About Us

Church History

The Early Years
The three men looked up as they heard the sound of hoof-beats. Soon a rider came into view, and was promptly greeted by the three with the title of "Father". "How did you know I was a priest?" the rider inquired. Replied John Shehan, one of the group: "Did you ever see an Irishman who didn't know a priest when he saw one?" The year was 1834; the place, Ingersoll. Shehan's two co-workers were John and Nicholas Dunn; the priest, Father Veriotte. They sat down to have a talk and the result of the conversation was, that in the following year Father Veriotte promised to return to celebrate Mass, if the others would see to providing a suitable place. He kept his word, and they kept theirs. Accordingly in the spring of 1835 Mass was celebrated for the first time in what is now Oxford County, in the O'Neil Blacksmith Shop, in Beachville. The congregation numbered seven, including two small children.
A humble beginning indeed, but how pregnant with meaning! It was the story of the acorn and the oak all over again. None of the participants in that conversation of 1834, or the Mass in 1835 could have foreseen it, but that humble beginning was, nevertheless, the birth of the Catholic Church in Oxford County. It will be noted from the foregoing that the Catholic people of the district worshipped first at Beachville, not at Ingersoll or Woodstock. Beachville was chosen because of its abundant water power. In an age when transportation by water was vital, Beachville enjoyed easy access to the river, with high ridges rimming the valley, each putting forth a tentative toe of land upon the valley margins to form a natural approach to the river Father Burke, who had been attending the Catholic people of the area whenever possible, built a small Church in the set- tlement in 1838. Catholics from Ingersoll, Beachville and Woodstock used this place of worship for several years. The Church itself lasted until destroyed by fire in 1876.

The Second Church

With a growing population in the community of Ingersoll, it is not surprising that the Catholic people of the community should have given serious thought to the building of their own church. By 1847, Mr. Carnegie, who was not a member of the parish, had donated land for the building of a Catholic Church in Ingersoll. The land was located just north of the old Adam Oliver Streets), and just west of the Rumsey property. Stone for the new Church was collected — and donated — by Nicholas, Michael and John Dunn, two of whom were in the trio that welcomed Father Veriotte a few years earlier.
From that point onward, the scene shifts to Ingersoll. That community had been experiencing a considerable growth in population, and it was only natural that the Catholic members should want a church of their own. Itinerant missionaries came and went with surprising frequency. Between 1840 and 1850 there were no fewer than four. Fathers Mills, Lees, O'Dwyer and Quinlan served the mission, a trend that was to continue for some years to come. However, even with such frequent changes in leadership, the progress that was made in the could never have taken place had it not been for the deep faith of priests and people alike. There is not other explanation. They wanted to practise their faith; they wanted the blessings which only their faith could give and no effort would be spared to bring that about.

Sacred Heart Parish
The first Catholic Church was erected in Ingersoll in 1848 and was named Sacred Heart Church. Father Michael Moynahan was at that time in charge of the parish. He also attended the missions of East Oxford, Woodstock and Norwich. In 1852 he was succeeded by Father Carrayon, who also served two years. During this period Churches at Norwich and East Oxford were built. Father Kerleher, who succeeded Father Carrayon in 1854, remained three years, and built the old parochial residence on John Street. It was at this time, 1856, to be exact, that the dioceses of London and Hamilton were established by the Holy See, and the parish of Ingersoll was allocated to the Diocese of London, together with all of Oxford County.
The progress continued. Father J. D. Ryan, succeeded Father Kerleher and erected a steeple on the Church and built an addition to the parish residence. Father M. J. Lynch, who succeeded him, is credited with the building of a Catholic School in Ingersoll. When he left, in 1861, Father Louis Griffa came, and also
Father O'Donovan, as assistant. It was during Father Griff a's tenure that a division of the parish was made. A priest's residence was built in Norwich and Father O'Donovan was appointed pastor of Norwich, Woodstock and East Oxford.
When Father Griffa left in June, 1864, Father R. Boubat became pastor, with Father B. Gellinais as his assistant. It was at this time that larger accommodation for the school was provided and the site of the Separate School on John Street was obtained. Father Boubat left in June, 1866 to take charge of the Church in St. Marys. His successor. Father Marshall, remained only five months, to be succeeded by Father Volkert. During his pastorate the old church on John Street was extended by thirty feet.

History of Sacred Heart Church

"Father Volkert left in 1868, being suc-ceeded by Reverend Father Joseph Bayard. While this priest was in Ingersoll, a division of the Mission was made again. Some three or four years after its beginning a church had been erected in Woodstock in 1867; it became St. Mary's Parish in 1874, and a place of residence had been established for its pastor, Reverend Father Gahan. "When Father Bayard was requested, in 1877, to take charge of the Mission in Sarnia, Sacred Heart Church in Ingersoll was out of debt and a substantial amount of money was in the bank.
The Present Church


"When Father Boubat was requested in 1877 to again take charge of Ingersoll, he found the parish house in a most dilapidated state, and at once had it rebuilt and refurnished.
"In June of that year, His Excellency Bishop Walsh of London administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to over one hundred candidates at Sacred Heart Church, and in his remarks to the congregation at that time, impressed upon them the necessity of a new church.
"Because of this, Bishop Walsh was invited to return in October 1877, with a view to obtaining a preliminary list of subscriptions toward a new church. "Although the Parish house was not yet completed, so great was the generosity and the enthusiasm of the congregation on the occasion of Bishop Walsh's second visit, that the sum of six thousand dollars was subscribed in a few hours, supplemented by another six thousand during the next two weeks, making a grand total of twelve thousand dollars with which to start the imposing building we have today. "Plans and specifications were at once secured from C. F. Durand, an architect in London, Ontario and the first sod was turned on March 18, 1878. The work was proceeded with very quickly and brought to such an advanced state as to permit the laying of the cornerstone on May 19 of that same year. The regular services that day were held in the old church in the morning, and Bishop Walsh performed the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone.
"The work on the building proceeded with vigor during the summer, and in November the large structure was under one roof. The spring of 1879 saw the operations renewed and for some time the work was leisurely carried on. By the end of June, the spire was 'wafted high in the air' and from then on, the final completion was attained with little delay. In the meantime, the prosperity of the Catholic
School called for the earnest attention of Father Boubat. With the best interests of the school at heart, and to secure its efficiency, he called the Sisters of St. Joseph to his assistance, who, with the concurrence of the Separate School Board, gave the Sisters charge of said school. This action necessitated the providing of increased dwelling accommodation, and to carry out this, the Pastor handed over his well-furnished residence to the nuns, and built for himself a new residence, which is now on the site to the rear of the new church — the residence and furniture costing over fifteen hundred
dollars. "
"The Church is designed throughout in the early English gothic style, the exterior being faced with white pressed brick, all the arches being of gauged brick laid with white joints; the buttress caps, string courses and window sills being of blue-tint Ohio sandstone. The copings md the cornices are of galvanized iron and the roofs are covered with Vermont slate, having patterned courses laid in different colours. The front is subdivided into three parts by buttresses, in each of which are double entrance doors, the heads of which are filled with tracery; the centre door has gabled entrance porch with front and side entrance doors. Above this is a large three-panelled window rich with tracery on each side and over which are three niches for the reception of three appropriate statues, the top one being intended for the figure of Our Saviour; two circular terra cotta foliated patterns are introduced in gable, which, with its stepped arches and coping is crowned by a cross six feet high. Over the side doors are long narrow triplet windows grouped together under a large arch, over which in the tower are rose windows. "The upper portion of the tower above the rose windows is brought from the square to the octagon, having a window in each face; on the corners of the square are carried up four octagonal pinnacles with moulded cornice and slated roofs, with finials. The spire starts from the moulded and ornamented cornice, and is covered with slate, bands of different colours being occasionally introduced; four louvre windows are on the spire, and the corner rolls run to the finial under the cross at top. On the south side of the centre, the walls are carried up to a height of sixteen feet above the side walls to balance the tower, and has coped gable with finial and pinnacle; the front has a very imposing and
lofty appearance. The side between the tower and transepts is subdivided by buttresses into four parts, each having large traceried two-panelled windows, each alternate window having different traceried heads. The cornice is of brick, with fascia and crown mould eavestrough. The transepts, which project five feet from the main side walls, have gabled ends with large three-panelled windows, with traced heads, and quarter-foil over; the coping being furnished with foliated finial. The side chapel walls are eighteen feet high and have roofs of their own, with cresting, giving expression to their location from the outside.
"The sanctuary which is twenty-two feet long, is the width of the nave; and the roof is the full height of the main roof. The walls are forty-two feet high, octagonal at back, in which are located eight traceried clerestory windows. Its distinctive character is emphasized by the cresting over the sanctuary being higher and of different design from that over the auditorium. On the apex of the octagon there is a cross six feet in height.
The Interior

"It is in keeping with the exterior, but it has a more cathedral-like appearance. It is like waking from a dream as one advances, and "takes in" the scene. The pure white walls, ceilings, mouldings, etc., stand out in rich relief before the highly-varied and yet soft colours of the stained-glass windows. Entering the building at the centre door, in front, we find the narthex is formed under the choir gallery, which runs the full width of the Church and is sixteen feet wide. fine archways at the gallery divide the narthex from the auditorium, which is seventy-six feet long by fifty-four feet wide in the main body and sixty-one feet in the transcepts. The nave has a vaulted ceiling springing from moulded string courses
over the nave arches, and is divided by moulding ribs over the nave columns, which spring from foliated corbels in string course; the height from the floor to the springing is thirty-two feet and to the apex forty-six feet.
"The sanctuary is twenty-five feet deep from altar railing and is three steps higher than the auditorium; it has a groined ceiling; is the full width of the nave, from which it is divided by a moulded arch. The moulded ribs of the ceiling spring from the foliated capitals in the angles of the octagon, which are supported by columns resting on corbels in the ornamental foliated string course, carried around at the level of the caps of the nave columns. A moulded string course is carried around the sills of the clerestory sanctuary windows, and is ornamented by a grape-vine design with ornament.

The Plan
"The building was drawn by Mr. George F. Durand of London, Ontario; the slating by Mr. George Riddel of London; the plastering by Messrs. Nolan and Carroll of Cleveland. The main altar was designed by Father Boubat, and the work was done by Mr. T. Comiskey, under whose supervision the greatest part of the work of the Church was also done.
The Building Committee
"This comprised of the following-named gentlemen:
Messrs, fames Brady, F. Stewart, M. Dunn, John Henderson, John Flaherty. Peter Kennedy and Walter Hackett. (The latter gentleman was not privileged to see the Church dedicated, he having died a few days prior to the dedication.) Father Boubat was the officiating chairman.
Dedication Services
"The new Church of the Sacred Heart was dedicated to Divine Worship amid the grand and impressive ceremonies which belong to such important occasions. The day was all that could be desired — old sun shining with all its brightness, without a cloud to dim its resplendent rays. Early in the morning many strangers flocked to the town and before ten o'clock it was easy to discern that there was going to be an immense gathering at the opening service. We think we are safe in saying that at the immensity of the service there must have been two thousand people in and around the church.

The Dedication —
August 22, 1880.
"At 10:30 His Lordship Bishop Walsh appeared, preceded by an altar boy carrying the cross, on either side of which were the acolytes. His Lordship, on coming to the front railing, said he was about to bless a church to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He congratulated the good people of Ingersoll on the fine edifice which they had erected, and said the ceremony, which was a very imposing one, consisted of the singing of portions of the psalms, and in the sprinkling of the holy water. Water is used because it is a symbol of purity. They would hear, preached in the new edifice, from year to year. the true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. He said that in consecrating the church, they were following out the injunctions of Scripture. In the words of Holy Writ. "You have done a great work, you have built a house, not for man, but for God" — and he prayed that, for all, this might be a bright hour of their lives, for by the erecting of the church they had done a great work, and would not go unrewarded.
"After the consecration of the church, Solemn High Mass was sung by Reverend Father Vincent of St. Michael's College, Toronto — Reverend Father Flannery of St. Thomas, acting as deacon — and Reverend Father Molphy of Strathroy, as sub-deacon. Reverend Father Feron officiated as Master of Ceremonies. Inside the communion railing, were seated Monsignor Bruyere, Dean Wagner, Dean Murphy, and Father Ferguson of Assumption College; Father Kelly of McGillvray, and Father Craven of Hamilton. His Lordship, Bishop Crinnon, after the First Gospel, delivered the sermon, taking as his text: — "The Lord hath said and he will not repent; thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech". The speaker began by a reference to the sacrifices of the old law as prefiguring the Sacrifice of Christ as the one Sacrifice which was in itself completely adequate to atone for man's sin. Reference was made to the prophecy of Malachi who spoke of the clean obiation to be offered up from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same in all nations on the face of the earth, — an obvious reference to the Mass as the continuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper together with the institution of the priesthood brought to completion our Lord's work for the redemption of mankind. The speaker concluded by an exhortation to see in the Eucharist the great treasure of our faith. "What a consolation in this world of sorrows", said Bishop Crinnon, "Where we can unburden ourselves of the heavy load of sins at the foot of the Lord's altar. How happy the good Christian who leaves the world fortified by the sacrament of the Eucharist. May God, in His infinite mercy, give us grace to live good lives, so that when we die He will say: "Because thou has been faithful over few things, I will place thee over many; enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord".
Evening Service
"By seven o'clock the church was again filled as in the morning. Before the service commenced Father Boubat took occasion to say a few words respecting the service about to be held. "The friends", he said, "not only the Catholic people, but those of other faiths have nobly contributed to the collection;" and on behalf of the congregation and his own behalf he took the opportunity of expressing sincere thanks for such evidence of good will. "The indebtedness was yet large, but a few such openhearted and generous offerings would, in the not too distant future, free this beautiful temple of debt".
The Sermon
"The evening sermon was delivered by Father Ferguson of Assumption College. His subject was The Sacred Heart of Jesus as a symbol of the love by which Christ our Lord wrought the work of Redemption. He hoped his hearers would realize how great was their debt to Christ our Lord for his love of mankind. The musical portion of the service was particularly worthy of special mention. The director of the choir was Father Challandard, and the organist was Miss Minnie Keating. "