History of the Era
Sunday, May 27, 1892, was a red letter in the history of the Catholic church in Oshawa. On that day was celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the building of the church. It was made particularly notable by the presence of Archbishop Walsh.
The Archbishops arrived the previous evening on the local train, and was met at the station by the 34th battalion band, and a large number of the adherents of the church. His Grace was accompanied by Vicar-Generals Rooney and McCann, and Fathers Moyna and Garrin. A procession was formed, led by James Gibbons on horseback followed by the band, and the two carriages in which rode the distinguished visitors. A large number of men followed on foot to the presbytery.
A large congregation attended the services in the morning to witness the celebration of high mass. The mass was _sung by Vicar-General Rooney, Father Garvin acted as deacon, and Father Moyna as sub-deacon, Father Hand was Master of ceremonies. At the conclusion of the mass Mr. T. F. Leonard read an address to His Grace from the survivors of those who had planted the foundations of the church in Oshawa fifty years ago. In it they allude especially to the labors of the late Father Proulx, who did so much to enlarge the church accommodations for the people and to enlarge their educational facilities. They concluded by hoping that it may not be long before the Archbishop will be called upon to lay the corner stone of the new church. In his sermon Archbishop Walsh thanked the people for their hearty welcome of the previous evening, and said he was glad to share with them. the joys and sorrows also, brought up on the occasion of this celebration. His Grace appropriately spoke of the temples of ancient times, of the magnificent temple of King Solomon, and of the smaller one which succeeded it, which was grander than King Solomon’s because it was there that our Lord was presented as a child. He said that the humblest Catholic church was more blessed than any temple of antiquity because through the Holy Eucharist it was the dwelling place of the Lord Jesus. He said that every sermon preached by a catholic priest in a catholic church were the words of Christ himself. He gave the reasons why catholics should take an interest in the celebration of the anniversary of this old church. Here it was that many of you were baptized, here great numbers of you were prepared for your first communion, here it was that your marriages were solemnized, and here too was the sermons of the church performed over the bodies of those who had died. He said that during the last fifty years 3088 had been baptized and 383 marriages ceremonies had been performed. Before closing the morning services the Archbishop made a strong appeal on behalf of the building fund. In the evening Father Moyna, of Stayner, preached an eloquent sermon.
The musical performances of the day were a revelation to all who heard them. The rendition of Mozart’s twelfth mass in the morning was beautiful. Mrs. Daley, of Barrie, and Mrs. McKeown, (nee Mary O’Regan) of Hamilton, were the leading sopranos. Four members of the Whitby choir gave valuable assistance. A very large part of the credit for the success of the music is due to Sister Bertha, of St. Joseph’s convent, who trained the choir. The orchestra was under the leadership of Mr. John O’Regan, and was composed entirely of Oshawa musicians. Miss Walsh presided at the organ.
On Monday morning the Archbishop visited the school where he was received by a welcome song from about one hundred pupils, and he was presented with an address and a bouquet of flowers. His Grace kindly granted the children a holiday for the remainder of theday. Afterward he visit. ed the church at Whitby.
On Monday morning a representative of the Vindicator called at the presbytery to gather the facts of the parish and found the Archbishop and his assistants forming a happy family group and very obliging. One of the visiting priests asked if the Vindicator was Michael- McSweeney’s organ of public opinion and upon being informed that it had been in days gone by made a remark that showed that the typo and correspondent has more than a local reputation. According to the facts gathered, mass was first offered in Oshawa in the house of the late Daniel Leonard, who was the first Catholic settler. Fathers Butler, McDonagh, Gibney, and Quinlan in turn attended to the spiritual welfare of the place. Afterwards Oshawa became attached to the parish of Cobourg and was attended by Fathers Kernin and Timblin. In 1841 the first part of the present church was erected under the direction of Father Kernin. J. Hoyt and Stephen Groves were the two builders but they received great assistance from the congregation, who furnished all the material. The principal benefactors and founders were Patrick Wall, Daniel Leonard, Denis Duella, Michael Curtin, Sir Arthur Santry, Richard Supple, Jno. 0’Regan, Sr. and Captain Dunn, of these only Mr. Wall still lives. Before the completion of the church McGregor’s school-house was used for the occasional services. It was not till 1843 that a resident pastor was appointed. In that year Rev. H. Fitzpatrick took charge, leaving in 1844. He was followed by Fathers Nightingale and Bennett, after whom in 1845 Father Fitzpatrick was reappointed, leaving the next year.
The church register next shows that he was followed by Father Nightingale for the second time in 1846. After him came Father Smith, and then in 1848 the Rev. J. B. Proulx, uncle of Chief Justice Lacoste of the Province of Quebec. He lived in Oshawa about twelve years and carried out many important improvements. During his time the church was enlarged to its present size, and a separate school built, a building of one story. He also purchased the lot on which the presbytery now stands, and six lots in Whitby for church purposes. In 1859 Father Laurent was appointed assistant to Father Proulx, and in 1860 Pickering and Highland Creek were made a parish, and Father Laurent was appointed the first priest. Father Eugene O’Keefe came in 1860 and established a separate school at Whitby. The Rev. J. J. Shea came in 1862, remaining ten years. He built the present church at Whitby. Rev. J. McCann built the present parochial residence at a cost of $4,000, and raised the separate school to its present height. He also purchased the new cemetery and made extensive improvements to the church at Whitby and built the separate school there. In 1877 Rev. J. J. McEntee was appointed, and in the following year the church was visited by Archbishop Lynch, who confirmed 70 candidates here and 150 in Whitby. In anticipation of his visit considerable improvements were made to the interior of the church. In 1878 the grounds of the church, cemetery, and the presbytery were planted with trees presented by F. W. Glen, M.P., of which record was made in the church registry. In 1880 Rev. J. J. Kelly was appointed assistant, remaining one year. In the same year Bishop O’Mahoney confirmed 70 candidates in Oshawa and 70 in Whitby. In 1883 the brick stable and driving house attached to the presbytery was erected at a cost of $1,200. In this year the parish was divided, and Whitby made into a separate parish, and Rev. P. J. McColl was appointed priest. In 1883 the first communion was administered to about 30 children. On Ascension Thursday, 1886, Archbishop Lynch confirmed 70 candidates, and paid his last official visit to Oshawa. In 1890 Father McEntree was transferred to Port Colborne, and the Rev. J. L. Hand, the present priest, took charge. In 1890 Archbishop Walsh made his first episcopal visit. A large sum was spent in furnishing the house in this year, and in the month of May the new building fund was commenced, and now totals something in the neighborhood of $3,000.
Shortly after this semi-centennial celebration, Father Hand retired from the Parish, and was succeeded in 1892 by Father Jeffcott, who carried forward the project of building the new Church. This was completed in 1894, Archbishop Walsh having laid the Corner Stone, August 19, and attention was immediately directed to the construction of the beautiful Separate School, completed in 1912, which stands upon the same ground as its predecessor. Father Jeffcott retired from the Parish in 1901, and was succeeded by Father O’Malley from 1901 to 1907, Father Cline 1907 to 1913, and Father Murray 1913 to 1921. Father Bench, May, 1921.