St. Francis de Sales parish turns 150

  • January 29, 2010
{mosimage}AJAX, Ont. - It was a day of song and multicultural dance, along with prayers for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, as parishioners celebrated the 150th anniversary of St. Francis de Sales Church.

Long-time parishioner Rita Jatoe says the parish community is a “very loving, caring family.” Wearing a traditional West African dress, Jatoe read a prayer petition in her African dialect and cut the celebratory cake after the noon-time Mass on Jan. 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales.

The parish is celebrating the milestone all year, said Fr. Roy Roberts. St. Frances de Sales’ inaugural liturgy conference will take place on April 16 and 17 as part of the festivities.

Roberts recalls the first Mass at the parish’s new site with about 1,500 parishioners from different countries donning their traditional dress three years ago. Since then, the parish has grown to at least 2,500 families.

Antonia Ozah, 21, celebrated her First Communion and Confirmation at the church. She said the parish is a “very tight-knit community.” Although there are three Sunday Masses, she said the anniversary celebration “brings us all together.”

The parish was originally called the Mission of Duffin’s Creek (Pickering Village). It became St. Francis de Sales in 1860. Its first pastor was Fr. P.D. Laurent.

From 1860 to 1871, parishioners at St. Francis de Sales attended St .Wilfrid’s Church on Notion Road in Pickering.

By 1871, St. Francis de Sales Church was built on Church Street in Pickering Village.

In 1915, due to a lack of parishioners, St. Francis de Sales became a mission parish of St. John’s Church in Whitby.

But with the influx of new families after a shill-filling plant was built in Ajax, Archbishop James McGuigan appointed Fr. Bernard Kyte to re-establish St. Francis de Sales parish with a resident pastor in 1942.

With a growing population, the parish moved from Church Street in Pickering Village to a new building completed in 2006 at Ravenscroft Road.

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic presided over the first Mass in the new church building on July 30, 2007.

Among the parish community’s highlights are its “One Bread, One Body” group, which provides each parish family with a fresh loaf of bread to begin the new liturgical year, its monthly Seniors’ Mass and luncheon, monthly Mass at the Winbourne Park long-term care facility and its St. Vincent de Paul food bank.

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