The old — at the left — and new (circa 1953) churches of St. Mary Star of the Sea parish in Port Credit, now part of Mississauga, Ont. The parish celebrates its centenary this year. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto

St. Mary Star of the Sea a presence on Port Credit lakeshore for 100 years

By 
  • May 23, 2014

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - When St. Mary Star of the Sea parish was founded in 1913, it was a beacon of hope for Catholics in Port Credit, a then-active harbour and port west of Toronto where the Credit River meets Lake Ontario.

It was the first Catholic Church on the lakeshore west of Toronto, located in present-day Mississauga. On May 25, the parish named after the patron saint of sailors celebrates its centennial anniversary and all the parishioners who have sat in its pews. The parish will kick of celebrations with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Thomas Collins at 11 a.m. followed by a reception.

Since January, the parish has been executing 100 little projects to celebrate the centennial, including the building of an ambry, a cabinet for the storage of holy oils used in sacraments.

“We have something to celebrate here at St. Mary Star of the Sea… 100 years of living, celebrating and handing on of the faith,” said Fr. Neil McMillan. “Celebrating an anniversary is a way of recognizing all those who helped to build up the parish from the beginning up to this present time. We are grateful for all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, many of them our parents, grandparents and great grandparents.”

John Holland 86, a life-long parishioner, still remembers the old church. Most of the people who attended the church in its early years were Irish immigrants, he said, though his parents were from England.

Holland may have met and married his late wife Eileen Jane at St. Leo’s parish in Mimico, now part of Toronto, but the couple baptized their six kids at St. Mary Star of the Sea. Half of their kids were also married in the parish.

In his youth, he served as Knight of the Altar for about eight years. As an adult, he was one of the first to become a eucharistic minister and has served in this ministry for at least 25 years. He’s also been on the parish’s financial board for about 50 years.

Fr. Anthony McCaffery was the church’s first pastor when it officially became a parish a century ago. But McMillan says that according to the Port Credit News in 1927, the church’s roots date back to 1862 when Irish priest Fr. William Flannery organized Port Credit’s first Catholic congregation. Mass was celebrated in a frame house on church property. Before that time, Catholics in the area had to travel out of town to attend Mass.

Holland said that after the Second World War, people migrated from Toronto to the suburbs and the 200-person capacity church couldn’t accommodate the demand. In the 1950s, it was replaced by a new church, which was built on the same property, but on the other side of the rectory. For some time, the old church was used as a convent for the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who taught at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic School. The old church was torn down in the 1970s. Fr. James Sheridan succeeded McCaffery and served for 43 years. McMillan became pastor in 2002.

The church’s cemetery was the first in the area. And St. Mary’s School, though it no longer exists, was the first Catholic school in Peel County and was eventually amalgamated into the Dufferin- Peel Catholic District School Board.

“St. Mary’s through the years has been a very vibrant community and the faith is very deeply rooted here and people love St. Mary’s, they love their parish,” said McMillan.

Today it is spiritual home to about 1,600 families representing numerous countries around the world. It has many active ministries including the Catholic Women’s League, Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Legion of Mary.

Looking to the next 100 years, Holland hopes that the parish can work on ways to keep young people engaged in parish life to keep St. Mary’s alive. McMillan hopes the parish will remain a “caring and compassionate community.”

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I went to st marys school and had my first communion at the church..

Andrew
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

My great grandmother Mary McLelland Kelly and her 2nd husband Patrick McAullife and well as his first wife Bridget Collins were buried in the cemetary here. What happened to them when the new church was built on the cemetary property? Kelly's...

My great grandmother Mary McLelland Kelly and her 2nd husband Patrick McAullife and well as his first wife Bridget Collins were buried in the cemetary here. What happened to them when the new church was built on the cemetary property? Kelly's have been in Port Credit forever it seems.

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Shirley Crowe
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