On December 31, 2015, Sister Alice Laurin, s.a.s.v., retired from her post as director of Shalom House, the diocesan retreat centre (see October 12, 2015).
On January 1, 2016, the Sisters of the Holy Cross took over the leadership of Shalom House. Ironically, it was these same Sisters, who on October 17 1974 donated Iona Academy, their former residence, to the Diocese to be used as the new diocesan retreat centre that Bishop LaRocque sought to create.
The Holy Cross Sisters originally came to our Diocese in 1856, at the request of Reverend John MacLaughlin, who sought to set up a school for girls. Four sisters, led by Soeur Marie des Sept-Douleurs, arrived in Lancaster from Montreal, before making their way to Alexandria. Their first convent was a log cabin and their first school, St. Margaret’s, one room.
On September 12, 1912, four sisters took up residence in St. Raphael’s to teach in the elementary school and then the high school two years later.
Over the next century the Sisters of the Holy Cross, both the English and the French, made many contributions to our Diocese. They continued to work as teachers, especially important in our French Catholic schools. In addition, some did social work, some ran retreat and religious education programs, some worked as chaplains, etc... The sisters also bought, built or financed the following schools or boarding schools:
Today there are six members of the Sisters of the Holy Cross who continue to reside in our Diocese.
On Sunday, January 9, 1972, the Diocese of Alexandria welcomed Bishop Guido Del Mestri, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Canada. Bishop Del Mestri, who was born in Banja Luka, in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, present day Bosnia and Herzogovina, was the youngest of the six children of Count Gian Vito Del Mestri and his wife Baroness Marianna Degrazia. This career diplomat had doctorates in philosophy, theology and canon law.
Bishop Del Mestri was appointed Nuncio for Canada on June 20, 1970. He spent five years here before being appointed Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Germany.
Apostolic nuncio, also known as a papal nuncio, is the title for an ecclesiastical diplomat of the Holy See to a state or international organization. The nuncio, who is appointed by and represents the Vatican, is the head of the diplomatic mission, called an Apostolic Nunciature, which is the equivalent of an embassy. The term nuncio is derived from the Latin word, nuntius, which means "envoy" or "messenger".
The following is an excerpt from Bishop Adolphe Proulx’s homily on the occasion of this visit.
Today, to celebrate with us, the baptism of Christ and at the same time our common baptism, we have the pleasure of welcoming to the Diocese of Alexandria, His Excellency Bishop Guido Del Mestri...He has come to visit us as Pope Paul VI’s representative...
You have come in his name to visit the people of God who reside in the counties of Stormont and Glengarry. As in the time of the apostles, when St. Paul regularly visited the emerging churches to confirm them in their fidelity to Christ, so you by your visit continue this tradition.
...Please convey to Pope Paul VI, our affection as part of the people of the universal God by assuring him of our fervent prayer...
It was six years ago this week, January 12, 2010, that the tiny island nation of Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic earthquake, centred just 25 kms from the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 100,000 people were killed and three million more were impacted. Within hours, the world was responding with offers of assistance and financial aid. The people of our Diocese, always generous in times of need, were exceptionally so this time. You contributed more than $153,000. The monies were directed to Development and Peace who were already working in Haiti.
Our Haiti reconstruction program is the most extensive ever carried out by Development and Peace in one country, and remains one of our most important programs.
Development and Peace, established in 1967 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, was launched in our Diocese in 1968 at the request of Bishop Proulx (below left.) Deacon Gordon Bryan (below centre) initially headed up our local chapter, assisted by Laura Sabourin and Sr. Jeanne d’Arc Brunelle, c.s.c. For many years, the spiritual director was Father Gérald Poirier (below right).
Today, Paula Wheeler, a teacher at St. Joseph’s CSS, and Pierre Aubé, the diocesan administrator, along with our parish volunteers continue to oversee the organization locally. Through Development and Peace, people here in our Diocese and in the Developing World are linked together in a global partnership to help end the cycle of poverty and repression that plagues so many countries. To learn more cllick here.
January 23, 1890 - The Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall may cover the smallest territory in Canada but its contribution to the Catholic Church in Upper Canada cannot be understated. Located in the most easterly corner of Ontario along the St. Lawrence River, the Diocese is made up of the counties of Glengarry and Stormont.
Catholics first came to the area in the late 1700s to escape the rebellions that were happening in their homeland of Scotland. It was not long before the first missions were established in St. Andrews West and St. Raphaels.
In 1801, Father Alexander Macdonell, who would become the first bishop of Upper Canada, arrived from Scotland with his flock and settled in Glengarry. He was one of only a few priests to minister to Catholics throughout Upper Canada at that time.
Fifty years following the death of Bishop Alexander Macdonell, the Ontario bishops sought to have a new Scottish Diocese established in eastern Ontario. That request was granted and the Diocese of Alexandria (Cornwall was not affixed to the name until 1976) was founded on January 23, 1890 . On October 28th of that same year, local son Alexander Macdonell, who was named after the original Bishop Macdonell, was ordained the new Diocese’s first bishop.
Photos: Bishop Alexander Macdonell (top right) - Incorporation Document (below)
January 1835 - The year 1834 marked the arrival of Father James Bennett, the first resident priest at St. Columban Parish.
1834 also marked the beginning of the construction of the canal in Cornwall. When word of steady labour reached the home land, Irish immigrant workers came in great numbers to this area. When work was done for the day - the men would go drinking.
By late January of 1835, Fr. Bennett was fully in charge at St. Columban and took pride in serving his community. He became involved in the lives of his parishioners and was opposed to the drinking of spirits. If a member of his flock transgressed they had to contend with Fr. Bennett, a man, “who did not hesitate to charge his horse into the midst of unruly and drunk canal workers with whip in hand,” dispersing them instantly. Fr. Bennett was known to have broken up the tavern brawls and as one account states “he dismounted his ride, entered the tavern and expelled the drinkers through the windows and doors.”
Some of the information for this story was compiled from these sources:
the Cornwall Irish Memorial and the Cornwall Community Museum.
Photos: Father James Bennett (top right) - Construction of the Cornwall Canal—1897 (below)