BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR PARISH
(excerpts from booklet prepared for our 150th on August 26th 2001)
In 1786, after a long trans-Atlantic trip on the ship McDonald, immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland arrived at Quebec.
They settled first at Terrebonne, near Montreal then established themselves at Lochiel in the county of Glengarry.
Their spiritual interests were looked after by Rev. Roderick Macdonell from Saint Regis.
In 1789, Rev. Alexander Scotus Macdonell, priest in Saint Raphael’s parish came up here to establish a cemetery and to find a suitable house to say mass in. He celebrated the first mass in a home on lot 28 concession 5 in Lochiel.
Mr.Donald McDonald gave one acre of land for the building of a church and cemetery.
This land and cemetery marked the origins of the foundation of Saint Alexander’s parish, which at that time, extended all the way back to the Ottawa river.
The graveyard was cleared and blessed and Lochiel became the burial ground of all who died from l’Orignal to Dalkeith to Glen Robertson to Greenfield because Alexandria did not exist at that time.
For nearly half a century, Rev. Roderick Macdonell, Rev. Alexander Scotus Macdonell, Rev. Fitzsimmons, Vicar Angus Macdonell, Rev. John Macdonald of St. Raphael’s, Rev. John Macdonell of Alexandria and several others came at various times to say mass, to baptize children, to solemnize marriages or attend funerals. They had a mission here in Lochiel.
In1804 the spiritual interests of our forefathers were looked after by Rev. Alexander MacDonell who became first Bishop in Upper Canada in 1826 then by Father Angus MacDonald who later became Vicar General of Kingston Diocese.
Then followed Father John MacDonald of St. Raphael’s who was instrumental in forming a parish in Alexandria in 1832. The priests of Alexandria then cared for Lochiel.
In May 1851 while Father Denis Begley was priest of Lochiel and Alexandria, the parishioners of Lochiel (having consulted with Fr. Begley) went to the Bishop of Kingston with two petitions : the first for a resident pastor,the second for Rev. Alexander MacDonell to act as pastor.
Both petitions were received favourably and so Father Alexander MacDonell became the first resident priest of Lochiel and in the same year (1851) the parishioners built the church.
Bishop Phelan chose the name « St.Alexander » for the new parish because:
(1)the cemetery was blessed by Father Alexander (Scotus)MacDonell
(2)Bishop Alexander was the first Bishop and
(3)Father Alexander MacDonell became the first parish priest.
The parish of Lochiel at that time was much larger than today. It included Glen Robertson, Maxville, Greenfield and Dalkeith, 280 families in all.
In 1853 Rev. John R. Meade was named parish priest of St. Alexander.
In 1854 Bishop Phelan visited the church, blessed it and consecrated the bell named « Catherine ».
From 1857 to 1863 Lochiel and St. Finnan’s had a joint pastorate with Rev. Alexander MacDonell residing in Alexandria. In June 1863 Father Alexander MacDonell (later first bishop of Alexandria Diocese) was appointed to this mission. During his pastorate,the parish was greatly improved. An addition was made to the church at a cost of $3,500 and the old presbytery was completed.
In September 1875, Bishop O’Brien visited the parish and confirmed over 400 persons. The same Bishop erected the Stations of the Cross on Feb.4th,1879.
In those days,the pastor’s dues and pew-rents were paid with grain which was collected,brought to Lancaster to be sold to the grain merchants for cash.
In June 1879, Father MacDonell was succeeded by the Rev. Father J. Graham who remained in the parish until August 1881. He was an eloquent and learned man ; in fact, he was recognized as the greatest preacher the old people ever heard. When he resigned, due to sickness, the wants of the people were ministered to by Fr. J. Hartigan for a few months.
On December 4, 1881 Fr. George Cicolari was appointed pastor of the parish by his Lordship Bishop James V. Cleary. He is responsible for removing the bodies from the old burial place (of 1874) to the new cemetery behind the parish church.
His ill-health forced him to resign and in August 1886 Father John Twomey succeeded him. He erected the present presbytery and remained pastor of the parish until 1889.
Father William Fox succeeded him and remained in the parish for fourteen years in which time he paid off all the parish debt. He died in 1927 and was buried in the Lochiel cemetery in April 1928. He is noted and revered to this day for his sincerity, his kindness, his great faith and zeal. His devotion to Saint Theresa "The Little Flower" is remembered by the statue on his gravesite in front of the church. (There is a story going around that Michael, Jack and Peter Morris walked every morning to serve mass for Father Fox.They walked from Quigley’s corner where their father had a hotel!...)
Rev. Donald D. MacMillan arrived in 1903 and served both Lochiel and Dalkeith. For seventeen years, he administered the affairs of the church with unsurpassed correctness. He travelled by horse and buggy in summer, horse and cutter in winter. The horse and a cow were housed in the barn behind the rectory and pastured on the present soccer field. Farmer parishioners provided oats. During his stay in Lochiel,the church was heated by a wood stove and a string of pipes from back to front.
In 1920 Rev. Monsignor Ewen J. Macdonald became pastor of Saint Alexanders’. He "...served his congregation with the sincere love and devotion of a kind father. This gentle man won the Military Cross for bravery while serving in WW1 as an army chaplain with the 154th Battalion and served in WW2 as well. He enjoyed history, researched and complied geneologies of the Macdonalds. His papers are found in the Ontario Archives and St. FX University in Antigonish. He is buried in St. Finnan's." (from the Greenfield Parish archives). Father Ewen, as he was affectionately known, being interested in the social as well as spiritual welfare of his parishioners, held yearly picnics and games such as tug-of-war and horse back wrestling. Also a platform was built for entertainment and they had a soft drink and ice cream booth. During his pastorate, work on the church consisted of installing a furnace to replace the wood stove. A six foot tunnel was dug from the back to the front of the church to reach the furnace.
Father Johnny Jack MacDonell replaced Father Ewen in September 1928. Known for his poetic language, he was a gifted orator. His outstanding work in the parish was the installation of the beautiful hardwood floors in the church. Evening socials replaced yearly picnics as farmers were no longer willing to take a day off in the midst of harvesting their crop.
In 1932 Rev. Corbet McRae took charge of the parish. He attacked with vigor the reparation of the church and the grounds. He held bees to dig out a full basement under the church, leveled the grounds and cemetery, made a chart of the graves, used broken tomb-stones along with fieldstones to build the vault and remodeled the presbytery.
From 1940 to 1945 Father James Wylie presided. Known for his punctuality and his practicality, he painted the interior of the church, roofed part of it and the parish sheds and made improvements in the rectory. Interested in the social welfare of his parishioners, he participated in Farm Forums, actively supported the Catholic Women’s League and Ladies of St. Ann and held successful socials. When Father Wylie came to Lochiel in 1940 with his sister Margaret (now McCormick) who was his housekeeper,he was just able to get as far as Fassifern. The road to Lochiel was blocked with snow. Gordon MacGillis came to Fassifern with his beautiful team of grey horses and pulled the car to Lochiel. In October 1965, Rev. Wylie was named a prelate of honor with the title of Monsignor by Bishop Rosario Brodeur. Msgr. Wylie described by his fellow priests as a generous and kind man died in 1978.
Father Wylie was followed by Rev. J. Henri Ouimet who administered the parish for two years. He built the garage, changed the living quarters, removed the elm trees from the property.
From 1947 to 1968 we had Father Charles Gauthier known as the "Pastor of Glengarry" because of his popularity in the community. He was well-liked and respected by all. During his pastorate, he painted the inside of the church,put on asbestos siding, removed the parish sheds and instigated the Sports Centre in connection with the church property. He left the parish with no debt. Realizing the benefits of sports to growing youth, he encouraged sports of all kinds:coaching hockey, chauffering boys to games and teaching many how to swim. He formed the Father Gauthier’s Lochiel
Farmers’Hockey Team, known popularly as the "Loks". During his tenure, the Recreational Centre was legally formed. In later years, it was given the name of Father Gauthier’s Recreation Centre.
In 1968 following Father Gauthier’s retirement the joint pastorate of Lochiel and Dalkeith was served by Rev. Lionel Joyal who was an avid gardener. He always had a garden and in the fall he gave the vegetables to needy people. The rectory was eventually sold in his times.
In 1972 Father Lucien Lussier was appointed parish priest for almost eight years and lived in the recently built rectory in Dalkeith (by Fr. Ouimet). He renewed the interior of the church and was the last parish priest to make an official parochial visit to all his parishioners.
In 1979 Rev. Raymond Dumoulin followed. He reactivated the parish by encouraging the laity to take an active role in the liturgy and social events (excerpt from Butternuts and Maple Sugar p.281-283). He was very artistic and decorated the church tastefully. During those years, Mrs. Margaret McCormick was a big help for the decoration of the sanctuary and Mrs. Christina MacGillis made a silk lining for the tabernacle. Throughout his stay in Lochiel, Father Dumoulin made sure to mention every parishioner’s birthday after mass on Sunday and gave them a dollar.
In 1987 history repeated itself when St. Alexander’s parish became a joint pastorate with St. Finnan’s being served from Alexandria by Rev. Donald B. MacDougald followed by Rev. Bernard Cameron in 1988.
In 1997, Father Cameron was replaced (with great sadness from the parishioners) by Father Eric Roy o.ff.m. Father Eric was a remarkable worker ; he installed a pipe around the church to drain the basement, pruned the existing trees and planted new ones, straightened and made a new base for approximately thirty tombstones in the cemetery. He also designed the ground-plan for the plots in the new section of the graveyard. To replace the old vestments, Father Roy bought a set of four chasubles and stoles.
In the fall of 1999, a donation of $5000 from a parishioner made it possible to buy and install a new carpet in the church just in time for the new millenium.
In 2000, (last August) Father Daniel Gauthier o.ff.m. was appointed parish priest of Saint Alexander’s. He immediately formed a committee to organize the sesquicentennial celebrations. From day one, the committee was hard at work in order to have the church well prepared for this event. The church roof was insulated ; the sacristy was insulated, repaired and covered with vinyl siding ; four new windows were installed and a new porch was built ; the outside of the church was painted ; oak doors were installed ; a new sign was made and erected in front ; the statues of the Virgin Mary and of the Sacred Heart were repaired and repainted and the central altar was decorated for the occasion.
Fr. Daniel (with the help of Fr. Eric Roy) made the ground-plan for the plots in the new section of the cemetery (north end). With the help of Mrs. Gail Séguin and Mrs. Manon Berry Sunday School teaching was made available to the young.
THE PATRON OF OUR PARISH
Saint Alexandre I - Pope and Martyr - 105-115 -
5th successor of Saint Peter.
Here is an abridged version of text taken (with permission) from The Catholic Encyclopedia Online - www.newadvent.org/cathen/01285c.htm : "St. Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the latter quarter of the 2nd century, reckons him as the fifth pope in succession from the Apostles, though he says nothing of his martyrdom. His pontificate is variously dated by critics, e. g. 106-115 (Duchesne) or 109-116 (Lightfoot). In Christian antiquity he was credited with a pontificate of about ten years and there is no reason to doubt that he was on the "catalogue of bishops" drawn up at Rome by Hegesippus before the death of Pope Eleutherius (c. 189). According to a tradition extant in the Roman Church at the end of the fifth century, and recorded in the Liber Pontificalis he suffered a martyr's death by decapitation on the Via Nomentana in Rome, 3 May. The same tradition declares him to have been a Roman by birth and to have ruled the Church in the reign of Trajan (98-117). He is also said to have introduced the use of blessing water mixed with salt for the purification of Christian homes from evil influences. Duchesne calls attention to the persistence of this early Roman custom by way of a blessing in the Gelasian Sacramentary that recalls very forcibly the actual Asperges prayer at the beginning of Mass. In 1855, a semi-subteranean cemetery of the holy martyrs Sts. Alexander, Eventulus, and Theodulus was discovered near Rome, at the spot where the above mentioned tradition declares the Pope to have been martyred. According to some archaeologists, this Alexander is identical with the Pope, and this ancient and important tomb marks the actual site of the Pope's martyrdom. Duchesne, however denies the identity of the martyr and the pope, while admitting that the confusion of both personages is of ancient date, probably anterior to the beginning of the sixth century when the Liber Pontificalis was first compiled. The difficulties raised in recent times by Richard Lipsius and Adolph Harnack concerning the earliest successors of St. Peter are ably discussed and answered by F. S. (Cardinal Francesco Segna) in his "De successione priorum Romanorum Pontificum" (Rome 1897); with moderation and learning by Bishop Lightfoot, in his "Apostolic Fathers: St. Clement' (London, 1890) I, 201-345- especially by Duchesne in the introduction to his edition of the "Liber Pontificalis" (Paris, 1886) I. The letters ascribed to Alexander I by PseudoIsidore may be seen in P. G., V, 1057 sq., and in Hinschius, " Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae " (Leipzig, 1863) 94-105. His remains are said to have been transferred to Freising in Bavaria in 834. His so-called " Acts " are not genuine, and were compiled at a much later date." THOMAS J. SHAHAN. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I
Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
OUR THANKS TO
The members of the sesquicentennial committee for their great work : Father (Uncle Dan) Daniel Gauthier, Norm Séguin, Carole Doiron, Sheila Pickett, Marie-Thérèse Théorêt, Moniquevan der Byl, Dick (Dominicus) van der Byl, Madeleine Théorêt, Elaine and Beverly van der Byl.
- Alexandria Moulding Inc. - Home Hardware (Ron Aubin); Mike Sauvé Construction ; Marcel Ranger TV & Furniture (Stéphane Ranger) ; Roy’s Garage Green Valley ; Mallory Franklin Renovation ; JRL Lettering - Glengarry News - Fassifern Store (J.&G. Johnson) ; Micmac Tents - John Eddy Théorêt ; Bernard Charlebois ; Sylvain Ouimet -Julie and James Rice - George Theoret ; Maurice Ouimet - Don and Pauline Martin - Jean Lajoie ; Father Eric Roy ; Mr.& Mrs. Real and Rachel Diotte ; Philippe Theoret ; the members of St. Alexander’s choir and of St. Joseph’s choir from Lancaster under the direction of Ken Roach ; to the violonists and of course to all the parishioners of St. Alexander’s for their help and generosity!
Saint Alexander’s Parish
21505 Butternut Lane
North Lancaster, ON
phone: 6133473345 / fax: 6133477466
MASS TIMES : Sundays at 9 a.m. (Bilingual french & english)
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