Parish History

  • This brief summary of our parish history was prepared by Frank and Mary Kearsey,

     

     

    St. Pius X Parish had its origin in the school\chapel complex erected on Smithville property in 1955 to serve the Churchill Park area of St. John's. The St. Pius X Chapel, as it was then called, was dedicated by the Archbishop of St. John's, Most Rev. Patrick J. Skinner, C.J.M., D.D., on Sunday, January 15, 1956. The Chapel was located on the ground floor of the building with St. Pius X Elementary School occupying the upper floor. In later years, this building formed part of a much-enlarged elementary school. The former chapel which served as the parish church until 1976 is now the Parish Hall and is also used by the Elementary School as a gymnasium until 1999. (The aerial view above shows the Old Chapel and Elementary School complex as well as St. Patrick’s Mercy Home)

     

     
    Father Charles Greene (pictured here) of the Basilica Parish staff was the first administrator of St. Pius X which continued as mission of the Basilica until 1962. Incidentally, this was the first religious institution in the Archdiocese to be dedicated to St. Pius X who was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1954. St. Pius X School opened on September 19, 1955, under the administration of the Sisters of Mercy with one hundred twelve pupils registered. Mother M. Benignus was the first principal of the school. 

     

     

     At the invitation of Archbishop Skinner, the Jesuit Fathers arrived in St. John's in September 1962, to assume the responsibility for St. Pius X Parish and for the newly constructed Gonzaga Regional High School. The first Pastor and Superior of the Jesuit Community was Father Fred Lynch, S.J., while Father J. Kevin McKenna, S.J. was appointed first Principal of Gonzaga. The Parish was officially opened by Archbishop Skinner at 10:30 am Mass on September 2, 1962. Of the original community of Jesuits who came to us in 1962 (shown above), Father Charles Holland, S.J., and Father McKenna have served in Newfoundland almost continuously in a variety of educational and pastoral ministries. In June 1963, the Jesuit Community moved into the new Jesuit Residence on Smithville Crescent. The Residence continues to serve as administrative offices of the Parish and as the residence of the Jesuits.

     

     


    When the Parish was established in 1962, there were some five hundred families and a total of about twenty-one hundred parishioners. With characteristic zeal and energy, Father Lynch set about the task of building up the new parish spiritually and materially. In this task he was ably assisted by many enthusiastic parishioners and within a short time very active Ladies' and Men's Associations were formed (several members of the original Ladies’ Association are shown above). These associations were vital to the Parish at this time; among other objectives, the associations raised much of the funding required to run an active, growing Parish and, in particular to provide facilities for an expanding school population at St. Pius X.

    During the 1960's, several additions were made to the original Elementary School to accommodate increasing enrolments. In September 1967, St. Pius X Boy's School was opened under the administration of the Christian Brothers with Brother J.G. Buckingham as its first Principal. The original 1955 school then became St. Pius X Girls' School.

     

     

    Our founding Pastor, Father Lynch, left us in 1970 to minister to the native peoples of Northern Ontario. He died April 1, 1988. May he rest in the Peace of the Lord! The new Pastor, Father Leonard J. Fischer, S.J. continued to build on the solid parish foundation laid by Father Lynch. Without doubt, the highlight of Father Fischer's ministry at St. Pius X was the official opening and blessing of our new church on December 1, 1976 in the presence of Archbishop Skinner, Bishop R.T. McGrath and Bishop Alphonsus L. Penney. (The opening mass is pictured).

     

     

     

    Planning for the Church began in 1968 and under Father Fischer's capable direction the project was brought to fruition in 1976. This beautiful edifice, designed by architect Angus Campbell, incorporates the main church, a smaller chapel, sacristy, offices, library, etc. The design of the church includes a number of features based on liturgical renewal following the Second Vatican Council. The interior can be readily adapted for use on other appropriate occasions, e.g. parish meetings, school concerts, recitals, audio-visual presentations, etc. The new church has served us well since its opening in 1976 and is the very heart and center of a vibrant worshipping community at St. Pius X Parish. (A recent picture is shown above).

    Following the opening of the new church, the "old" (i.e. 1955) chapel received extensive renovations and a large kitchen, washrooms and other facilities were incorporated into the former chapel space. These renovations were undertaken with the generous support of the various parish organizations. This facility has had constant use over the years as a gym for the primary grades during school days, as a Parish Hall for numerous parish functions, as a meeting place for Scouts and Guides, and for socials, receptions, etc.

     

     

     

    Following a lengthy tenure, Father Fischer's ministry concluded in 1982, at which time he was assigned to the Native Ministry in Northern Ontario. At a Eucharistic Celebration held on July 28, 1982, Archbishop Alphonsus L. Penney dedicated the Parish Library honouring Father Fischer for his many years of ministry at St. Pius X Parish.

     

     

    Father William J. Browne, S.J. (pictured left), a native son of Newfoundland, was our next Pastor. St. Pius X along with the Catholic community of Newfoundland rejoiced and joined enthusiastically in the historic 1984 ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland. The highlight of this year was the visit of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II to St. John's on September 11, 12. Many of our parishioners were actively involved in the activities surrounding the memorable Papal visit.

    The year of 1987 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of St. Pius X Parish. The anniversary celebrations included a special Mass of Thanksgiving, on October 16, with the Archbishop of St. John's, Most Rev. A.L. Penney, D.D., presiding. A twenty-fifth anniversary "Parish Directory" was published and included listings of parish staff, organizations, committees and ministries, along with photographs of family groups and a listing of parishioners.

     

     

    A new pipe organ built by Casavant Freres was installed in the Church in 1987 and the Inaugural Organ Recital was given by Patricia Fowler on October 25th. The installation of the new organ also involved some renovations to the choir area. This splendid pipe organ is dedicated to the glory of God and to the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

     

     

    St. Pius X parishioners have always been mindful of our brothers and sisters in developing nations and have contributed generously to Jesuit Missions in India, to the Archdiocesan mission in Peru and to other worthy mission activities. In 1979 the Parish sponsored a refugee family from Vietnam, provided accommodation and furnishings and ongoing family support to the new immigrants to our country. During Father Browne's term as Pastor, the Parish assumed responsibility for the Mount Scio-Nagle's Hill area following the closure of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The Jesuit Community and St. Pius X Parish in general have given generous support to the building and operation of a Community Centre in the Brophy Place neighbourhood. The Parish continues its support of this Community Centre, now known at the MacMorran Community Centre and this year, 2001, has committed funding to assist in the building of a new Centre. In 1986, a parish outreach house was established at 43 Brophy Place. Brother Jim McSheffrey, S.J. (shown above on the right with Br. Joseph Freshette)

    Also around 1976, the A.T.T.N. (Assistance to the Neighbourhood) Committee was formed with its first president, the late Mike Jackman. The principal purpose of the A.T.T.N. is to provide material assistance (food, clothing, etc.) to families and individuals in need of such assistance. Much of the Committee's effort over the years has been directed to families in the Mount Scio section of the Parish. In addition to a food bank and clothing depot, the Committee offers assistance with various programs within the Community. The work of A.T.T.N. is made possible by the very generous support of our parishioners.

     

     

    During the Marian Year, 1988, the Catholic Women's League presented a statue of Our Lady to the Parish. This beautiful statue was dedicated by Father Browne, assisted by the late and fondly remembered Father Jim Toppings, S.J. on Sunday, September 11, 1988. The statue is placed in an attractive setting amid rosebushes and flowering plants near the Chapel entrance. The Knights of Columbus assisted with the installation of the statue which is an appropriate addition to the Church exterior and, more importantly, serves to remind us of our traditional devotion to the Mother of God.

    April 22, 1991, was observed as a Universal Day of Celebration by the worldwide Jesuit Community. This day marked the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus and the day in 1541 when Ignatius Loyola and his Companions made their solemn profession of vows in Rome after papal approval of the Jesuit Constitutions. 1991 also marked the five hundredth anniversary of the Birth of Ignatius. St. Pius X Parish joined with the local Jesuit Community in offering a Mass of Thanksgiving on this happy occasion with the Archbishop of St. John's, Most Rev. James H. MacDonald, C.S.C., D.D. presiding.

    The history of St. Pius X Parish was closely linked to the church's apostolate of Catholic education and, in particular, to the Girls' School, the Boys' School, and to Gonzaga High School (pictured below). St. Pius X Schools enjoyed a well-deserved recognition for academic excellence based on a sound philosophy of Catholic education.

     

     

    Over the years our parents valued a high standard of educational attainment for their children and significant numbers of St. Pius X students achieved distinction in many walks of life. The strong tradition of Catholic education at St. Pius X was fostered by the presence of the Sisters of Mercy (1955), the Jesuit Fathers (1962), and by the Christian Brothers (1967) and by excellent lay teachers who served in our Schools over the years. Regrettably, and due to the shortage of religious teachers, the Sisters of Mercy withdrew from the Girls' School in 1978 and the Christian Brothers from the Boys' School in 1982. These two elementary schools then became organized along the lines of an elementary and a junior high school both of which were co-educational. Gonzaga High School underwent major renovations and extension in 1988 and was also reorganized as a co-educational institution. In December 1997, after a Royal Commission, two provincial referendums and much public debate resulting in two amendments to the Constitution of Canada, Term 17 of the Terms of Union was changed by the Parliament of Canada. The new amendment abolished denominational education and the involvement of the churches in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador and allowed for the setting up of a single public school system. Our Parish fought long and hard againist this. The final result was that our schools were turned over to a secular public school board and parish involvement in our children's schools was ended in June 1998. The Jesuits withdrew from Gonzaga at that time. In June 1999, as a result of school board reorganization, the elementary school was closed down and the Junior High School on Elizabeth Avenue became a neighbourhood elementary school and was renamed ‘Rennies River' School. The original elementary school building was turned over to the Parish in 2000. Religious Education of children is the responsibility of parents and now the assistance that was formerly available in the Catholic schools has to come from the parish. Over the last few years, a programme for Religious Education for children and parents, including sacramental preparation and Liturgy of the Word, has been developed and expanded by the Religious Education Committee of the Parish. Many parishioners of all ages are involved in this effort and the results are very commendable.

     

     
    In 1999, an independent Catholic school was opened in St. John's through the hard work of a group of dedicated parents and with the assistance and guidance of the Jesuits. St. Bonaventure's College is a Catholic school in the Jesuit tradition and Father Winston Rye, S.J. is the first principal. 

     

    As noted earlier in this brief summary, the work of our Pastors at St. Pius X has been generously supported over the years by numerous parishioners and, in particular, by the Ladies' and Men's Associations formed almost immediately after the Parish was established.

    The Ladies' Association was organized in September 1962, with Mary Skinner as its first president. In May 1974 the Catholic Women's League of Canada was first introduced to Newfoundland, when the St. Pius X Council received it's charter with Mary Goss as President, Father Fischer became the first Spiritual Director, a position he held throughout his term as Pastor here. Father also served as the Spiritual Director for the Catholic Women's League's Provincial Council.

     

     
    The Men's Association also got underway in the fall of 1962 with Hubert Kelly as the first President. The Men's Association remained a very active parish group until the mid-1970's and subsequently, the Knights of Columbus was inaugurated in the Parish (1987) with Brother Harry Megann as the first Grand Knight. Father Browne was installed as the first Chaplain of the Council. It is presently inactive. (Shown here is the St. Pius X K of C members of 1990)

     

    The financial affairs of the new Parish were of course a major preoccupation of the Pastor and parishioners. A chartered accountant set up the books and prepared the first financial statement. Father Lynch also consulted actively with the executive of the Men's Association on the financial status of the Parish. They, in effect, acted as a ways and means group for fundraising. In 1968 a preliminary Planning and Finance Committee made up of a group of men and women of the Parish was formed to consider the needs of a new church building. Some methods of financing included parish pledging which commenced in February 1964, for school and church funds, and bingo which started in March 1968. The latter activity was dedicated principally to a new church building fund. Up to this time a significant portion of parish funds were required for school building projects.

    St. Pius X established it’s first formal Finance Committee in 1970. In 1974, a special planning committee headed by Father Fischer, was put in place for the construction of a new Church. Shortly after that, he appointed Ken Duggan as Chairman of the Finance Committee. Over the years, as pastors have changed, the Finance Committee became more involved in the administration of the temporal goods and property of the Parish.

    In October 1970, Father Fischer created a Parish Council. In addition to the priests of the Parish, its membership included two members of the Executive committees of the Men's and Ladies' Associations and six members named at large. The Council was reconstituted in 1991, with a formal written constitution, twelve members elected at large and three appointed, together with the Pastor and priests and religious of the Parish. There are five standing committees of Council: Finance, Liturgy, Outreach, Parish Life, and Religious Education. The Parish Pastoral Council acts as a consultative voice to the Pastor and collaborates with him to promote pastoral action that will help the Parish achieve its mission - the furtherance of the Church's mission of salvation.

    St. Pius X has prided itself on the standard of musical liturgy over the years. Among the early choir directors were Dr. Norman Brown and the late Dr. Ignatius Rumboldt. In recent years a number of young choral directors, many of them recent graduates of the School of Music at Memorial University, have carried on the high standards set by the earlier directors.

    A Liturgy Committee was first formed in March 1982 and over the years has provided the leadership and direction that has resulted in a high level of quality in the liturgical life of the Parish. The Committee coordinates the planning, implementation and evaluation of appropriate and effective liturgy at St. Pius X.

    The General Hospital, Health Sciences Centre on Prince Philip Parkway was opened in the 1970's and the associate pastors at St. Pius X have provided Roman Catholic Chaplaincy service. Father Browne was appointed Chaplain on a full time basis in 1991 and is ably assisted by a large team of pastoral care workers from the Parish.

    Among the longest serving members of our parish community is Gertrude Fleming who fulfilled her duties as sacristan from 1958 until 1996. Another staff member, caretaker John Healey, has served the parish faithfully since 1966. Since its foundation, the parish has enjoyed the excellent secretarial services of the late Margaret Fitzgerald, Mary Kent and the present incumbent, Michele Lawlor. In 1997, the Parish employed its first Lay Pastoral Assistant, Maria Kelsey. 

    Our subsequent pastors - Father Don Beaudois, S.J. (1988-1992); Father Jack Lynch, S.J. (1992-1993); and our current pastor, Father Wayne Bolton, S.J., carried on the excellent work undertaken by their predecessor pastors. Today, the parish ministers to some 1,300 families.

    In 1994, a St. Pius X family, Wayne and Marie Connolly and their two children were selected to represent the Archdiocese of St. John's at the special celebrations held in Rome to observe the "Year of the Family".

    On October 12,1995, a celebration was held to honour the jubilees of Father Fischer, Father Browne, Father Beaudois, and Father Lynch. We likewise honour all the Jesuits who have laboured in the Lord's Vineyard at St. Pius X Parish since 1962. Truly we have been blessed by the presence of many outstanding priests and brothers. Let us remember especially those who have left us and have gone to their heavenly reward: Father Fred Lynch, Father Vincent Murphy, Father J.H. Mitchell, Father William Kearns, Father Jim Toppings, Father Joseph Murray, Father Raymond O'Connor, and Brother James McSheffrey, S.J.

    We thank Almighty God for the many blessings He has bestowed on our parish. The building up of God's Kingdom at St. Pius X Parish - in our Church, our schools, our homes -continues in our own time with hundreds of parishioners actively involved with the Pastor. May the Good Lord continue to bless us in the years ahead!

    Jesuit priests who have served at St. Pius X Parish - 1962-2001:

    Father Donald Beaudois, S.J.
    Father Wayne Bolton, S.J.
    Father William Browne, S.J.
    Father Bernard Bruneau, S.J.
    Father Leonard Fischer, S.J.
    Father Edward Granville, S.J.
    Father Roger Greenwood, S.J.
    Father Jack Hall, S.J.
    Father Charles Holland, S.J.
    Father William Kearns, S.J.
    Father Fred Lynch, S.J.
    Father Jack Lynch, S.J.
    Father Frank McGee, S.J.
    Father J. Kevin McKenna, S.J.
    Father J.H. Mitchell, S.J.
    Father Joseph Mroz, S.J.
    Father Vincent Murphy, S.J.
    Father Joseph Murray, S.J.
    Father Raymond O'Connor, S.J.
    Father Winston Rye, S.J.
    Father David Shulist, S.J.
    Father James Toppings, S.J.

    AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM