Holy Rosary Parish St Stephen 1887 - 1977
and the Early
Years by Ann Breault
Since there had not been much
going on in the communities since Christmas, the WI concert followed by “a
ladies please bring refreshments” lunch was a welcomed event.
The eating part really gave the folk a chance to socialize and get caught
up on the news. Addie was sitting next to Mum and the conversation was about
the ministers who had served the church she attended and what each one accomplished
for the parish. She spoke of Parson Handford who served from 1860 until 1896
and had baptized, married and buried many of her relatives. Her aunt had kept
house for him for several years. Listening to her I realized ministers played
an important role in what “got done” in the church parish.
In 1977 Ann Breault compiled a history of the Holy Rosary Parish in St.
Stephen. The first part of the book deals with the beginnings of the Catholic
Church in Charlotte County from the time of DeMonts and Champlain’s arrival
on St. Croix Island in 1604. It tells of the Faith among the Passamaqoddy
aboriginal community; of the building of the church in St. Andrews in 1825;
of the missions of Rolling Dam and Flume Ridge; of the building of St. Stephen’s
Church on the Border and erection of that parish in 1838, up to its division
in 1887 and the creation of Holy Rosary Parish. The remaining two-thirds
of the 160-page volume is devoted to the first 90 years in the life of Holy
Rosary Parish with chapters devoted to each serving pastor and the accomplishments
during his time of service.
Father William Dollard was the first pastor of Holy Rosary Parish.
A native of County Kilkenny, Ireland and a nephew of Rt. Rev. Wm. Dollard,
the first Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of New Brunswick, he was twenty-six
years old when he arrived in St. Stephen in 1887 and he stayed for fourteen
years. When he arrived there were eighty-five families in the parish.
Mass was celebrated in the schoolhouse on Marks Street with its organ, wood
stove and kerosene lamps until the church was opened in 1889. The first event
in the church was a St. Patrick’s concert in March and the first Mass was
on Easter Sunday. The first sexton of the church was Patrick Shields. The
rectory was built under the guidance of Leonard Markee, Thomas Acheson, Arthur
Polly, and Fred Regan. In 1896, C. T. Berry, a steeplejack of Dover, gilded
the cross on the church steeple.
The second pastor, the Rev. Thomas S. Lavery, a native of Boston, finished
fifteen years in the parish of St. George and came to Holy Rosary in 1901.
He was a practical man set on getting the debts cleared up. In 1905 the sanctuary
was extended, a side door replaced with a stain glass window and the communion
rail extended. The old schoolhouse was repaired and rented to the Public School
After the death of Father Lavery in 1913, the Rev. John M. O’Flaherty, the
parish’s first New Brunswick born pastor, and former pastor of St. Andrews
became the parish priest. Father O’Flaherty renovated the church twice
during his pastorate, extended electricity throughout the church and added
a coal stove to the rectory. In 1926 he was responsible for having a
“Calvary Group” erected in the cemetery. He was also instrumental in bringing
the Sisters of Charity to the Border. During his lengthy pastorate,
he had three housekeepers - Mrs. Marie Carrara, Miss Nellie Daley and a Miss
Sullivan. The sexton was Bob Crawford. After his resignation in 1932, at the
age eighty-two, he took up residence in the Bishop’s Palace in Saint John.
His careful recordings of events in the life of the parish and his, “Notes
on the Foundation of Holy Rosary
Parish” helped to preserve the history.
Late in November of 1932 Father Arthur Allen, a native of Saint John, arrived.
He was a Twentieth Century man, progressive and energetic. During his
six-year pastorate numerous parish organizations were formed involving parishioners
of all ages in a variety of religious and social activities. Although only
in his forties, he lost his battle with Bright’s Disease
in September of 1938.
Father Henry Francis Gillen followed. Born in Moncton, and one of four members
of his family to enter religious life, he assumed charge in November of 1938
and was there for thirty-one years. Respected by people of all denominations,
and dearly loved by his parishioners, he inspired a number of local vocations
to the priesthood and religious life. He realized his dream of building
a new Catholic school in St. Stephen. He was also a driving force during
the Victory Loan Campaign of World War II.
In 1969, Father Lawrence Murphy, a grandson of the parish through his mother’s
side, the Shields who went back to the origin of the parish in 1887, arrived
with the task ahead of him of ushering in the many changes of Vatican II.
Father Richard J. Coughlan, a native of Saint John followed.
A list of the pewholders beginning April 1st, 1889 provides a glimpse of
the names of the families in the parish.
In “The Journey - Holy Rosary Parish, St. Stephen, 1887 - 1997 and
the Early Years,” Ann Breault records the events in the life of the
Roman Catholic population in the community, and the involvement in the general
history of the area as well as information on the native sons and daughters
who took up a religious vocation. Included are many local newspaper articles
making this a religious history not only seen from the pew but from the street
outside the church and in so doing provides details on individuals and families.
There are numerous photographs throughout the book.
The 1977 publication is available at libraries in Saint John, St. Stephen,
Newcastle and at other research institutions.
By the way, the Saint John Branch of the New Brunswick
Genealogical Society will be meeting tomorrow evening - 23 Feb. 2005 -
at 7:30 p.m. in the Lions Den of the Loch Lomond Villa.
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