest who runs it formerly being based at St. John the Baptist Church.

The shelter was started in 2006 by Father Donato Lwiyando, who the Amherstburg community recently bid farewell to as he is now back in the Congo. Despite Father Donato leaving Canada for his homeland, the social justice committee at St. John the Baptist Church is still moving forward in raising money and awareness of the African women’s shelter.

Mary Beneteau, a member of the social justice committee, said she regularly corresponds with Father Donato and he arrived back home safely.

Father Donato Lwiyando is back in the Congo but the social justice committee at St. John the Baptist Church is still raising money for his Hope of St. Joseph Shelter. They recently held a pasta dinner at the Columbus
Community Hall. (Special to the RTT)

“It’s a little more dangerous there than it was when he visited in the summer,” said Beneteau. “He has to be in before dark. It’s not safe to be outside after dark.”

However, Beneteau said “the girls are fine” and were thrilled to see Father Donato when he returned to Africa.

“He’s getting to know the kids. There are many new ones,” said Beneteau. “He’s happy to be there. He’s been spending time with the girls and his family.”

March is “Month of the Woman” in the Congo so Father Donato has gone shopping with them and purchased fabric for new clothing. He still stays in touch with people locally, including Beneteau, via Skype, Facetime and text message.

“I hear from him every two or three days, at least,” said Beneteau.

While he has built the shelter, Beneteau said Father Donato still dreams of building a school in the Congo. In the meantime, he will work at the shelter fixing beds and doors and trying to provide the girls with blankets and a television.

The St. John the Baptist Church social justice committee held a pasta dinner recently to help Father Donato’s shelter in the Congo. Starting front row left: Rose Shaw, Rose Beneteau, Harry Beneteau. Back row (from left): Larry Allen, Mary Beneteau, Marc Beneteau, Susan Monaghan, Christina D’Aloisio, Ralph Orsi.

Beneteau added electricity is “irregular” in the Congo as it is only available to citizens a few hours per day. A calendar sold through St. John the Baptist Church has provided for solar panels, which helps give the shelter even more access to electricity.

Father Donato sends his love and best wishes to the Amherstburg community, Beneteau added, as he enjoyed his time in the community.

Anyone wanting to purchase a 2018 calendar can call Beneteau at 519-736-6263. The cost is $10.

To donate to the shelter or to sponsor a girl, people can make an e-transfer from their financial institution to or mail or drop off a cheque payable to Hope of St. Joseph Shelter, 273 Fryer St., Amherstburg, ON, N9V 3G7.

For more information, visit

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.”