Houses of Holy | L’Eglise Sacré-Coeur (1855)

The Parish of the Sacred Heart, or properly Sacré-Coeur, is a unique one in the project. Like all Roman Catholic Parishes, this parish can trace itself back to St. Peter’s Mission Church. But this parish is relatively new, one of several French language parishes established in the 1960s. But the building itself traces itself to the first Roman Catholic Parish in Georgetown.

L'Eglise Sacré-Coeur Roman Catholic Church (1855)
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W S 1:5.6/150 – Adox CHS 100 II @ ASA-100 – Adox Atomal 49 (Stock) 5:45 @ 20C

The early Roman Catholics in Georgetown would be forced to travel to St. Peter’s Church to attend mass; At the same time, these services were a bit irregular; the faithful would make the long journey to receive communion, give confession, and celebrate mass. By 1851, the Roman Church counted some 250 members within the Esquining Township, and the Jesuit Order made the point to establish two mission churches. One in Acton, the other in Georgetown. The Georgetown parish was buoyed by the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway; most of the hard labour conducted on the new line running from Toronto was done by Irish immigrants. Even after the work moved further west, many chose to remain in Georgetown. Father Frank Dumotier would have the Georgetown Parish as a part of his circuit of other mission churches maintained by the Jesuits. In 1854, the Jesuits arranged to purchase a small lot at Main St and Park Ave, building a rough wooden frame church dedicated to St. Patrick and holding the first service in 1855. Services would continue twice per month and were celebrated by a Jesuit priest. Tensions ran high between the Irish Catholics and the Anglican English, often resulting in violence between the two groups. It also didn’t help that the Irish Catholics were far poorer, and their church was unfinished with little ornamentation and quickly fell into disrepair. The matter came to a head in 1869 when a Bishop refused to enter the small church, declaring it unfit for a place of worship. And efforts were made to collect funds and materials to build a new brick church, netted the collection of stones for a new foundation by 1879. More minor matters and internal arguments took the forefront, and the funds to build the new church never materialised. A fire at a nearby property renewed the interest in building a new church in 1882, and the parish looked at purchasing an existing sanctuary but again, the lack of funds prevented such a purchase. Father Fleck, the priest in charge of St. Patrick’s, turned to prayer, resulting in an interest-free loan from Mrs Helen Crawford. But Father Fleck took things one step further, selling the original lot and moving the parish closer to where many prisoners lived on the poorer side of the community. In July 1885, after the existing materials were moved, a cornerstone was laid, and Bishop James Canberry dedicated the church to the Holy Cross. Construction of the new Gothic Revival church took place under Mr Clochey and according to the designs by noted architect Joseph Connelly. The church celebrated its first mass on Christmas the same year. The Jesuits turned over the care of the parish to the Diocese of Hamilton in 1893, with Rev Patrick Haley celebrating mass twice per month. The parish also expanded into the wider community, hosting events and providing support services for the whole of Georgetown. Memorial windows and a church bell were installed in 1936, a full-time parish priest was assigned, and mass was celebrated each Sunday. In 1951 electric lights were installed along with new pews, new carpets, a proper scarcity, an enlarged gallery, and cross stations. These updates were thanks mainly to the population boom following the Second World War, and the parish nearly quadrupled in size. The need for a larger building became clear by 1955. A larger building was planned, construction began by the decade’s end, and the new Holy Cross opened in 1965. But during the construction, efforts to establish French-speaking parishes had started. A group of native French speakers approached Bishop Joseph Ryan about using the old Holy Cross church for a new French-Speaking parish. Bishop Ryan would delay while he sought a French-speaking priest, but once he had rededicated the old church as Sacré-Coeur in 1965. Since then, there have been some renovations to the old church to retain its usefulness to the growing community of French-Speaking Catholics. Today both parishes are active community members and continue to serve Catholics of all nationalities throughout Halton Hills in association with the Catholic Community of Milton.

The road construction on Guelph Street made it easy to choose where they compose the image. I was able to get a good angle to show off the full size of the small church. Although thanks to the hill it sits on, I couldn’t get to the top of the bell tower even with cranking up the front standard. I could have used the 125mm lens, but that would have included the pylons in the shot, so I went with the 150mm instead. The hard light was much better positioned, so I could easily meter and maintain my highlight and shadow details.

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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