HISTORY OF OUR PARISH
The Sulpitian missionaries, Rev. Dollier De Casson and Rev. Galinee, encamped along the shores of Lake Erie (Port Maitland) for five months and eleven days during the winter of 1669-70. About a mile and a half inland on the margin of a small stream a large hut was erected by the small band of French explorers who accompanied these priests. One end of the building was reserved for a chapel where Father Dollier celebrated Mass three times a week. The group claimed this land for the French King Louis XIV, planting a cross and affixing the King’s arms to it. From here the band journeyed westward to Point Pelee. Settlers began coming to this area around 1832. As far as is known, the first Mass ever celebrated in Dunnville was by Rev. Wm. McIntosh, C.C. in 1848 in a tavern owned by Mrs. McKeever. Previous to this time the few Catholics in the district were obliged to trek to Buffalo to fulfill their Easter duty and to have their children baptized.
Father McIntosh and other priests visited at irregular intervals. They celebrated Mass in a variety of places, such as the Amsden Hall, the home of Jaspar Murphy and the home of Jeremiah and Johanna Sullivan, who came in 1850. The first Catholics in Dunnville were said to have been Thomas Carroll and Andrew Devine. Serving the Catholic community from 1858 to 1877 was the pastor of Caledonia, Rev. John McNulty. Dunnville continued as a permanent mission of Caledonia until 1866.
Besides the above named early settlers, the following people were among the first parishioners: Daniel Barry, Margaret Kenney, Mrs. Celeste Mombleau Livingstone, Patrick and Michael Corcoron, James and John Newman, Wm. Billington, Michael Cleary (came in 1869 with Tom Bolger – they were veterans of the Crimean
War), Bartholomew Hartnett, Michael Ryan, Tim and Maurice Clifford,
Daniel and Patrick Sullivan (no relation to Jeremiah Sullivan), Ed Flanagan, John Cooley, James and John Kenney, George and David Jewhurst, James O’Keefe, Richard Sasse and Hubert Dumas.
The Old Church: Shortly after Fr. McNulty arrived, sixteen Catholics met and passed a resolution to erect a frame church. Thomas Carroll loaned a lot for the church where the rectory now stands. After some time the lot on which our present church is built, was purchased, and the old church building was moved to it. When it was decided to start the new church, the old church building was moved back to the Carroll lot. Upon the death of Mr. Carroll he willed the land to his two daughters, Mrs. Bolger and Mrs. Elizabeth Kenney. On February 1, 1886 they deeded the lot back to the church. Plans for the construction of the present church began in 1885 under Father Kelly and the cornerstone was laid in 1886 on September 8th by Bishop Carberry. On May 10, 1887 the new church was blessed and dedicated. Father James Crinion was appointed first resident pastor on September 8, 1886. He rented a home until September 1887 when the men of the parish began operations for the rectory. They cut the old church in two; one half was made into a barn and the other half was taken apart. This lumber was used in the construction of the rectory on the same site. In 1911 a semi-colonial verandah was built on the front of the house. Mr. Clohency of Hamilton was the architect of the church and Robt. Bennett of Dunnville, was the contractor, Fred Hartnett recalls that his father, Jeremiah Hartnett drew stones by horse and wagon from the quarry in Byng for the foundation of the church. Also, Rhea Allan tells us that her grandfather, James O’Keefe helped as a carpenter in the construction of the church and the rectory.
The style of architecture is Italian. The High Altar was a gift of Bishop Carberry to Father Crinion. It consisted of the altar and tabernacle with a high ornamental backdrop framing a large oil painting of the Crucifixion, which was also a gift of Bishop Carberry. The sanctuary lamp was the gift of Helena Cleary in memory of her mother, Ellen Sullivan Cleary. A new J.C. Haliman reed organ was the gift of Jeremiah Hartnett. The beautiful gold monstrance which we still use today was donated by Assad Kouri in memory of his wife Susie Kneider. The beautiful stained glass windows, manufactured by the N. T. Lyon Co., Toronto, were installed during the pastorate of Very Rev. Dean Donovan.
The artistic oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross were the gift of Miss Jane Newman, in memory of her mother, Ellen Newman.The statue of St. Michael the Archangel on the main altar at the time was the gift of Michael Gandour Sr. and Assad Kouri. Many other beautiful gifts, such as vestments, chalice, candlesticks and Baptismal font were donated by various parishioners. (See Parish Almanac – 1937). The church was heated by a gas stove suited at the back of the church and gas chandeliers provided light. The entire cost of the church was about $9000. Previous to the stained glass windows the windows were of frosted glass, embellished with coloured glass borders. When Father Crinion was transferred to Paris in 1903 he was succeeded for a one year term by Rev. G. J. Cleary. Pastor from 1904-06 was Rev. P. J. Donovan. During the short pastorate of Rev. J. Englert, March 1906-July 1907, the interior of the church was painted, renovations were made in the building and the sanctuary was decorated. Father Englert was transferred to Hamilton in 1907.
He was followed by Father P. J. Donovan who returned to Dunnville to begin a twenty-three year pastorate. In 1908 the final debt on the church was paid. Father Donovan was made Dean of Brant-Haldimand in 1922.
The Silver Jubilee of St. Michael’s was celebrated on September 17, 1911. Town and country dignitaries, as well as distinguished clergy attended the two services. The “Missa Cantata” was sung at the morning service. Charles Kenney, father of Helen McQuatty was organist and choirmaster. Father Donovan died November 20, 1930.
Rev. George Goodrow arrived in Dunnville in 1930 on the 4th of December. Due to necessity and the approach of the Golden Jubilee, renovations and painting was undertaken. The ceiling of the sanctuary was painted in a delicate blue to resemble the sky, resplendent with stars and billowy clouds, was a painting of an illuminated dove, emblematic of the Holy Spirit.
The ceiling of the church contained a huge painting of God the Father breaking through a celestial blue sky extending His hand in Benediction. Other sections were adorned with paintings of Peter and Paul as well as the four evangelists.
The first midnight Mass was celebrated December 25, 1931. The first gas furnace was installed at this time, according to Ellen-Marie Cleary. In June 1933 a Chapel under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was erected at Port Maitland on the East side of the river to accommodate summer parishioners at Beckley Beach. Mass continued to be celebrated there until the time of Father O’Reilly. The Golden Jubilee was celebrated on May 10, 1937 with Archbishop John T. McNally D. D. presiding at the celebration. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered at this Mass. Some members of our present parish community received Confirmation at this time; Edith Meyer, George Barrey, John Jacob and Leo Barrey.
The choir, with Mrs. E. Prashaw at the organ rendered Fr. Schoepf’s Mass in G and other appropriate music. Miss Bessie Gandour of our parish sang in this celebration.
During Father Goodrow’s pastorate a new bell was purchased from the Canadian Bell foundry in Kitchener. It weighs approximately 2300 pounds. It was blessed on September 9, 1934. In the vestibule of the bell tower is a bronze tablet bearing the legend of the bell. The money for the bell was donated by the parish societies and parishioners. The next priest to serve St. Michael’s was Father Francis P. Kehoe who assumed his duties in January 1942. As Hon. F/L in the RCAF he did a splendid job as Padre for the local air Force base near Port Maitland. During his pastorate raffles, bazaars and dances were held at Kneader Hall (over the former Stedman’s) to raise money for the church and charities.On June 7, 1946 Father Thomas J. Clancy assumed his duties as pastor. Father Clancy was a quiet humble priest who faithfully served the parish for the next ten years. On May 12, 1948 he celebrated his silver Jubilee and was presented a purse from the parishioners. During Father Clancy’s pastorate a rosary crusade took place with Father Peyton bringing the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Dunnville. Crescentia Hartnett and Agnes Murray recall the spirit of cooperation and goodwill amongst the ladies during the pastorates of Father Clancy, Kehoe and Monsignor O’Reilly. They took turns cleaning the church, washing the candelabra and dusting. Socially, card parties were held in private homes. Rev. John A. O’Reilly became pastor of St. Michael’s in January 1956. During his pastorate until 1969 many projects were undertaken and completed.Plans were next underway for the construction of the parish centre. A canvassing committee, chaired by Camille Kneader, visited the parishioners seeking financial pledges to cover the cost of the building. On March 16, 1958 the parish centre was officially opened. Later, during Father Lee’s pastorate, the centre was given its official name —the Monsignor O’Reilly parish centre. Religious classes for students were held here until the building of the school in 1963. Previous to classes at the centre, Sister of St. Joseph and Sisters of Service came to Dunnville each July for two weeks to teach the Catholic Faith to the children of the parish. These classes were held in Central Public School. Catechism classes were also held each Sunday after Mass. Some catechism teachers were Marie Jewhurst, Susie Gandour, Nora Livingstone and Ellen-Marie Cleary.
In November of 1958, the parish of St. Michael’s became a part of the newly formed St. Catharines diocese, which covers the Niagara Peninsula and the old county of Haldimand. In 1959 the church was painted and a new tile floor was installed. New concrete steps and railings were also added.
A Monsignor O’Reilly Appreciation Night was held October 4, 1962 to honour Father O’Reilly being appointed as Domestic Prelate by Pope John XXIII. John Byrne, president of the Holy Name Society, read the official Papal letter and Camille Kneider presented Father with a parish cheque. Mr. Kneider recalls serving the parish in various ways throughout the years and is rightfully proud of receiving one of the highest decorations bestowed on a Catholic layman. He received from His Holiness Pope Pius X11 the Lateran Cross Decoration, first class. It was given for service above and beyond duty and entitles the holder to be called “Honourable”.
Believing that a child should build his everyday life according to the truths of our faith, Monsignor decided to build a Catholic school. On September 15, 1963 the school was officially blessed and opened by Bishop T. J. McCarthy D. D. Camille Kneider was chairman of the Separate School Board of Trustees.
Vatican II brought some changes to the church. The first Mass celebrated in the vernacular (English) was on Mother’s Day 1965. The priest now celebrated Mass facing the congregation. Nick Rykhoff, custodian for the past twenty-three years, remembers helping Msgr. O’Reilly with the cement altar stone in our present altar. Then, he tells us that Father Michael O’Reilly didn’t like the idea of celebrating Mass with his back to our Lord in the tabernacle, so he had the old altar removed to the present location in the Blessed Virgin’s Chapel. The altar railing was removed also at this time. In 1969 the Monsignor retired and resided in Dunnville for a number of years before going to the Mount Carmel home in St. Catharines. Monsignor O’Reilly died on December 7, 1978 and is buried in St. Michael’s cemetery. In 1969 Father Michael O’Reilly came to St. Michael’s on July 1st. He was born in Ireland and came to Canada after his ordination in 1943. Parishioners remember Father O’Reilly as a friendly, conscientious priest dedicated to caring for spiritual needs of his parish family. He was a man who enjoyed a good game of euchre and an Irish joke as well. In 1974 a new Conn organ was purchased with money bequeathed to St. Michael’s by Mrs. Mabel (Hartnett) Thiel. Carson Culp Sr. and Jr. designed and attached 52 pipes to the organ in August 1974. On November 3, 1974 the organ was blessed by Father O’Reilly at a special dedication service. Newly ordained Father Don Lizzotti came to assist Father O’Reilly in 1973. As well as assisting with the regular church work he took an interest in the Catholic youth group. Blessed with a beautiful singing voice and keenly interested in liturgical music, he formed and directed a senior adult choir whose singing enriched many parish celebrations. His charismatic personality and joyful spirit endeared him to many in the parish community. The CWL, Men’s Club and parishioners presented Father Michael and Father Lizzotti with tickets to Rome in 1973. In 1976 Carson Culp Jr. and Father O’Reilly painted the whole entire church interior themselves in a soft aqua shade. Father Gregory Denes served as assistant from 1975 to 1977. Father Gregory had been a member of the Barnabite Order before joining the clergy of St. Catharine’s diocese. He was of Hungarian birth and very highly educated, speaking many languages. Previous to coming to St. Michael’s he served as Chaplain at Hotel Dieu in St. Catharines. Father O’Reilly died of cancer at the age of sixty on May 29, 1977. He is buried in St. Michael’s cemetery. Father Leroy Lee became pastor of St. Michael’s in July 1977. In keeping with the Vatican II directives, Father Lee organized the lay ministries of the Eucharist, readers, hospitality and altar girls. To provide Catholics an opportunity to learn more about their faith, Father conducted a weekly bible study course, entitled “Journey” by Bishop Gervais. During Father Lee’s pastorate he encouraged the parish to adopt three Vietnamese boat families. The Doan and Nguyen families had readily adapted to our Canadian way of life and are happy residents of our town and parish. Father Lee opened the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament upstairs in the parish centre where daily morning Mass is celebrated. Sunday school classes for children not attending St. Michael’s school are held in the chapel each Sunday morning between Masses. Mrs. June Corey instructed these children. Being a compassionate man, Father Lee showed a deep concern for the less fortunate of society, offering food and shelter to those in need. Father introduced COR— a youth retreat, Marriage Encounter, Faith and Sharing retreats and Engaged Encounter to the parish. Many parishioners took part in theses programs.
In January 1983 the diocese began the RENEW program. Father Lee encouraged all to participate in this program to deepen their spiritual awareness and to share their faith with others. One hundred and forty parishioners signed up to take part in small group sharing. Also in 1983, Father Lee was transferred to Chippewa, Ontario. St. Michael’s had the honour of having Bishop Thomas McCarthy in Dunnville. He resided in the Lalor home on Broad Street. Frank Lalo had left his estate in trust as a retirement home for Catholic and Anglican clergy for a twenty year period. Bishop McCarthy assisted Father Lee with morning Masses and whenever needed.
On June 24, 1979 Bishop McCarthy was honoured by St. Michael’s with a celebration of the Mass followed by an informal reception on the
occasion of his 50th anniversary to the priesthood. In July 1983, Father Mitchell Kasza became pastor of St. Michael’s. Father faithfully carried on the RENEW program which officially started in September 1983. Three very successful potluck dinners were enjoyed by the parishioners during RENEW. Realizing the need for redecorating and renovations in the church and in preparation for out centennial jubilee, Father Kasza initiated plans to carry out the work. He appointed a renovations committee to assist him in plans and decisions. John Jacob chaired the committee with the help of John Mater, Jim Biros, Chuck Weikman, Pat Laverty, Mike Kozar and Bonnie South. The interior of the church was painted in a soft beige complimented by white and gold trim on the altar, windows and Stations of the Cross. Beautiful hanging chandeliers were purchased and installed throughout the Church, thus giving the interior a more church-like, edifying appearance. A much needed high efficiency gas furnace was installed in December 1985.Father M. O’Reilly had desired to have a new altar, but illness and death prevented this. Together with the dedicated parish community, Father Mitchell Kasza undertook the building of a new main altar to grace the sanctuary. Complimenting the new altar, a new pulpit, presidential chair, and server benches were added. Further enhancing the church interior, carpeting was installed throughout the church, continuing the projects outlined by Father Kasza. In autumn of 1986 the Centennial celebration took place. Father Kasa also built the new rectory which was completed in 1990. Father Donald Lizzotti was assigned as pastor in July 1992. After three years of service he was transferred to St. Michael’s parish in Fort Erie. Father Hubert Dopp became pastor in July 1995. He was an outgoing friendly priest with very decided opinions and loved to hear and tell a good joke. He retired in Dunnville at the Grand River Condominiums. He passed away shortly after his retirement. He was a dedicated supporter of a children’s catholic school in Africa. Msgr. Raymond Montague succeeded Fr. Dopp in 2001. His friendly easy going style endeared him to many. Parishioners were saddened upon hearing of his transfer to Sacred Heart parish in Chippewa in August of 2004. Father Ray hired Sue Secord as secretary and she still is the secretary of the parish. In August 2004, Father Michael Andrysiak was assigned to our parish. Father Michael had air-conditioning installed in the church. He also put a new carpet in the church. Father Michael was transferred to Port Colborne in July of 2012
AUGUST 1, 2013 – … Father Sunny Sebastian, our current pastor, was born on May 7, 1958 in Kerala state, India. He was ordained a priest on January 6,1990. He took charge of our parish on August 1, 2013. He is well educated and came to us with a lot of parish and school experience. He had worked several years as a Catholic Elementary and High School Principal. He holds three Masters Degrees: Masters Degree in Psychology, Sociology & History. He also has done Bachelor of Education and two years of Supervisory CPE and family counseling in the US. Before coming to us he worked in the parishes of St. Alfred’s (St Catharines), St. Thomas More (Niagara Falls), Holy Rosary & St. Aloysius (Thorold), and St. Mary & St. Ann parish (Hagersville/ Walpole).
Upon his arrival the first thing he did was to form a youth ministry team. Father Sunny, even before his arrival, met Janet Janzen at the CWL convention in May 2013. He asked her to help in organizing a youth ministry team. The first week of his arrival he called Janet and entrusted her to call a few young mothers of the parish to form a youth ministry team.
Janet gathered 14 more young women and they had the first meeting in August in the parish rectory with Father Sunny. Janet Janzen was elected the first youth director and all others became coordinators. Soon the church started filling up with young families and children.
All the programs which Father Sunny was planning to start were new, so he invited Maureen O’Dwyer, the youth director of Hagersville Parish. She spoke to all members of the youth ministry team and explained all programs Father Sunny did in that parish for the youth.
He wanted to start a youth Mass first, once a month followed by a luncheon for all. For that he needed someone to lead the choir. He asked Laurie Rykse, a teacher from St. Michael’s school to help him in organizing a choir for the youth Mass. He already knew that she is one of the favorite teachers of the students in our school! So it was very fitting to ask for her help. She happily agreed. Irene Pinnelli, an EA of the school, whom Father Sunny knew from Hagersville school, also agreed to help.
YOUTH MASS: The first youth mass was held in October 2013. The church was filled with young families and children which St. Michael’s parish had not seen in many years!
YOUTH CHOIR: We started with 16 young children in the youth choir and soon robes for choir members were ordered. Once the other children saw these beautiful robes, many more joined and currently we have 38 children in the choir and we reordered more robes for all. They look gorgeous in those attractive robes.
ALTAR SERVERS: Before Father Sunny’s arrival we hardly had any children or young families in the church. We had only 5 Altar servers and all of them were the children of two families. After his arrival many more children became altar servers, since many young families started attending church. Very attractive robes for altar servers were ordered. They receive Chocolate bars and candies too when they serve. That too gave interest for many children to become altar servers. Currently we have 67 altar servers and choir members! Now we have more altar servers in our parish than in any other parishes of our diocese!
CHILDREN’S LITURGY: Jenny Valstar took responsibility of coordinating the teachers of children’s liturgy. Every Sunday after the opening prayer children are sent out after they receive the blessing . Siobhan Sutcliffe Hamilton is our current coordinator of children’s liturgy.
When the children are invited for the blessing they always run to the sanctuary because they know that there is a candy basket to carry together with the Bible. Every one wants to carry the candy basket! At the end of the mass for “Our Father” all children are invited to stand around the altar holding hands. The children’s birthdays are published in the Sunday bulletin and they are given a chocolate bar on their birthday.
FIRST COMMUNION & CONFIRMATION ENROLLMENT CEREMONY: Parishioners of St. Michael’s never knew what an enrollment ceremony was before. It was one of the most beautiful ceremonies we have ever had in the parish. This is done at a youth mass. The parents present their child in front of the parishioners by giving an enrollment card to Father Sunny which is displayed on the parish notice board with their picture and name so that everyone can pray for them.
All candidates received chocolate bars that day! Knights of Columbus 4th degree & CWL guard of honour added more colour to this beautiful ceremony.
HALLOWEEN PARTY: This was the first time in the history of our parish that a Halloween party was held at St. Michael’s Parish hall. It was held in October of 2013 for the children of the school and parish. It was attended by over 145 children and parents. It was a packed hall. There was a lot of food, games, haunted house, candies, etc for the children. The youth ministry team organized it.
“SUPER SOUPER”: The first fund raiser for youth programs was held in November of 2013 which was attended by all parishioners. The mothers of young families made different kinds of soups and was served by the youth. It was a freewill offering and we made $925 dollars in this first “Super Souper” event. We continue to have this event every year.
ALL SOULS DAY: On All Souls Day family members are given a lit candle in memory of their loved ones who passed away and are asked to place it in front of the altar while the choir sings “Ave Maria”. This was something new to all of us. This was done at all the weekend masses of the first week of November. Everyone who had lost a loved one felt it was very comforting. All the names of the deceased loved ones were displayed in front of the altar.
CHRISTMAS PARTY: The first ever Christmas party for all parishioners was held in the second week of December of 2013. Over 275 people were in attendance. Dinner was served for all with wine, ice cream, etc. Santa came as well with gifts for the children. The hall was filled to the capacity with so many young families and children.
CHRISTMAS EVE CHILDREN’S MASS: After many years, (perhaps the first time, we are not quite sure) we had our Christmas pageant by our youth and children. It was a packed church (standing room only). It was a youth mass with children singing, reading, etc. It was a breath taking ceremony with all children in procession for the Mass as well as taking part in the pageant.
All children carried battery operated candles in procession when the statue of baby Jesus was brought to the crib. At the end of the Mass, Santa came with candy canes and all sang happy birthday to Jesus.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY DINNER: It seems Father Sunny loves parties! Yes he certainly does!!! So he formed a committee and asked them to organize parties for all of us. Bernadette Poth became coordinator of celebrations and Dan Rykse became coordinator of entertainment. The first St. Pat’s dinner and social was held in our parish in April of 2013. We all became Irish for a day! Tom Jordan from Hagersville entertained us. All other dinners & parties Dan Rykse & “FULL HOUSE” members have entertained us. Over 200 people attended the event. Ron Poth was in charge of the cash bar. Everyone had a great time! Since then every year we continues to have St. Patrick’s day social, dinner & Dance with different entertainers.
NEW YEARS EVE DINNER AND SOCIAL: This is also a new event we started. Dan Rykse & team did the entertainment. We have already done this in the past 6 years
THE PRESTIGIOUS CATHOLIC SERVICE AWARD: Bishop Tonnos presented this award to Janet Janzen (youth director) and Laurie Rykse (our youth choir director) for their great service to our children of the parish and school. It was presented to them on Sunday, June 15 of 2014 at the Grotto after the 10:30am Mass.
PANCAKE BREAKFAST: This is a youth fundraising event. We started it in 2014 on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Parents of our youth, together with them, prepared it and served the pancakes after 8:30am and 10:30am masses. All parishioners joined to support the children. It was a freewill donation event. We still continue to this every year.
EASTER EGG HUNT & COFFEE SOCIAL: This is a new event we started in 2014 after the 10:30am mass on Easter Sunday! The church was packed with children on Easter Sunday. All the children went outside after mass for an Easter Egg hunt. Then everyone came to the parish hall for a coffee social with cookies, cakes and ice cream. (We have not had any celebrations since August 2013 without ice cream & candies for the children)!!
FIRST COMMUNION MASS: We have never before witnessed such a beautiful celebration of first communion! What a beautiful ceremony it was! Father made all the children feel more special that day than any other priest we have ever had!
The Knights of Columbus and the CWL were guard of honour for the event. It was breath taking to watch the little ones dressed in beautiful dresses, one by one, walking through the isle with smiles on their faces holding battery operated candles! They placed the candles at the altar. All the families were allowed to take pictures while the children received Holy Communion for the first time which is not allowed in many churches. The first communion certificates were laminated with the child’s picture on it. All the communicants received chocolate bars on their special day! The ceremony ended with a reception in the hall with cake, ice cream, etc for all.
GROTTO AND PRAYER GARDEN IN HONOUR OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA: This was one of the great projects Father Sunny had in mind when he took charge of our parish. He had already built two Grotto’s in his former parish churches in Hagersville and Walpole. It cost us over $35,000 and within four months we were able to collect the amount needed for it from our generous parishioners! Irene Marr donated $4,750 towards the cost of the statues in memory of her husband Gordon Marr and Seraphine Dowd donated $3,500 towards the granite stone in memory of her husband Dick Dowd. Several families donated cement benches in memory of their loved ones. Bishop Bergie paid for one bench in honour of Our Lady of Fatima. A bronze plaque with names of all who donated was also installed. Many parishioners made donations towards it and their names are on the bronze plaque. In less than a year the Grotto was completed. The construction work was done by Paul O’Dwyer construction Co., Jarvis, who built two other grotto’s in Hagersville/ Walpole. The blessing of the Grotto took place on June 15, 2014 after the 10:30am mass with hundreds of parishioners in attendance. Bishop Anthony Tonnos, bishop Emeritus of Hamilton diocese, was the main celebrant. In connection with the celebration, Seraphine Dowd donated a gold plated Chalice for the church and her son Steve How donated a Ciborium for the church. Bishop Bergie could not be here for the celebration due to an emergency situation at one of the parishes of our diocese and requested Bishop Tonnos to be the main celebrant. May crowning and the first parish picnic with barbecue luncheon also took place after the Mass and blessing. Dan & Dwayne Rykse, Paul O’Dwyer and Ron & Bernadette Poth together with other celebration committee members coordinated the barbecue luncheon with French fries!
Rachel Meneguzzi, a university student from the University of Guelph did the eyes of the statue and the Grotto was designed by Tom O’Dwyer from Hagersville parish. Now the crowning of Mary in May is done at the Grotto every year. At the annual parish family picnic, all of us gather at the Grotto and offer special prayers of healing to Our Lady of Fatima.
HOLY THURSDAY “THINK FAST”: Nobody in this parish knew about this before. We started it in 2014. The children from the school, grades 5 and up, signed up for a 12 hour fast on Holy Thursday starting at 10:00am in the school and ending at 10pm in the Parish Centre. Over sixty students participated in it when we started it the first time. Almost all students of St. Michael’s (grade 5 to 8) took part in it and the number is growing year by year. Juice and water is given to the students at school and at 10:00pm they had Pizza dinner.
After school hours, they all came to the parish hall and had various activities. They also joined for the Holy Thursday evening mass at 7pm. None of them had ever been to a Holy Thursday mass or the washing of the feet before. Six boys and six girls were selected for the washing of the feet. Since all of the them wanted to be in it, names were drawn. At the end of the mass for the procession of the Eucharist inside the church, all the students took part with lit candles.
The money collected by the students is usually sent to the children of poor countries. But Father suggested to the youth ministry team that they will use it at St. Michael’s school for the “Healthy Snack Program” since we have so many children in our school who are poor. They all happily agreed and the students were thrilled to hear it.
SCHOOL MASSES: Since Father Sunny’s arrival the students and teachers always look forward with excitement to the monthly school masses. Unlike most of the priests, Father Sunny has a lot of experience in speaking to students of all ages, since he himself was a high school and elementary school principal before. People who attended these Masses have seen Father’s ability to reach the students of all ages and speak to them the way they understand! He is very kind and loving to the children. More and more parishioners and parents started attending the school Mass. It is very nice to see over 30 students wearing their colourful robes standing at the side of the altar and singing under the guidance and direction of Laurie Rykse, their favorite school teacher. Special occasions such as the beginning and end of the school year and at Christmas and Easter they are given their candies: Candy canes for Christmas and Easter eggs for Easter! Father Sunny makes sure that Santa comes to the school Christmas Mass too! He also gave special Christmas gifts to all staff of our school which has never been done before. At special occasions after school mass all students and teachers gather around the Grotto and say “Hail Mary” and sing a hymn to Mary. In 2014 at the beginning of the academic year Bishop Bergie was invited to say the first school mass. This is the first time he has said a school mass here. He was very impressed by the participation of the students at the Mass, especially the students beautifully singing & reading. Bishop Bergie thanked Father Sunny, the students, teachers and the principal for their hard work. The Mass ended with Bishop Bergie blessing the students and teachers with special prayers. After the Mass together with Bishop and Father Sunny, all the students and teachers gathered around the Grotto. Bishop Bergie said three “Hail Mary’s” and the students sang “Ave Maria”. After mass the Bishop was invited for a coffee social at the school with the staff which was prepared by the CWL. Some of the members from the school board also was in attendance. Bonnie McKinnon, School Board Trustee was also present. CONFIRMATION MASS: The first confirmation Mass, since Father Sunny’s arrival, was celebrated on Sunday June 17th at 10:30am with Bishop Bergie. We had a packed church and even the choir loft was full. It was a beautiful ceremony that ended with prayers at the Grotto with the May crowning by one of the first communicants of this year. In the packed hall, a wonderful luncheon was prepared by the Celebration Committee under the leadership of Bernadette Poth. Wine also was served for all. A free will offering was requested for the youth program and also we had a 50/50 draw. Ruth Rykse was in charge of the 50/50 draws at this event. She has been doing it since then and continue to do it at all our programs till today. FATHER SUNNY’S 25TH ANNIVERSAY OF ORDINATION:We celebrated Father Sunny’s 25th Ordination Anniversary on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at the 10:30am youth Mass. It was a beautiful Mass in the packed church with several of his former parishioners from Hagersville also in attendance. The celebration committee prepared meals for over 350 people. The parish main hall was so packed, we had to make people sit on the stage as well as in the side meeting room. Coordinators of various ministries of the parish spoke at the reception. The following people from Hagersville also spoke: Maureen O’Dwyer (Youth Director), Jayne Dennis (CWL President), Ed McCarthy (Parish Council Chair). Victoria Magee, an 8th grade student from St. Mary’s school also spoke. They all spoke with passion on how they miss him in Hagersville and it brought tears to the eyes of many!
This is what Victoria wrote and read at the reception: “Father Sunny was with us at St. Mary’s School and Parish for nearly six years. I think everyone still at St. Mary’s knows what I mean when I say we miss him dearly every day. I know everyone misses his kind, encouraging words, and most definitely his crazy sense of humour!! But the kids, I think they most miss his comforting soul, because they know that he cared about everything that happened that day at school, or what they got for their birthday. It wouldn’t be a school Mass without the greeting of “Good Morning Father Sunny”. Even though we have a new priest, someone always manages to forget what they’re saying, and blurt out Father Sunny’s name. I am not sure if they just forget every time, or if they think that may be if they say it enough, Father Sunny will come back !
We think about Father Sunny frequently, but we feel close to his heart when we are out in the beautiful Grotto that Father Sunny helped us create and bless. We did however, love having outdoor school masses at the Grotto, and by the look on Father Sunny’s face, I think he loved them too!
And then came the pictures!! NOBODY could put cameras in to action like father Sunny. Everything under the sun, required photography, and lots of it! And speaking of things that we have lots of, I’d need proof that there was ever a shortage of candy at St. Mary’s. Every kind of candy that a little kid could ever dream of, was in those candy baskets. And OOOOOOOHHHHHH, those candy baskets!!!!!
When the kids were asked to carry the book, a few hands reluctantly raised, but when the candy baskets needed to be carried, everyone had their hand up, desperately hoping to be picked. If you were lucky enough to be picked, you felt like a celebrity – all eyes were on you – well, it’s more likely that all eyes were on that delicious candy!
Yes it is true, Father Sunny has a big sweet tooth. Every celebration, no matter the occasion, or the size of the group, MUST HAVE CAKE AND ICE CREAM! It wasn’t even something he needed to think about. Not even for a second! But of course, the saddest celebration of all was the Farewell to Father Sunny.
But now, you know how amazing Father Sunny is. Appreciate him always! You only know what someone truly means to you, when they are no longer with you.
Father Sunny, we love and miss you. Happy 25th Anniversary. You are an amazing priest and an even more amazing person”!
Victoria Magee, St. Mary’s School, Hagersville
Hayley Mattice’s presentation
Dear Father Sunny, congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of your Ordination It is truly a Big deal.
The youth group of St. Mary’s think you are Wunderbar!
When you arrived and welcomed the young families with open arms, we thought you must be a Mirage !
You brought the parish together with
your Coffee Socials.
You encouraged everyone to stay longer, eat more and visit.
You taught us about God’s Bounty and always made us feel like Smarties.
Your homilies were full of guiding words and you often ended with a humorous story to make everyone
Thank you for being our guiding Aero .
We miss you very much. We really Skor’d when you came to Hagersville.
We love you to pieces and are so proud of you on this special day!
VISIT TO INDIA & ROME: Three members from our parish; Irene Marr, Seraphine Dowd and Anna O’Brien joined Father Sunny to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of his younger sister, Sr. Lincy CPS in his home State Kerala in India (January, 2015). A tropical paradise called “God’s own Country” with lots of tea & coffee plantations, mangoes, bananas, pineapple and so many other tropical fruits. It has high mountains, valleys and wild life sanctuaries where they were lucky to see many wild elephants moving freely. They also visited tourist places like Agra and Delhi. On the way back they visited Rome and Asissi. They got tickets for papal audience. Anna O’Brien, got a chance to shake hand with Pope Francis !
PARISH BULLETIN & PARISH WEBEBSITE, PARISH MISSION STATEMENT, PARISH ON FACEBOOK: Father Sunny designed and launched our parish website on August 1, 2013. The Sunday bulletin now have a new look and is very interesting and informative. It is published every Sunday which was not done before. We all look forward to it every Sunday. The parish mission statement which was prepared by him was also promulgated on the same day and is posted at the back of the church as well as on the front page of the bulletin.
LASER TAG: All the children who serve as altar servers, readers, ushers and choir members for the youth mass are taken for “Laser Tag” in Hamilton once a year. The cost for is around $ 3500.00. Donations from parishioners as well as youth fundraisers helped to pay for it.
YOUTH DIRECTORS: Janet Jenzen was our first youth director. Janzen family moved from here to their newly built home in Welland. Janet was a great leader and worked very hard together with the youth ministry team to organize all programs. We certainly will miss Janet. Shelley Dulmage took over from Janet as youth director. Our current youth director is Emily Sutcliffe. She is very efficient, hard working and willing to do anything for our youth.
GOOD FRIDAY PERCH DINNER: Two years on Good Friday, we had poor Man’s Supper”. Various kinds of vegetable soups were served with bread and butter. Since 2015 we have been doing “Perch dinner” instead of “poor man’s supper” with the help of Paul & Maureen O’Dwyer from Hagersville parish.
Thus our parish has become one of the most vibrant parishes in the Diocese of St. Catharines.
Father Sunny makes us all feel at home when we enter the church. The first day of his arrival he told us that Church is our second home. His sense of humour, his kindness and compassion towards children, young people and old alike, made us feel welcome. The pictures you see in this book speak volumes and will not do complete justice to what we have accomplished in this short period of time in the parish, after Father Sunny’s arrival. He is a good homilist, every homily he gives there is always a story and message. His homilies at funerals are very touching and personal. It is always very comforting to the families. The baptisms are done a very special way during Mass. In spite of numerous baptisms he has done during a Mass we were all out of the church within an hour after Mass! We all look forward to attending Mass every Sunday and listening to him. We also look forward to the parties too! A church, without children and young families, is a dead church. Ours was one like that before Father Sunny’s arrival. January, 2017 Father Sunny was appointed as the Dean (Vicar Forane) of Haldimand Deanery & ex-officio member of Priests Council. We celebrated Father Sunny’s 60th birthday on May 7,2018 and his 29th Ordination Anniversary on January 6,2019. We are very blessed and fortunate to have Father Sunny as our pastor. We also hope and pray that he will stay with us for a long, long time!