October, 2020

A Canadian Thanksgiving Day: Marking Ten Years in the Diocese of Peterborough

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October, this year, October 12th. This Thanksgiving, together with our countless daily blessings, the missionaries in Peterborough, would like to give thanks to God for ten years of presence of our Religious Family in this diocese.

The diocese of Peterborough Ontario is geographically large, with 40 parishes and about 61,000 Catholics spread out over 26,000 square km. With big-city dioceses (Toronto and Kingston) as neighbors on both sides, our diocese is mostly rural, spanning from Lake Ontario in the south over 300 km north, around Algonquin provincial park. The Peterborough area was settled by Irish immigrants in the 1820’s; Canadians of Irish descendance still make up a large portion of the Catholics.

There are currently three communities in the diocese, all of which were founded during the year 2010: On January 25th, 2010, the IVE arrived at Sacred Heart and St. John Baptist Parishes in the City of Peterborough; on September 12th, 2010 the IVE founded at St Michael the Archangel Parish in Cobourg (a small town on the edge of Lake Ontario 45 minutes to the south of the city), and on December 18th, 2010 the SSVM made it to Peterborough just before Christmas and the end of the year of 2010.

Today, these three communities are ministering in three parishes. St Michael’s in Cobourg, is one of the oldest parishes in the area; the first missionary priests arrived in 1826. The current church, a red brick Romanesque building with two square towers, was dedicated in 1896. The ceiling of three-barrel vaults is supported by Ionic columns and was covered with a series of frescos in 1913. The ceiling frescos were recently restored under the current pastor as part of an important restoration project. A group of parishioners at St Michael’s have joined the third order of our religious family, participating in our charism in their lay vocation.

Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, the second oldest parish in the city of Peterborough with the cornerstone laid in 1913, is located in the southern part of downtown. Originally founded by Italian immigrants, the Italian influence was apparent in much of the original decoration. Sacred Heart of Jesus is home to a historic hundred-year-old organ which is still played beautifully every Saturday and Sunday. St John the Baptist parish, founded in 1950 out of the territory of Sacred Heart, is less than a Rosary-walk away in what locals call “the south end.” The parish is located in a quiet residential neighborhood which is home to many young families. There is a (public, government funded and school-board controlled) Catholic school associated with the parish, at which there are dozens of potential future parishioners (the average age of current parishioners is well into the golden years).

The mission in Peterborough today consists in the straightforward yet challenging task of presenting the gospel convincingly to the lost generation who grew up in Catholic schools without getting catechized, works hard during the week, spends the weekend at the cottage and whose children attend church with their grandparents.

The mission of 2020 is not what we imagined it would be in 2010, when our Religious Family came to the diocese of Peterborough to run a Catholic institution of higher education. God’s plans are not our plans, and we came here to do the will of God. For a time, we thought this was to meet the challenge of running a Catholic college; circumstances have since revealed otherwise. Still, our constant ideal—to discover and embrace the will of God—is greater than any particular project undertaken.

Today, at this ten-year milestone we look back with gratitude for all the apostolates we have been able to do with children, youth, families and parishioners here in the diocese Peterborough. We also look forward, asking light and guidance to continue faithfully with the work He has prepared for us in this mission.

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