Houses of Holy | St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church (1835)

Hidden far from the downtown and tucked away is the oldest continuously occupied Church in Oakville. The Parish of St. Andrew’s owes itself to Irish farmers Bartholomew O’Conner and Charlie O’Hara, who convinced a priest in Dundas to celebrate Mass in Halton Region in 1819.

Houses of Holy - St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church (1835)
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Adox CHS 100 II @ ASA-100 – Adox Atomal 49 (Stock) 5:45 @ 20C

For many years, the Roman Catholics in Oakville travelled some seventeen kilometres to the St. Peter’s Mission Church, but the first known celebration of Mass in Oakville occurred in 1835. This number grew as the St. Peter’s Parish only offered mass once every four months. In Oakville, the rapid growth of the settlement resulted in 150 Catholics celebrating mass in 1836. Having such a large number saw the Church begin to look for a lot to build a proper parish in Oakville, and the Chisholms, though Presbyterian, donated a large lot at King and Reynolds to construct a church building. The Church began to form as the local Catholics donated time, talent, and materials to build the simple Carpenter Gothic sanctuary with a tall bell tower. Completed in 1840, a circuit priest conducted the consecration, quickly filling the 250-seat sanctuary. The first permanent priest, Father Jeremiah Ryan, arrived in 1859. Under Father Ryan, the first Roman Catholic School, St. Mary’s, was built and opened. He also established several community events, such as ice skating and garden parties. The first renovation during this time saw the sanctuary add additional one-hundred seats and a new altar and communion rails added at the front by local craftsman James O’Conner. The exterior of the Church was covered by stucco. While the congregation grew, their support of several other mission parishes resulted in their inability to purchase a new lot and build a larger parish, primarily through the early 20th Century. But that didn’t stop the Parish from continuing its community outreach. The post-war era saw a boom in the local population and the sanctuary underwent several renovations through the 1950s, with the number of seats going from 300 to 600, a new rectory being built and a refresh of St. Mary’s School and the conversion of the old rectory to a convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame. They took over operations at the school. Additional renovations to comply with the methods of celebrating Mass in Vatican II came in the 1970s but resulted in an unfinished look to the sanctuary. This was rectified in the 1980s with a beautification project that transformed the sanctuary into how it is seen today. However, St. Mary’s School was forced to close and was demolished in 1987. I have had the chance to worship with the Parish of St. Andrew’s on a Good Friday service. The altar is probably the centrepiece of the entire sanctuary and remains original to the 1850s as built by James O’Conner (his home is nearby still). The Parish remains an active part of Oakville to this day.

Photographing St. Andrew’s was one of the more difficult churches to photograph; the narrow streets with the large trees and surrounding houses and power lines make it nearly impossible to get a good sight line and capture the entire building. Rather than set up the camera along King Street, I moved further north along Reynolds to get a better sense and have more breathing room. I went with my 125mm because I don’t have anything wider, although the 90mm still would not have helped. I cranked my front standard up as high as it would but still cut off almost the entire tower. While I metered for the shadows just under the roof at the front, I should have metered for the front windows to get more detail in those crucial shadows.

If you wish to worship with this congregation, they will be happy to welcome you! Please check out the congregational website for details on attending services worship either in-person on online streaming!

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