Father O’Shea’s Diocesan Reflections #33

October 5, 2018



Spotlight Parish : Sacred Heart, Alberton

The first church in that new parish was opened in 1879, gradually enlarged to become a spacious worship space with side chapel. The first rectory, moved from the old Cascumpec mission, served for fifteen years.   In 1894, the present elaborate rectory was erected, seemingly patterned after some of the stately dwellings along Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.   In 1942 a new parish hall was built down the street.  A major fire, probably from the furnace, in the wee hours of Sunday, November 25, 1968 completely destroyed the big church.  Mass that morning and for the next nearly four years was celebrated in the Alberton Social Centre a block away and owned by the parish since the early 1960s.  The parishioners became very active in fundraising and in the fall of 1971 a federal government program added immensely to the plan of rebuilding.  Under this setup the government would cover labor costs in any approved projects in areas of high unemployment.  Upon approval, the work on a new church began in late fall with Alfred Hennessey as architect and a capable group of workers on hand.  Despite the rigours of an Island winter, the construction pushed forward with remarkable unity.  To the joy of all,  the new Sacred Heart Church was officially opened on July 22, 1972 in the presence of Bishop Francis Spence and a full attendance of happy parishioners and visitors alike.   Much praise must go to Father Art Pendergast, the 12th pastor, for supervising the long grind of building this new and lovely church.

In 1944 the parish purchased the vacated hotel in town and on January 30, 1945 opened a small hospital of 15 beds.  Soon the ownership of this young Western Hospital was transferred to the Sisters of St. Martha who then very capably managed the operation of the facility for nearly 50 years, assisted by people of all faiths and gradually by government funding as well. Many impressive extensions were made to this hospital and to its services until 1991 when it was transferred from the sisters to a Board of Directors in the West Prince area.  Well done good and faithful servants all.

Joe O’Brien grew up in Alberton Parish and as a boy began driving race horses at his father’s farm there.  Eventually he became one of the most famous trainers and drivers across Canada and the United States until his death in 1984.   Some 25 women from Alberton Parish became religious sisters in a variety of orders here and far away.  Five priests have come from the parish and two of its pastors are interred in the parish cemetery.  In all, 21 pastors have served Sacred Heart Parish since 1879 with Father Andrew wearing the pastoral hat these years in fine style.   High praise to all who over these 139 years have helped in keeping the parish fully alive.  Excellent farm land lies within Sacred Heart Parish.   Fishing also thrives out of the fine harbor at Northport.  Great water scenery is provided by the vast reaches of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and by the lovely Kildare River.

World War I news

In the summer of 1918 Father Pius MacDonald, our only P.E.I. Catholic Chaplain in the war to that point, wrote another chatty letter to Bishop O’Leary here.  He spoke of the heavy fighting and much devastation in many parts of France where he was then stationed.   Although away from the front lines, he was very active in a number of villages which involved much walking.  By September, victories by the Allies were filling the French people with joy and there were hints of the war’s end.   In the fall of 1918 Father Joe Rooney, a staff member at St. Dunstan’s University, became our diocese’s second chaplain overseas, serving until his discharge in 1919.


Spanish Flu

This deadly attack killed some 21 million people worldwide, including about 50,000 Canadians.  This flu reached P.E.I. in September of 1918 and before long schools and churches were closed with other public gatherings banned as well.  There were reportedly 1000 cases of the flu on the Island.  In a letter Bishop O’Leary stated that by mid-November there were 52 burials from the cathedral parish in October and a large number in the early part of November.  Later the bishop remarked that the cathedral parish in all had more than 100 deaths from the flu which was all over by January of 1919, leaving a wide path of devastation indeed.


When were our Churches Built?

Alberton 1972

Baie Egmont 1962

Bloomfield 1873

Brae 1903

Burton 1879

Cardigan 1874

Cornwall 1980

Corran Ban 1932

Covehead 1853

Cumberland 1872

Emyvale 1962

Fairfield 1965

Fort Augustus 1897

Foxley River 1868

Georgetown 1974

Grand River 1836

Green Meadows 1866

Holy Redeemer 1964

Hope River 1954

Iona 1959

Kelly’s Cross 1956

Kensington 1937

Kinkora 1901

Lennox Island 1895

Little Pond 1863

Miminegash 1946

Miscouche 1892

Montague 1972

Mont Carmel 1898

Morell 1976

Mount Stewart 1960

North Rustico 1920/1945

Palmer Road 1893

St. Charles 1896

St. Dunstan’s 1919

St. George’s 1952

St. Margaret’s 1926

St. Peter’s Bay 1928

St. Pius X 1973

St. Teresa’s 1995

Seven Mile Bay 1958

Souris 1930

South Rustico 1838

Stratford 1989

Sturgeon 1888

Summerfield 1929

Summerside 1961

Tignish 1860

Tracadie 1903

Vernon River 1877

Wellington 1952




Two Islanders in the new Diocese of Calgary a century ago

Father Emmett Dougan wrote Bishop McNally in November, 1918:

After saying Mass at Empress, I packed up my portable altar. I then started out ‘by Ford’ for Acadia Valley and made very good time until within three miles of the church, when we stuck hard and fast in the snow drift. The driver went over to a farm house and got a saddle horse which we hitched by rope to the car. He drove the horse and I manipulated the old Ford; by keeping in low gear we made the church. Some triumphal entry! I had a very good congregation, sang High Mass and preached.  After all was over, it was three o’clock before I broke my fast.  It stormed on Sunday and Monday so I had to stay with Mr. Frenzel.  I said Mass on Monday and heard about thirty confessions.


Clergy Quiz: Along the Island’s eastern slopes. Some water there, not much.  Has lovely old church and vast Strait waters beyond. Where?  Jennifer awaits your answer.



October 4, 2018              St. Francis of Assisi, Pray for us!                                    # 33