Church Re-Opening - 1895 - New St. Luke’s R.C. Church at Downeyville

Dedicated by His Lordship Bishop O’Connor, of Peterborough – Assisted by Vicar-General Laurent, of Lindsay, and the Pastor, Father Bretherton..

The gentle traveller, buried in pleasant reflections as he approached the village of Downeyville last Monday morning, had his meditations strangely but not unpleasantly disturbed. He had climbed the big hill west of the village, and run his eye over the miles of fertile rolling farm land around him. Wherever he looked he saw a circle of prosperous homes, and comfortable barns choked to the doors with the produce of generous harvest. It was not a clear skyline he saw, for the weather was cold and chilly, and the sky overhead was not free from clouds. All was peace, however, ad thee was no sound to be heard but the lowing of cattle browsing in the field or wandering quietly along the roadside.

Then, with little warning, a clear sweet musical sound filled the air – a sound new to the woods and fields of Emily – the gladsome pealing, the joyous soulful melody, of the new bell of the new church of St. Luke, formally opened for divine worship on the day before, Sunday, August 29th, the feast of St.Michael the Archangel.

On descending the hill the scene was one to delight the traveller. A multitude of happy people, dwellers in the parish, young and old, all sorts and conditions of men and women, boys and girls, were gathered together in one large and happy mass around the church, full of quiet and tranquil joy, full of gratitude to God for many favours in the past, and showing it in their smiling faces a pride in the circumstances of the present occasion, and a hopefulness for greater things in the time to come. For the occasion was the first ringing of the new church bell, just hung in position. Every peal of the bell came home to the hearts of those around and drew forth memories of the brave old men who broke the soil of the township – of the dear old women, now mostly gone to their reward, who shared their many labours and brightened their fewer hours of pleasure; of the good old priests who came long ago from Peterborough and Lindsay to cheer the death-bed with words of consolation; the struggles, the privations, the sufferings of the life of the pioneer long ago, when Emily was wilderness, and when life was but a routine unblessed by the presence of a church for the ministrations of a resident pastor. The bell rang on and the traveller gradually came to know what it meant for today and what it stands for as to the time gone by.

During the last few years of Father Connolly’s pastorate it became evident that the church accommodation was not sufficient to meet the wants of the growing parish, and nothing but the coming removal of that amiable and energetic pastor prevented the erection of a newer and larger church prior to his departure. With the installation of Rev. Father Bretherton came a favourable time to begin the improvement of the old church or the erection of a new one. The old frame structure was built in 1858 by the late Messrs. Thomas Spratt and William Duffus, then whom no better builders of churches or dwellings ever lived in our town. The examination of the frame showed that the timbers were as good and staunch as ever, and it was decided, on conference with the bishop of the diocese, to brick the old frame and sheet it inside, and the result is that the present church is a substantial, and practically, a new structure. The body of the church is 71 feet long by 12 feet wide, with an addition 58x20 for the sanctuary, and in rear of this 34x22 for the vestry, which also serves as a winter chapel. From the hill the church presents its best appearance. The exterior is of white brick and is varied with buttresses, and a handsome tower, surmounted with a cross, rises high above the roof. The interior of the church is finished in ash, with oak and cherry wainscot, the ceiling being painted and divided off into panels decorated with scroll work of much artistic merit.

The sanctuary has an arched ceiling somewhat lower than the ceiling of the church, and on each side is an arched recess for the smaller altars of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph. Beautiful panel paintings cover the ceilings of the sanctuary and side altar spaces, done by the artists who had charge of the painting, Messrs. Fred Richardson and son, of Belleville, who stand in the front rank of church decorators in Canada. On the wall of the sanctuary in the apex of the arch is a statue of St. Luke, the physician, the patron saint of the parish, and at lower levels are statues of St. Joseph on the right and the Blessed Virgin on the left. The altars are not yet in position but will soon be added. Over the space the devoted to the altar of the B.V.M. is the scroll, “ Saneta Maria,” and over that of St. Joseph the scroll “Ite ad Joseph,” mottoes that appeal to the religious sense of every Catholic. Over the main arch of the entire sanctuary runs the opening words of the gloria, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” The finish of the sanctuary floor corresponds with the rest of the church, alternate strips of natural wood, basswood and red birch, and the railing of the sanctuary is made of wood fashioned in arches of gothic design.

Taken as a whole, as regards colour, workmanship, material, and general design, the new church of Downeyville is one of the handsomest we know of, and the good people of that parish are to be congratulated on the generosity and enterprise they have shown in fitting up at proper place for divine worship. Much of the credit for the erection of the sacred edifice is due to Father Bretherton, the pastor, who has been untiring in his efforts to give a wise direction to the labours of his parishioners. To Vicar-Gen. Laurent, of Lindsay, too is due no small portion of merit in bringing the work to a satisfactory conclusion. The long experience of the worthy vicar-general in matters pertaining to church architecture, heating and sanitation, was drawn on by Father Bretherton and generously accorded by Father Laurent, to whom the people of Emily owe and gratefully acknowledge a debt of gratitude. The new church will be heated with furnaces placed in the basement, and the parishioners may look for a comfortable place of worship in the severe Canadian winter.

When it was announced that his lordship Bishop O’Connor was to be present on Sept. 29th to solemnly dedicate the church to the worship of God, unusual activity was present among the good parishioners. Of course many friends from outside would be present, and to give them every comfort it was decided to prepare a good dinner for the guests, who were certain to be hungry after the long morning service. Accordingly a handsome dinner was prepared and served in a large tent n the grounds after mass. A large number of visitors from Lindsay and Ops were present, as well as a number of friends from the good Protestant southern portion of the township. The ladies of the parish, in all the bloom of beauty, youth and hospitality, attended to the needs of the hungry visitors and we have the assurance of undoubted judges of good eating that a more palatable and tasteful spread was never before set upon a table. We have neither space nor desire to make mention of the fair ladies who served the good things, for their name was legion, and our reporter was unfamiliar with the names of a few – a thing he will never cease to regret.

The ceremony of the dedication of a Catholic church is one not frequently witnessed in our day, for the Catholic people have been active in erecting churches in the past, and when the occasion now arises, it is mostly in connection with the building of a new church rot replace the old, or when an old church, as in the present case, is practically converted into a new one. The ceremony of the consecration of a Catholic church is a still rarer ceremony, being done only when the church and parish is entirely and completely free from debt, which is a circumstance, in a new and struggling country like Canada, with many constantly growing needs that is but seldom to be looked for and exists in few localities in this country.

The religious services of the day of the dedication began at 8 o’clock, when his lordship Bishop O’Connor celebrated mass, at which the children sang hymns and many communicants approached the altar.

As 10 o’clock, the hour for the solemn services, approached, the church began to fill with parishioners and their friends from a distance. In spite of the unfavourable weather a large congregation was present when his lordship assisted by Very Rev. Vicar-General Laurent and he pastor, Father Bretherton, proceeded to dedicate the church with all the formality of ritual used on such occasions. The dedication over, solemn high mass was sung by Father Bretherton, the bishop assisting pontifically, the choir rendering the music in a creditable manner. Before preaching the sermon the bishop congratulated the people on having what is now practically a new church, a substantial, comfortable and beautiful structure, and gave a brief explanation of the significance of blessing the material structure of the building, the Stations of the Cross and the bell. The sermon was delivered with the force and unction which distinguishes the utterances of Bishop O’Connor. The subject was the love of God and the necessity of consecrating ourselves and our lives to the service of God, and was an able and eloquent exposition of the doctrines which comprise the whole duty of man.

At the close of the mass, Messrs. Shice, John C. Leary, and Henry Mathews approached the sanctuary, when Mr. Mathews read the following address:

To the Right Rev. R. A. O’Connor, D.D., Bishop of Peterborough

MY LORD BISHOP – Most cordial and sincere is the welcome which we, the congregation of St. Luke’s church, Emily, extend to you on this joyous, happy, and memorable occasion Little more than a year has elapsed since we had the pleasure and happiness of welcoming you on your first official visit to our parish; but now, we hasten with hearts aglow with the enthusiasm of success to welcome you to bless and re-open the substantial and imposing edifice which it was then our hope to have erected in the near future. In addition to this, we have the pleasure and happiness of welcoming you, my lord, to bless a beautiful set of the Stations of the Cross the donation of a number of the good ladies of the parish and a magnificent bell, the gratuitous offering of Mr. Peter Murtha, also of this parish.

As this occasion marks an era in the history of the parish, we deem it appropriate to give a brief sketch of the clergy, their zeal, and the progress of the parish previous to this time.

The first bishop to visit the parish was Bishop Gaulin. He was succeeded by Bishop Phelan., of Kingston in 1850, who was in turn succeeded by Bishop Horan, O’Brien, Jamot and your illustrious predecessor, Bishop Dowling, of Hamilton.

Among the names of the earliest settlers of the parish are to be found those of Bartholomew Downey, Daniel Scully, Dennis Houlihan, Dennis O’Leary, James Madigan, James Callaghan, Michael Flynn, Daniel Fitzpatrick, John Crimmons, John Dorgan, Patrick Clancy and Patrick Shea. These pioneers settled in the parish in 1825, and were ministered unto, till about 1837, by Father Crowley, who was then stationed at Peterborough. He was succeeded by Father Butler, who was also stationed at Peterborough. About 1840 Father Fitzpatrick first resident priest at Lindsay, succeeded Father Butler in the administration of the affairs of this parish and built our first parish church on the site of our present cemetery. He was succeeded about 1813 by Father McEvay, uncle of Monseignor McEvay of Hamilton and he by Father Chisholm about 1815 both of whom were stationed at Lindsay. About 1851, Father Burke became our first resident parish priest and took up his residence in an unpretentious frame house on Mr. Wm. Lehane’s farm just opposite where Mrs. Costello now lives. Father Coyle succeeded in 1857, and the frame church which was given place to the beautiful structure, my lord, of which today we feel pardonably proud. Father Coyle was succeeded by Father Hogan in 1877, Father Hogan was succeeded by Father Connolly in 1879 and in 1894 Father Connolly was succeeded by our present esteemed pastor, Father Bretherton, to whose zeal and energy we are in great measure indebted for this magnificent temple, which, through future years, will remain a crowning monument, not only of his faith and devotedness, but also of the faith and devotedness of his parishioners who responded so promptly to his call.

Nor can we allow the occasion to pass without recording our appreciation of the economical, efficient and altogether satisfactory character of the work. That the builder, Mr. Michael McGeough of Lindsay, is an able, clever and attentive workman, is well evidenced in the now beautiful temple. In Mr. James Growden, mason, also of Lindsay, Mr McGeough found a skilled and zealous second. To the brush of Mr. Fred Richardson and son, of Belleville, we owe the artistic decoration and emblems of our holy religion which add so much to the beauty and solemnity of this holy place, this house of God.

To you, also, my lord, the inspirer of this noble work, we presume to say this is a day to be remembered. Was it not the glowing zeal in your own heart which enlivened, through your worthy representative, our Catholic faith, and moved us to undertake this project the completion of which affords us to day a temple in some degree becoming the sublimity of the Catholic worship.

Behold here, the fulfilment of your expectation, the completion of your desire. And now, my lord, having learned through our worthy pastor that it is your intention to visit the holy father at an early date, we, as faithful children of the church desire to express our featly and devotion to the See of Rome and to sympathize with and commiserate His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII, in the trials and impositions to which he is subjected by the aggressions of a hostile government. Permit us also through your lordship, to pay our respects to the holy father, and, my lord, to express a most fervent prayer that you may have a pleasant voyage and safe return to the fields of your spiritual labours.

In conclusion, my lord, we embrace the opportunity of expressing our high appreciation and esteem for our devoted pastor Father Bretherton and of testifying to his zealous and unselfish efforts in promoting our spiritual and temporal welfare. Signed on behalf of the congregation,

John C. Leary, Joseph Lucas, Eugene Shine, Michael Clancy, William Lehane, Henry Mathews.

In the afternoon at 3 o’clock the ceremony of blessing the bell was performed outside the church, where the bell was erected on a platform and beautifully decorated with flowers and evergreens. The bell which is a sweet toned one, weighs 1,000 lbs. And was cast in Baltimore, Md. It is the gift of Mr. Peter Murtha, of St. Luke’s parish. The last portion of the day’s celebration was the blessing and erecting of a new set of Stations of the Cross. These stations are pictorial representations of 14 chief events in the Passion of our Lord, and are hung up in Catholic churches to remind worshippers of the several stages of passion. This last even in the day’s proceedings was finished about 5 p.m., bringing to a close the most interesting and memorable day in the history of the people of St. Luke’s parish.

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