St. Aloysius Parish history

The Birth of A Parish

Just after the turn of the 20th century, when the eastern region of Montreal began to develop industrially and residentially, many Irish and other English-speaking Catholics settled in this district. Consequently, the need of an English parish to serve the growing municipalities of Hochelaga, Maisonneuve and Viauville soon became apparent.

Father Mortimer Lewis SheaIn January 1908, a committee representing the foremost families in these districts approached Bishop Racicot and suggested the immediate need for a separate parish to minister the spiritual welfare of the English-speaking community. The Bishop received the delegation well and on January 13, Father Mortimer Lewis Shea, a zealous curate of St. Antony’s Parish, was detailed to take the census of the district and to report back to Bishop Racicot as soon as possible.

Father Shea virtually completed the census only 10 days later, reporting the need of a new English parish for at least 350 families and 1,500 souls. In his report, Father Shea told of the enthusiastic reception he received in every home where he told the people that a church of their own language was apparently forthcoming.

Through his assistant Canon Martin, Bishop Racicot ordered that a meeting of the proprietors and tenants be announced from the pulpits of the French churches of Hochelaga, Maisonneuve and Viauville, for the last Sunday in January. Accordingly, the meeting was held in the hall of St. Joseph’s School, on Dezery and Hudon Streets, where the formal petition for a new parish was duly signed by about 150 of those present. Canon Martin announced that the first Mass would be said the following Sunday.

The First Mass

St. Joseph’s School, on Dezery and Hudon StreetsThus as the Babe of Bethlehem was born in the humility of a stable, our Parish of St. Aloysius had its beginning in the little makeshift chapel of St. Joseph’s School on Sunday, February 2, 1908.

The coldest week of the winter of 1908 preceded that memorable day, Saturday night and early Sunday morning marked by a violent wind and snow storm. Yet, despite the drifts of snow that piled up on the roads and sidewalks, the little chapel was well filled for the first Mass, said at 8 o’clock by Father Shea. At 10 o’clock the first High Mass was celebrated by Rev. Father Leclair, superior of the Redemptorists at Hochelaga. At the Gospel of that Mass, Father Shea complimented the people on their attendance and their evident sincerity of desire for a parish of their own.

The Chalice used at Mass was presented by Alderman D. Gallery while the vestments and censer were the gifts of Father J.E. Donnelly of St. Anthony’s.

Under the spiritual and businesslike administration of Father Shea, the parish took shape rapidly. On Sunday, March 29, the decree of the Archbishop erecting the Parish of St. Aloysius into a separate and distinct parish from those of the neighborhood French churches was read for the first time. It was read again on April 5 and the boundaries of the parish at the time were the St. Lawrence River, Harbor Street, Sherbrooke Street, Nolan Street to the Municipality of Maisonneuve.

On Monday, April 6, Father Shea received his official appointment as Pastor and on the following Sunday the first church wardens were duly appointed. They were Messrs. T. Murphy, C. McGinley, J. O’Gorman, P. Rafferty, J.V. Chisholm, E.J. Murray, J.H. Leahy and W.J. Brydges.

Building of a New Church

Father Shea was authorized by parishioners and wardens to acquire a loan of $44,000 towards the building of a new church and presbytery. Ground was purchased, 26 lots and city lanes, bordering on Valois, Stadacona (now Adam Street) and Nicolet, for $10,000.

On September 1, 1908, turning of the first sod for erection of the new church was performed by Canon O’Meara of St. Gabriel’s and on October 11, Bishop Racicot laid the cornerstone.

Mass was celebrated for the first time in the basement of the new church on August 29, 1909. Formal opening and blessing of the church proper was held December 19, 1909, only 22 months after the birth of the parish in that little chapel on Dezery Street.

Montreal Herald articleMontreal Herald article (detail)

St. Aloysius Parish pastors since its establishement until the present day: