He has a calling to serve and for Rev. Peter Meyer, that calling has brought him to Elmira.
Serving as the newly appointed pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Father Peter is thrilled to be back in Waterloo Region.
“I was at St. Anne’s Parish in Kitchener for four years and just before coming here, I was at Holy Rosary Parish in Milton,” he said. “I’ve now been in Elmira for the last 2 ½ months and the town and the parish community are both very welcoming and vibrant.”
Father Peter also makes regular visits to the affiliated building next door, St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School.
“In Milton, we had larger schools with over 2,000 students. I appreciate working with schools, large or small, and I enjoy working with children, parents and staff. Here, there are about 200 children at the school. I’ve really noticed that families like it because they get to know the teachers and teachers really get to know their students,” Father Peter says. “And we share community events with one another. It’s a great back and forth between the two of us.”
But for Rev. Meyer, his ties to the community of Elmira, run deeper.
“My mother was raised in Elmira and my parents met at the bandshell at a local Park,” he says. “I really enjoy this community. I like to walk along the Kissing Bridge Trail and it’s just such a friendly atmosphere.”
There are about 300 parish families who attend St. Teresa of Avila Church.
“The parish community here is very active. They like to volunteer, and they like to socialize after mass. They are very keen to share who they are with me. We have some parishioners who were born and raised here and then we have others who are just new,” Father Peter says.
“My hope for the parish is to learn about the history of the people and to also learn about their present lives and ask about their hopes and dreams.”
Father Peter shares a saying from Habakkuk from the Old Testament that remains close to him, which he keeps framed in his office at the church. “The vision still has its time, eager for its own fulfilment. This relates to our parish community.”
For Rev. Meyer, his passion lies in discovering who Jesus is in his own life and also, in the lives of others.
“I’m just the new priest here, but this is their parish. I want to know where they come from and who they want to be,” he says.
Father Peter has been a priest for over 20 years
“I always went to church with my family but it wasn’t until I was older, about 20 years-old, that I was involved with a youth group and I got to know some young priests who were very open, vibrant and supportive,” he said.
“They presented themselves in a very human and real way.”
And for the St; Teresa church community, Father Peter says he too wants to strive to have a welcoming community, where parishioners can be open and speak to anyone. “If anyone has any questions or concerns, I want them to know they can approach me.”
In 2001 St. Teresa Parish celebrated 150 years as a parish community.
It began as a small country Parish in North Woolwich in 1851 and then moved to a larger church on Centre Street in Elmira in 1889.
Always an active community, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the church not only held religious services, pious societies and offered religious education for children, but it also hosted social and athletic activities, such as garden parties, bingo, Holy Name Hockey, and boxing matches in the church basement.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the beginning of the Catholic Women’s League and the Holy Name Society for men.
In 1992, the Parish moved its place of worship to the beautiful, modern church of St. Teresa on Flamingo Drive which holds about 500 people.
The Resurrected Christ on the wall behind the altar is portrayed with Jesus holding his crown of thorns while reaching with the other hand to His Father in heaven – symbolizing victory of life over death.
The scene below depicts both Calvary and the empty tomb. The pregnant Mary, off to one side, depicts the Virgin with one hand resting on her body and the other extended as if to invite everyone to feel the movement of the child within.
The statue of St. Teresa of Avila expressing wonder and awe appears in the gathering space.
All sculptures are created by local sculptor, Tim Schmalz.
“It is through God that we learn together. Where two or more are gathered, God is there,” Father Peter said.
He looks forward to learning more about his new community. “I’m happy to be here and I’m so happy to get to know the community. And I just want to keep learning how to serve them.”