In 1825, nine years before the town was incorporated, Father Timlin
established the first Roman Catholic parish in Port Hope and the people
built a small wooden structure as their first place of worship. When more
settlers arrived, the original building was replaced by a larger structure
in 1833 under the guidance of Father Dempsey. However, the influx of
immigrants from overseas did not only add more parishioners, it also brought
religious prejudices and the church was burnt to the ground in 1851. Despite
that setback, the congregation attended Mass the following Sunday at a local
warehouse, but it too was destroyed by fire.
Two years later, when Father Bryan O'Keefe was pastor, the people decided to
rebuild their church once again, but this time it would be fireproof. So, in
October 1855 a new brick church was dedicated by Bishop Phelan of the
Kingston Diocese and he placed the parish under the protection of "Mary,
Star of the Sea".
Monsignor Joseph Browne enhanced the church in 1869 with the addition of the
sanctuary, the choir loft and two spires. A generous parishioner, Miss Foran,
donated two stained glass windows at that time. Father Francis O'Sullivan
took over as pastor of the church in 1907 and installed a bell in the
steeple; the first Angelus was rung out on June 27, 1910. Some forty years
later, in1951 a steam heating system was installed, to provide heat and hot
water to both the church and the rectory.
The parish saw tremendous growth during the 1950's when
Father Leo Cleary
was pastor. He served the parish, which by now was known as “Our Lady of
Mercy” for 24 years. One of his major achievements was the establishment of
the Catholic school system in the area. It was also during this time that,
in the spirit of the 2nd Vatican Council, a new altar was placed in the
sanctuary. Also carved Stations of the Cross were installed and adjoining
property was purchased to allow for more parking. Later, in 1971, the church
was expanded with two wings on each side, giving it the shape of a cross.
The west wing houses a small chapel and the east wing serves as a meeting
room and provides additional seating when needed.
During Father Garry Leahy’s tenure (1982 -1989) the pipe organ was
completely refurbished and plans were made to paint the interior of the
church and replace the floor covering. However, Father Leahy will be best
remembered for initiating regular bible study classes. Father Michael
Heffernan executed the renovation initiative and for a few months the
congregation gathered on Sunday mornings in the adjacent school gym. It was
a special time as the parishioners got together in a more close-knit
environment and while there were no stained-glass windows, the Spirit was
very much present among them.
In the early 90s it became clear that the church needed major repairs. Under
the leadership of Father John Albao this work was completed. The roof was
replaced, brickwork restored and a fresh coat of paint would once again
cover the signs of time on the interior walls.
Recently, under the direction of Father Randy Foster (present pastor) the
parish office was moved and modernized, rectory renovated, an electronic
keyboard replaces two old pianos and a small electric organ, hardwood floor
was replaced in sanctuary and the parish records are recorded in a database.
our parish celebrating with spiritual and
social events our 185th anniversary as a faith community here in Port Hope
which we are thankfully able to do because of the dedication of our
parishioners, religious beliefs and priests.
Our Lady of Mercy Dedicated by
Bishop Phelan 1855
Grotto "Raised And Dedicated To The Memory Of