History of the Parish

In March, 1952, the Archbishop of Kingston, the Most Reverend Joseph Anthony O'Sullivan began negotiations with the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province to establish a new parish in the northern section of Belleville. By the beginning of May, Father Francis Edic, the Minister Provincial, had seen Archbishop O'Sullivan and had looked over possible pieces of church property with him. Preliminary documents for taking over the Parish were signed at that time, and by the end of May the contract between the Archbishop and Immaculate Conception Province had been approved by the Minister General, Father Bede Hess, in Rome.

On May 25, 1952, Archbishop O' Sullivan announced to the Archdiocese that a new Parish was to be established in Belleville. The territory for the new Parish was was taken from that of St. Michael Parish and was to include the land north of the Canadian National Railway. I t was partly within and partly outside the City of Belleville. Its title was to be Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. On June 6, 1952, the Parish was officially handed over to the Franciscans along with four acres of land which had been purchased on the northern edge of North Park Street.

On August 17, 1952 the Rev. Michael Simson, O.F.M. Conv. was named the first Pastor of Holy Rosary Parish. Father Simson arrived in Belleville on August 20th, and, through the kindness of Very Rev. L.B. Garvin, took up residence at St Michael's Rectory. For a few Sundays, Holy Rosary parishioners continued to attend St. Micheal's Church, while arrangements were being made to have Mass celebrated at Holy Rosary School. The first Mass was celebrated in the School on Sunday, September 14th, 1952, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. A few days later, Father Michael took up residence at 12 St. Charles St., which served then as a rectory until a new one could be built.

After the first Mass had been celebrated in the school, groups of men and women were organized to launch projects for raising funds. The first project was a card party held in the school on September 26th, 1952, which was a great success. Thereafter, affairs of one kind or another were held frequently, helping the Parish socially as well as financially.

An architect, Mr. Auguste Martineau of Kingston, was engaged, and a beginning was made on the for a Church, hall and friary.

On November 20, 1952, Mr. Joe Rashotte of Tweed submitted a tender for $71,500.00. Plans were later revised to construct a a building to serve both as a church and hall, and a rectory, thus reducing the cost to $59,300.00.

Meanwhile, a census revealed that there were 180 families in the new Parish. It was soon realized that the property on the northern section of North Park Street was too far removed from the centre of the Parish population. Since the building planned was not intended to be the permanent Church, it was thought better that it should be built in the vicinity of Holy Rosary School. A lot was then purchased adjoining the rear of the school yard, and served as the location of Holy Rosary Church until March 13, 2009.

The Archdiocese had assigned a fund of about $30,000.00 to the Parish, out of which the land was bought, and with and additional loan of $30,000 from the Canadian Corporation of the Friars Minor Conventual a prefabricated Church and hall was constructed. Accordion doors between the altar and body of the church allowed it to be used as a hall.

Plans for the Parish were progressing, and in January 1953 the building contract was signed with the Joseph Rashotte Company of Tweed. Work started immediately. On January 14th the lot on Donald Street was marked off, and on the 16th the actual digging began.

The Friary (rectory) was ready by the beginning of June, and after procuring essential furnishings, some by purchase and others by donation, Father Michael moved into the new Friary at 119 Donald Street on June 8, 1953. At this time the church building was almost completed, but still without furnishings. But, since Father Simson and the parishioners were anxious to have the initial First Communion Class of Holy Rosary receive their Communion in the new Church, the little altar used in the School was brought to the new Church. On Sunday June 21st the first Mass was celebrated in Holy Rosary Church, at which the children received First Communion.

Thereafter, Mass was said daily in the hall section, while altars, pews and other furnishings were installed in the part reserved for the chapel or altar area (sanctuary).

On Sunday, August 9, 1953, when all was ready, the new Church was solemnly blessed by Archbishop Joseph A. O'Sullivan. High Mass was then celebrated by Very Rev. Francis Edic, O.F.M. Conv, the Minister Provincial in the presence of the Archbishop. There were about twelve visiting priests, and a large and happy congregation.

Life in the new Parish continued and Father Michael Simson's accomplishments were many:

  • The first Mission was given by Rev. Cletus Fitzpatrick, O.F.M. Conv. from October 25 to November 7, 1953. He later returned as an Associate Pastor;
  • First dance in hall, November 19, 1953;
  • First Bazaar December 2, 1953;
  • Catholic Women's League formally organized on January 24, 1954;
  • Sod was laid in front of the Church and rectory in August 1954;
  • A garage was built, and driveway made in the summer of 1955;
  • The Third Order of Saint Francis was inaugurated on September 28, 1955;
  • The carpet was laid in the sanctuary in October 1955;
  • The new Baldwin Electric Organ was installed in October 1956;

As was expected, the Parish grew, and in September, 1958, Father Michael got permission to install pews throughout the whole church building for the greater comfort of the people. By November of the following year the pews still had not arrived, so Father Michael had to make other arrangements. This and the many difficulties in establishing a new Parish were too much on his health. In 1960, he was replaced by Father Maurice Imhoff.

Father Maurice faced these and new challenges. The installation of the pews in the Church eliminated the possibility of using it as a hall, and the Parish had great need of a hall to carry on its social events and thus add to its income. The increased number of parishioners (283 families in 1960) led Father Maurice to ask for an assistant to help with the Sunday Masses and other Parish works. The rectory hardly accommodated one priest and a housekeeper. In addition, the Parishes of Belleville had to raise money for the building program at Nicholson Catholic College. Thus, in the summer of 1961, Father Maurice presented these needs to the people and asked them to double their Sunday contributions and hasten the time when they could build a permanent Church and hall. In September of 1960, Father Ives Purcell was sent to assist him.

After surveying the present Church property Father Maurice decided that it was too small for the future development of the Parish facilities they needed. Therefore in May, 1962, he obtained permission to buy ten acres on North Park Street, when he though would be more centrally located for the whole Parish in the future and would be large enough for a permanent Church, hall, and friary, and whatever else they needed.

In September 1961, Father Edward (Rufus) Debono, a native Canadian who had just been ordained, came to replace Father Ives as an assistant to Father Maurice.

The Provincial Chapter of 1963 sent Father Reginald Sweeney to Belleville as Superior and Pastor. Unfortunately, his arrived was marred by the death of the beloved housekeeper. Father Reginald sold the property on North Park Street and bought ten acres on Sidney Street, north of the 401. Since it would be at least eight or ten years before there was hope of building a new Church, he decided that it would be better to build a second storey on the Donald Street Friary, which would provide decent living quarters for the priests and housekeeper. This would reserve the first floor for Parish office, the dining room, kitchen and housekeeper's quarters.

In 1973, Father Reginald bought the property at 22 Prince of Wales Drive, which provided additional parking and a building as a prospective hall. In 1991, Father Peter Knaapen bought the property at 18 Prince of Wales Drive, hopefully to provide room for later expansion.

By 1992, the Franciscan Friars were unable to provide priests to serve Holy Rosary Parish, so the Parish was turned over to diocesan administration in July of that year. Father Paul Hamilton was named the first diocesan Pastor. Despite the departure of the Franciscans, the Parish still continues to live in the spirit of the Franciscan foundations.

Father Paul picked up the torch and continued the dream of a permanent Church facility. In November 1993, a general Parish meeting was held. Those in attendance identified a list of Parish priorities: worship, outreach to parishioners and the community, Parish management and education were identified as areas to be developed. It was also agreed that the present physical facilities were inadequate to reach these goals. Three options were considered: first, to renovate and expand the present building; second to remove all present structures on the current site and rebuild; third, to build a new facility on another site.

Several parishioners, chosen from representatives of various groups and ministries operating in the Parish, met many times to address the issues raised in the general Parish meeting and to explore the three options mentioned regarding facilities. Advantages and disadvantages, along with estimated costs of construction on the various options were investigated. To make the third option viable (a new facility on a new site), several possible site were examined and considered, including property owned by the Parish in Sidney Township, north of Highway 401.

The City of Belleville did not develop in the direction of the Sidney Street North, so a suitable site of nearly three acres was purchased on the east side of North Park Street, immediately south of the Health Unit and adjacent to the property originally owned by the Parish for the purpose of eventually building a permanent Church. In December, 1996, the property on North Park Street was purchased for $320,000.00.

After consultation with various people, organizations and ministries in the Parish, the following were identified as needs for the new facility:

  • the facility would be a combination of Church (worship area), hall meeting rooms and office space;
  • the facility would be built on two levels: the Church and offices on the main level; the Parish hall had meeting rooms on the lower level.

Fundraising for the new building was begun in earnest until the illness of Father Paul Hamilton forced him to resign as the Pastor in May 2003. Father Peter Timmins, a retired priest from Montreal and resident in Kingston, was appointed temporary Administrator. He was assisted by Father Thomas Thazhappally, who arrived in 2002 as an Assistant to Father Paul.

In July, 2003, Archbishop Anthony Meagher appointed Father John Hibbard as the Pastor of Holy Rosary Parish. Newly ordained Father Douglas Kuzell was appointed as Associate Pastor.

After years of discussing the possibility of building a new Church facility with little results to show for it, parishioners were growing sceptical that their dream would materialize. In addition, the intentions of newly arrived Archbishop Meagher, following the retirement of Archbishop Spence, were unknown. In the Fall of 2003, Archbishop Meagher asked Father Hibbard to form a small committee to meet with him. After examining the properties on Sidney Street North and North Park Street, it was felt that the property on North Park Street would better meet the needs of the Parish. With the growing shortage of priests, the down-turn in the economy and the proximity of the three Churches in Belleville, there was considerable opposition to building a new Church.

Before approval for a new Church could be given, the cost of building would have to ascertained. The first task of the newly formed Building Committee was to choose an architect. In February and March of 2005, the members of the Building Committee interviewed six architectural firms from a long list of interested firms. Three firms were selected to make a detailed presentation. From the finalists, The Ventin Group of Toronto and Simcoe was chosen. Meetings then began to formulate a preliminary sketch for a new Parish centre-church. From this it was determined that the total budget for the project would be $4.4 million. This included funds for buying or building a new rectory and the costs that the Parish had already paid for the property on North Park Street. It was decided that in order to save money, the hall in the basement would not be completed at the time of construction, but work on this would be completed with volunteer labour from the Parish. In the summer or 2005, critical negotiations took place between the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and the Parish Building Committee. Several objections were raised to project by some members of the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and our Committee was notified in the change in policy. Now, 75% of the funds had to be raised (rather that 50%) before plans could continue. As a result, Father Hibbard and the members of the Finance Committee appealed to the parishioners for donations. The generous response of the parishioners, the sale of the property on Sidney Street North, some lobbying on the part of Father Hibbard with Archdiocesan officials and the intercessions of the Blessed Vigrin Mary bore fruit. On August 17, 2005, Archbishop Meagher game permission for the project to continue, and in November 2006, final approval was given to build.

Mr. Michael Brennan was hired as the Parish Project Manager, and the contract to build was awarded to Mirtren Contractors Ltd.. Construction on the new Church began in November 2007 while it was hoped that the new facility would be opened December of 2008, the harsh winter of 2007-2008 and supply delays pushed the opening to March 2009. On Friday, March 13, 2009, the new Church was officially dedicated by Archbishop Brendan O'Brien in the presence of many parishioners, visitors and priests.