Parish History

Information to be provided at later date

St. Dunstan's Church Site

As early as 1611, Recollect and Jesuit missionaries worked in the area of Fredericton, converting the native Indians, and ministering to French settlers. In 1674 Quebec became an Episcopal See, and missionary priests were sent from that Diocese to minister to the converted Indians, Acadians and the recent Catholic settlers from the British Isles. By 1758 the French inhabitants had left the area, which is now Fredericton, and for about 70 years there was no Catholic church in Fredericton. Catholic families travelled to French Village, about 11 miles away, for Sunday mass.


During this period, once a month, a French speaking priest came to Fredericton, to say mass for the English speaking inhabitants, most of whom were Irish. Mass was celebrated in a house, owned by the Donnelly family, and situated on the corner of Northumberland and King Streets. Because the parish was under the pastoral care of the Quebec Diocese, on one occasion prior to 1825, Bishop Plessis visited it. Later the parish came under the English speaking Diocese of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. As a compliment to the Cathedral Church there, the new parish of Fredericton selected St. Dunstan as its patron saint.
 
The earliest history of St. Dunstan’s church starts in 1827 with the arrival of Father Michael McSweeney as the first resident priest. Fr. McSweeney built a chapel on the property purchased in 1824. Later, after the erection of the first St. Dunstan’s church, this chapel was moved to the rear of the lot and served as a parochial school. Fr. McSweeney died, still a young man, in 1836. Fr. William Dollard became the second priest. He was an Irishman, having been born in Bath Krain, Ireland on the 29th of November 1789. He was ordained in Quebec in 1817, and after being stationed in Arichat and Labrador, came to the Miramichi in 1822, before moving to Fredericton. Under his direction, in 1842 the original St. Dunstan’s church was erected. The contractor was Michael McGlinchey, who also built the old St. Gertrude’s church in Woodstock, and was a prominent builder of the day.

 

The original St. Dunstan’s church was a beautiful church. The canopied ceiling was blue with golden stars, representing the Canopy of Heaven. Among the stained glass windows was an arched window depicting the church’s patron saint, who had been the Arch-bishop of Canterbury. On June 11th, 1843, Father William Dollard was consecrated as the new bishop by Bishop Turgeon of Quebec. The new bishop was given an oil painting of the Crucifixion. This picture, which can still be seen in the present day church, hung over the main altar.

A set of silver candlesticks and a silver crucifix were gifts from France. Later they were stolen and remained missing for months. However, they were found by a small boy playing on the hillside by College Hill and returned to the then pastor, Fr. McDevitt. As there were no regular evening services, there were no lights in the church at this time. For Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, members of the congregation brought their own candles, which were kept lit during the mass.

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During Bishop Dollard’s stay, the congregation increased in numbers due to the arrival of Irish immigrant families, victims of the Irish Potato famine of 1848. After the completion of St. Dunstan’s church it was found to be in financial difficulties. The Catholics in Saint John sent a delegation to the Bishop, offering to pay off the debt, if the See were to be moved to Saint John. This occurred, but Bishop Dollard frequently visited Fredericton and on one visit died there on Friday evening, August 29th, 1851.

His body was originally interred under the High Altar in a vault. In 1846, the firewards, as they were then called, were increased to ten in the Parish of Fredericton. On May 22, 1849 a fire broke out destroying twenty buildings on lower Queen Street. A more disastrous fire broke out on November 11th, 1850. A brisk north west wind was blowing and almost 18 acres of the city were destroyed. In the area between Carleton and St. John Streets, and from Queen to Brunswick Streets, only the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church and the bishop’s residence survived.

It is said by older city residents that the parishioners of St. Dunstan’s church covered the roof with themselves, in order that their church would be saved. Over 300 buildings had been destroyed by the fire.

Fr. McDevitt, who served from 1851 until his death in 1897, expanded the property and buildings. He erected the priest’s house, the convent and St. Dunstan’s hall. He also purchased the building occupied by the Knights of Columbus, and the Hermitage, which finally fell into decay and was torn down. After his death his extensive library became a nucleus for the St. Dunstan’s Parish and Public Library. Rev. Timothy Casey succeeded Fr. McDevitt. He was responsible for installing a heating system and also new pews. Later he became Bishop of Saint John. He was transferred in 1912 to Vancouver as Archbishop. The next priest was Father Carney, who was to become Monsignor Carney.

The Right Rev. Dr. Charles Boyd became the parish priest for a period of 24 years, leading to the building of the modern church of St. Dunstan. This new church was consecrated on the 15th of August, 1965 and the old church demolished. The new church has a seating capacity for nearly 1000 people and a spire height of 92 feet, six inches from the ground to the foot of the 18 foot high superimposed cross. An altar of white marble has been placed in the sanctuary. There are two side altars and two shrines. The baptistery is at the front of the church and can be seen on the right hand side. In 1968 construction of a new parochial centre, to replace St. Dunstan’s hall was started. The building is "The Monsignor Boyd Family Centre" and was named after the Rt. Rev. C.T. Boyd, D.P., S.T.D., to commemorate the faith and zeal, with which he had served his parish for 27 years.

The architects and engineers were Hennessey Watson Associates of Fredericton, and the contractor was Diamond Construction (1961) Ltd. Since completion, the Monsignor Boyd Family Centre has proved not only an attractive addition, but a highly functional adjunct to the social and cultural life of the parish.

Sts. John & Paul Church Site

In 1972 Dr. Don Feeney, a local dentist and long-standing resident of the City of Fredericton and parishioner of St. Dunstan's Parish, was asked by Father Jack Dolan, Pastor of St. Dunstan's Parish to represent the New Maryland area on St. Dunstan's parish council.  Father Dolan asked Dr. Feeney, who was a resident of Nasonworth, to be involved in preliminary discussions about the possible creation of a parish in the New Maryland area.  Bishop Arthur Gilbert, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Saint John at the time, had discussions with Father Dolan; it was concluded that the new parish would not be a satellite of St. Dunstan's but rather an independent parish in its own right.  Bishop Gilbert had strong feelings of the importance of people being involved with parish activities as they create their own faith communities.

 

Dr. Feeney was instrumental in gathering the people together who were to form the new parish of New Maryland, the name of which had not yet been decided.  A faith community formed over the years.  Sheila McCarthy, a current parishioner at Saints John and Paul, was one of the first teachers of religious education to a group of grade one students in 1975.  Included among these students was Dr. Feeney's son, Shane Feeney.  With successive years more grade levels were added to the religious education program.

 

Over the ensuing years various faith services, masses and Lenten services were held at the Anglican and United churches in New Maryland as well as in people's homes.  During these years, Father Monte Peters and Father John Jennings came out from St. Dunstan's to assist the community in forming its faith relationships.  Although attendance was at times small, it was apparent by July 1978 that a nucleus existed from which to build an independent parish.  Bishop Gilbert granted permission for the new parish to be formed and advised the parishioners that Father Don Laydon, a Holy Cross Father in residence at St. Thomas University, would be the parish's first priest.  Father Laydon was soon joined by Sister Pat Poole, who assisted him in ministering to the new parish.  Weekly Sunday masses were initially held at the New Maryland Recreation Centre.  Over the next two years, under the guidance of Fr. Layden, enthusiasm for building a church grew.  Five acres of land sitting just across the road from the New Maryland Recreation Centre, were donated to the Parish by the Jensen family and fund raising efforts for the design and construction of a church were begun.  Within a couple of years the architectural firm of Duchesne and Fish were commissioned to design the church while volunteers largely cleared the woods that covered the five acres of land.  Sod was turned on September 7, 1980 and the first Eucharist was celebrated in the new church on June 14, 1981.

Inspired by the exceptional dedication of its religious leaders and the enthusiasm of its pastoral council and other committees, it didn’t take long for the parishioners to become involved in the various parish activities.  Plans were drawn up to construct a rectory to serve as the permanent residence of the pastor.  This was completed in January 1985.

Pastoral Appointments

1978 - 1974         Fr. Don Laydon

1984 - 1989        Fr. Paul Leger

1989 - 1992        Fr. John Keoughan

1992 - 2000       Fr. Ken Weir

2000 - 2006      Fr. Ralphn McRae

2006 - 2007      Fr. Bonaventure Annan

2007 - 2017        Fr. Mark Trzop

2017 - 2018         Fr. Maria Arokiam

St. Columba Church Site

Before 1860 priests of St. Dunstan’s Church served in the Parish of Petersville, including a mission at Hartt’s Mills (now known as Fredericton Junction).  The first Roman Catholic Church was built during Fr. Luke O’Regan’s time on the Pride’s Landing Road approximately where the gates of St. Columba Cemetery are now. This structure was moved to Oromocto after the church there burned. In 1885 another church was built on the original Pride’s Landing site and for the next 63 years was known as “the Chapel”.  In 1918 charge of St Columba’s Church was transferred to St. Dunstan’s, where it remained until 1948 before being transferred back to Petersville.

 

On June 6th 1948, St. Columba Church was completely destroyed by fire.  In 1951 the contracting firm of John Flood & Sons, was contracted to build the St. Columba Church of today now located on the Wilsey Road.  Geographically, St. Columba is the home church of families as far south as Enniskillen and Wirral and as far north as Traceyville.  In 1963 St. Columba became a mission of St. Vincent de Paul, Oromocto.  During the summer of 1986, the members of St. Columba Church undertook a major expansion of the structure by adding a twenty-two foot extension to the front of the church next to the highway.  On July 1, 1992 the responsibility for St. Columba Church was transferred to Sts. John and Paul Parish of New Maryland.  In 1995 stained-glass windows, donated by parishioners in memory of deceased family members, were installed.