Friday, Jan. 21, 1898
His Lordship Bishop Macdonell and the
committee of St. Finnans have decided to make extensive improvements to
the Cathedral. The ceiling beneath the roof is to be completed in the form
of grind ceiling with wood finish, the wood-work throughout the interior
will be repainted and other improvement made. The contract has been
awarded to John R. Chisholm.
Glengarry News Jan. 28,
Friday, Nov. 21, 1908
The framework for the new spire on St.
Finnans Cathedral has been erected and the work should be completed within
Glengarry News November 21,
the removal of Bishop Alexander Macdonell to Kingston
in 1829, the Roman Catholics of the rear of Glengarry petitioned him to
divide the parish of St. Raphael's and establish a new one at
This request was acceded to, a church was built on the present site of St.
Finnan's Cathedral and the first mass was said there on Christmas Day 1832
by the Rev. John Macdonald, commonly known as "Father John".
Successive priests were Reverend Fathers Clark, Begley,
McLachlan, Chisholm and,
0'Connor, afterwards Dean of Perth.
latter was succeeded by the Rev. Alexander Macdonell, who was born in the
in 1833, educated for the priesthood and ordained in 1863. For
sixteen years he was parish priest of Lochiel and was appointed to
23rd of June 1879.
He was energetic and so inspired his parishioners that on the 22nd day of
September 1883. a
contract was signed for the building of a new church, and on the 15th
of March 1.884, the new St. Finnan's, now the Cathedral, was dedicated. In
1886, Father Macdonell was elevated to the position of Vicar
From website in 2007 (I couldn't find a current page to link
Saint Finnan's Cathedral
Back to parish information
St. Finnan's Cathedral Parish, Alexandria 1833: by Archie McDougall
brief essay about the history of a parish is a challenge at any
time, but it is an even greater challenge to condense a parish story
that began in 1833 and still continues; St. Finnan's celebrated its
centenary in 1990, as the Cathedral Parish of the Diocese of
Alexandria. To gain a perspective of the parish, and its later
development, it is helpful to know how it actually came into being.
1803 and 1804, the last large-scale immigration took place, under
direction of their leader, Reverend Alexander MacDonell, when
more Highland families arrived to join the parish of St. Raphael's.
Most of these immigrants, however, became residents of the upper
concessions, with some even settling north of the Beaudette river,
to even more distant points, that in later years would be
defined as the beginning concessions of Kenyon and Lochiel. Many
persons, because of the distance and lack of roads, were completely
isolated from their Church!
Father MacDonell, who would later become known as the Honourable and
Right Reverend Alexander MacDonell, the First Catholic Bishop of
Upper Canada, contributed directly in a number of ways to the
eventual formation of St. Finnan's Parish. Among his numerous
projects, was the purchase, in 1819, of land upon which he had a dam
constructed, where the property intersected the Garry River, and
there he built a grist mill known as the Priest's Mill - which was
beginning of a settlement that would be named Alexandria, in
memory and recognition of a renowned leader and outstanding priest.
more people began to occupy farm land near the mill, the
settlement gradually increased in population. However, it also
brought a sense of isolation from their parish at St. Raphael's.
And, as could be expected, the small community began to discuss the
possibility of having their own church.
1832, Bishop MacDonell agreed to the idea of establishing the
Mission of Alexandria and he provided the services of the Assistant
Priest of St. Raphael's Parish, Rev. John MacDonald, to minister to
excellent description of Father John's task and the condition of
that day is provided to us: "In the discharge of the arduous duties
his mission, he (Father John) must of necessity have undergone
many hardships. He held jurisdiction over an extensive territory
sparsely populated. Settlements were numerous but far between. Roads
general were almost in impassable conditions, and in many
instances the means of communication between one settlement and
another was to travel rude trails in the unbroken forest. Over these
rude and difficult pathways, the devoted priest frequently travelled
from one settlement to another, sometimes mounted on horse, often on
foot, never absent from any settlement whenever the spiritual wants
his flock or of any member thereof called for his spiritual
ministrations." (Papers of Rt. Rev. Ewen MacDonald)
But, despite the many hardships of life at that time, the Faith of
forefathers was rooted deep and firm - as attested in parish
records; though the numbers were small, those records clearly
indicate the primacy of Catholic family life: Baptisms - 95 (1836),
(1837), 87 (1838); Marriages - 14 (1836), 14 (1837), 7 (1838);
Burials - 9 (1836), 15 (1837), 6 (1838).
During the year 1832, Father John MacDonald helped his people to
begin the construction of the first St. Finnan's building with
interior dimensions of 48' x 100' for their own place of worship. On
Christmas Day, 1833, Father John celebrated the first Mass in the
building, which was to be placed under the patronage of St.
Finnan, after the revered fifth century Saint who had long been
esteemed by the Catholics of Scotland.
Seven years later, in 1840, the status of Mission was raised to that
parish and Father John was named the first pastor of St. Finnan's
January 15, 1843, Bishop Gaulin administered Confirmation to 254
people at St. Finnan's. He was apparently impressed because, a few
weeks after this event, he wrote a letter to the parishoners of St.
Finnan's highly complimenting them "on the flourishing condition in
which he found matters with them spiritually and temporally", a copy
which is recorded in the register of the parish.
Their beloved pastor died on May 9, 1845, in his seventeenth year as
priest and his twelfth as the servant of St. Finnan's. The esteem
his people was such that they erected a marble tablet to his
memory and honour, one that has truly been a memorial for all
Restrictions of space require that we can do no more than recognize
name those priests of that era who served so faithfully:
1845 Father George Hay, pastor of St. Andrew's Church, who tried to
help out from time to time and especially when Bishop Phelan came
Confirmation that year;
Nov. 1845 - 1851 Father Denis Begley was named the second pastor;
1851 - 1853 Father Alexander Macdonell (Mac Ian Mor), a fragile man
poor health who died in service.
1853 Father John Meade who filled in on an interim basis;
1853 - 1856 Father John McLachlan who was instrumental in starting
Catholic Separate School and who invited the Sisters of Holy
Cross Congregation to open St. Margaret's Convent in 1854.
1856 - 1866 Father James Chisholm, a "brillant theologian" who had
taken his Doctorate in Rome;
1866 - 1879 Father J.S. O'Connor, longest serving of that time,
the year 1879, the pastor of Lochiel, Father Alexander Macdonell
(the fourth of that name to be linked to the Catholic Church of
Glengarry, Ontario) was transferred to St. Finnan's. A native son,
like Father Chisholm before him, he became involved in parish
ventures, the most significant of which came at the recommendation
his Bishop, James Cleary, S.D.T., in 1881: because of the great
increase in parish population, that the people build a larger church
building. Father Macdonell, with the full support of his people, set
to complete this objective, with the new building to be built on
site of the first church.
William H. Hodson, of Montreal, Architect, drew up the plans in the
early part of 1883, and the building contract was awarded to Messrs.
John R. Chisholm & Son, of Lochiel, on September 22, 1883.
the 13th day of July, 1884, a solemn ceremony took place when the
cornerstone was laid and blessed "by Bishop Cleary, assisted by the
Reverend Pastor, also by Reverend Fathers O'Connor of Perth,
Gauthier of Williamstown, Duffus of St. Raphael's, Cicolari of
Lochiel..." (St. Finnan's records)
Final construction was completed, and the Church was dedicated to
'Worship of God', on the 15th day of March, 1885, by Bishop
next significant event might have had a prophetic element: on a
visit to Alexandria, September 19, 1886, the bishop informed the
Very Reverend Alexander Macdonell that he had been appointed the
Vicar-General of the diocese of Kingston.
last event focusses on the pastor and his parish of St.
Finnan's. The territory of the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont
were separated by papal decree from Kingston diocese, and from these
counties a new diocese was to be created. In July 1890, word was
received from Rome that Alexandria was to be the new episcopal See
that the pastor of St. Finnan's, the Very Reverend Alexander
Macdonell, had been appointed the first bishop of Alexandria.
October 28, 1890, Bishop Alexander Macdonell was consecrated and
Finnan's became the Cathedral Parish.
With the coming of age - 50 years as a religious family in 1883 -
with the elevating of the parish status to that of being a cathedral
1890, with the completion of the new bishop's residence and the
cosmetic application to the surrounding grounds by the year 1916,
Episcopal See of Alexandria was functioning smoothly. And in the
church building itself changes, renovations, improvements to the
physical plant were taking place the first twenty-five years:
decorations, new pews, new flooring, heating and hot water system,
name a few items. And equally important were other changes,
aesthetic as well as practical going on: a new organ, stained glass
windows, marble altars, fixtures, commemorative tablets, and so on.
Under Bishop Alexander, and later Bishop William, priority had been
given to making the Cathedral an outstanding and beautiful edifice.
There is no question but that they were admirably successful!
Bishop Alexander's years - twenty-three in all as pastor and bishop
had been full and fruitful, characterized by change that could
never have been imagined. They came to an end with his death on May
Bishop MacDonell was replaced by another MacDonell, William Andrew,
consecrated by another native son of Glengarry, Archbishop Gauthier
Kingston, June 24, 1906. As noted in a previous statement, Bishop
William carried on with the plans of his predecessor.
the Scotts emigrated to Glengarry in the first decades of the
nineteenth century, it was the turn of the French to cross the
border from Quebec in the late 1800's. A French section of the
parish of St. Finnan's had its own Sunday Mass from 1896 on. As the
numbers in that section increased, plans began for the construction
their own parish church. A site was obtained at Main and Lochiel
streets for the new parish of Sacred Heart, in Alexandria, and the
first mass was offered there on Christmas Eve, 1912.
fourteen years of service of Bishop William, functioning both as
pastor of St. Finnan's and the bishop of the diocese, similar in
fashion to Bishop Alexander before him, came to a sudden end with
death on November 10, 1920. The diocese of Alexandria and the
parish of St. Finnan had, again, lost a beloved shepherd.
third bishop of the diocese, a member of a Religious Order
dating back to the 13th century, the Order of St. Dominic, or more
familiarly called the Order of Preachers, Right Reverend Felix
Couturier, had been appointed by Pope Benedict XV as Bishop of
Alexandria, Ontario. The new bishop who had been consecrated in
1919, and for a short period of time had been the Apostolic Delegate
Egypt, arrived at his new post on August 23, 1921.
term of office could be characterized as that of consolidation
and, perhaps, the most outstanding event was the centennial
celebration of St. Finnan's on June 29, 1933. Bishop Couturier died
July 27, 1941, and was buried beside Bishop William in the parish
With each bishop, in the years 1905 - 1941, there was always a
priest whose prime responsibility was to act for the bishop, in
administering the parish of St. Finnan. Limitation of space, again,
demands that we list only their names in sequence, as was done
previously for the first pastors that impressed the writer in
researching this paper: not only were the priests, who had been
chosen to act as Administrators or Rectors, unique in personality,
personable in social relations, creative priests, men of strong
spiritual direction, but each, in his own way, must have possessed
that characteristic of social and spiritual compatibility in
humility, in charity. 1890-1906 Bishop Alexander Macdonell,
Administrator/Rector; 1906-1920 Bishop William Macdonell, Father
Alex McDonald, Father Charles Gauthier; 1921-1941 Bishop Felix
Couturier, Father Charles Gauthier, Father John McRae, Father John
Macdonell, Monsignor Ewen MacDonald.
With the arrival of the fourth bishop, Most Reverend Rosario
Brodeur, in the summer of 1941, there seemed to be a certain
cleavage: the beginning of the new, the ending of the old. Change
quicker, serenity was becoming more rare, motion the dominant
characteristic. There is no doubt that much of it was caused by the
war, as hundreds of young women and men left Glengarry to enlist -
more than 100 from St. Finnan's alone, including some who paid the
sacrifice of their lives.
war and post-war era brought radical change: some good - some
bad. Waves of materialism, secularism, nationalism, and in the realm
religion, egotism that, more recently, has been labelled
individualism. The diocese was not to escape these new trends, nor
St. Finnan's. The sociological movement of people from the rural
areas to urban centers slowly eroded much of what had been taken for
granted. Yet Bishop Brodeur, an extremely active man, must be given
full credit for trying to satisfy the needs of all - building new
parishes in Cornwall, for example, and at the same time seeking
funds for the restoration of St. Finnan's Cathedral in 1954.
And, perhaps, his greatest accomplishment was the successful manner
which he introduced and implemented the changes of Vatican II in
diocese. The Bishop for reasons of age, retire in 1966 and later
went to live in Bishop LaRocque's residence in Cornwall. He died on
February 7, 1986. He served St. Finnan's well, and he is well
remembered by his people.
successor to Bishop Brodeur, Most Reverend Adolphe Proulx,
assumed his duties on June 16, 1967. He will always be remembered,
the fact that he established a Diocesan Centre in Cornwall and
moved to Cornwall in 1972. In 1974, he became Bishop of Hull and
died at his cottage in Curry Hill in July 1987.
sixth Bishop, Most Reverend Eugene LaRocque, consecrated on
September 3, 1974, is now the chief shepherd of our Diocese.
will recall all those Rectors of St. Finnan's who served our
parish as faithful stewards: 1940-1944 Bishop Rosario Brodeur,
Rector - Father Wm. J. Smith (Later Bishop of Pembroke), Father R.J.
MacDonald, Father John MacPhail, Father Donald Kerr; 1967-1974
Bishop Adolphe Proulx, Father Donald Kerr, Father Leo MacDonell;
1974- Bishop Eugene LaRocque, Father D.B. MacDougald, Father Bernard
Since its inception as a parish there has been a total of 23
priestly vocations and 84 girls who entered religious communities of
now, in 1990, as far as the parish is concerned, we have much to
thankful for, as we participate in a reduced role in this
hundredth year of the Diocese. Whether it was by chance or by
design, and the Grace of God, we know without any doubt, that St.
Finnan's has always been blessed, and still is, with the finest,
holiest, and most faithful of priests as Pastors and Rectors.
to reach us / Comment nous rejoindre:
ch. Montral Rd., C.P. / Box 1388, Cornwall ON K6H 5V4
Telephone / Tlphone (613) 933-1138; Fax / Tlcopieur (613)
2000-2007 -- Diocse
Catholique Alexandria-Cornwall Catholic Diocese
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