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St. Finnan's Cathedral, Alexandria, Ontario

Some Pictures taken by Evelyn Goulet, others are from family collection, or Glengarry News. The 1st Bishop of Alexandria picture from F. R. McDonald

              AULD LANG  SYNE


              Friday, Jan. 21, 1898


              His Lordship Bishop Macdonell and the committee of St. Finnans have decided to make extensive improvements to the Cathedral. The ceiling beneath the roof is to be completed in the form of grind ceiling with wood finish, the wood-work throughout the interior will be repainted and other improvement made. The contract has been awarded to John R. Chisholm.



              Glengarry News   Jan. 28, 1998


              AULD LANG  SYNE


              Friday, Nov. 21, 1908


              The framework for the new spire on St. Finnans Cathedral has been erected and the work should be completed within two weeks.



              Glengarry News  November 21, 1902




              After the removal of Bishop Alexander Macdonell to Kingston in 1829, the Roman Catholics of the rear of Glengarry petitioned him to divide the parish of St. Raphael's and establish a new one at Alexandria. This request was acceded to, a church was built on the present site of St. Finnan's Cathedral and the first mass was said there on Christmas Day 1832 by the Rev. John Macdonald, common­ly known as "Father John". Successive priests were Reverend Fathers Clark, Begley, Alexander Macdonell, McLachlan, Chisholm and, 0'Connor, afterwards Dean of Perth.

              The latter was succeeded by the Rev. Alexander Macdonell, who was born in the Township of Lochiel in 1833, educated for the priest­hood and ordained in 1863.       For sixteen years he was parish priest of Lochiel and was appointed to Alexandria on the 23rd of June 1879. He was energetic and so inspired his parishioners that on the 22nd day of September  1883. a contract was signed for the build­ing of a new church, and on the 15th of March 1.884, the new St. Finnan's, now the Cathedral, was dedicated. In 1886, Father Mac­donell was elevated to the position of Vicar General.



              From website in 2007 (I couldn't find a current page to link to)

                          Saint Finnan's Cathedral
                          -- Back to parish information --
                          St. Finnan's Cathedral Parish, Alexandria 1833: by Archie McDougall
                          A brief essay about the history of a parish is a challenge at any
                          time, but it is an even greater challenge to condense a parish story
                          that began in 1833 and still continues; St. Finnan's celebrated its
                          centenary in 1990, as the Cathedral Parish of the Diocese of
                          Alexandria. To gain a perspective of the parish, and its later
                          development, it is helpful to know how it actually came into being.
                          In 1803 and 1804, the last large-scale immigration took place, under
                          the direction of their leader, Reverend Alexander MacDonell, when
                          more Highland families arrived to join the parish of St. Raphael's.
                          Most of these immigrants, however, became residents of the upper
                          concessions, with some even settling north of the Beaudette river,
                          and to even more distant points, that in later years would be
                          defined as the beginning concessions of Kenyon and Lochiel. Many
                          persons, because of the distance and lack of roads, were completely
                          isolated from their Church!
                          Father MacDonell, who would later become known as the Honourable and
                          Right Reverend Alexander MacDonell, the First Catholic Bishop of
                          Upper Canada, contributed directly in a number of ways to the
                          eventual formation of St. Finnan's Parish. Among his numerous
                          projects, was the purchase, in 1819, of land upon which he had a dam
                          constructed, where the property intersected the Garry River, and
                          there he built a grist mill known as the Priest's Mill - which was
                          the beginning of a settlement that would be named Alexandria, in
                          memory and recognition of a renowned leader and outstanding priest.
                          As more people began to occupy farm land near the mill, the
                          settlement gradually increased in population. However, it also
                          brought a sense of isolation from their parish at St. Raphael's.
                          And, as could be expected, the small community began to discuss the
                          possibility of having their own church.
                          In 1832, Bishop MacDonell agreed to the idea of establishing the
                          Mission of Alexandria and he provided the services of the Assistant
                          Priest of St. Raphael's Parish, Rev. John MacDonald, to minister to
                          the Alexandria Mission.
                          An excellent description of Father John's task and the condition of
                          that day is provided to us: "In the discharge of the arduous duties
                          of his mission, he (Father John) must of necessity have undergone
                          many hardships. He held jurisdiction over an extensive territory
                          sparsely populated. Settlements were numerous but far between. Roads
                          in general were almost in impassable conditions, and in many
                          instances the means of communication between one settlement and
                          another was to travel rude trails in the unbroken forest. Over these
                          rude and difficult pathways, the devoted priest frequently travelled
                          from one settlement to another, sometimes mounted on horse, often on
                          foot, never absent from any settlement whenever the spiritual wants
                          of his flock or of any member thereof called for his spiritual
                          ministrations." (Papers of Rt. Rev. Ewen MacDonald)
                          But, despite the many hardships of life at that time, the Faith of
                          our forefathers was rooted deep and firm - as attested in parish
                          records; though the numbers were small, those records clearly
                          indicate the primacy of Catholic family life: Baptisms - 95 (1836),
                          85 (1837), 87 (1838); Marriages - 14 (1836), 14 (1837), 7 (1838);
                          Burials - 9 (1836), 15 (1837), 6 (1838).
                          During the year 1832, Father John MacDonald helped his people to
                          begin the construction of the first St. Finnan's building with
                          interior dimensions of 48' x 100' for their own place of worship. On
                          Christmas Day, 1833, Father John celebrated the first Mass in the
                          new building, which was to be placed under the patronage of St.
                          Finnan, after the revered fifth century Saint who had long been
                          esteemed by the Catholics of Scotland.
                          Seven years later, in 1840, the status of Mission was raised to that
                          of parish and Father John was named the first pastor of St. Finnan's
                          On January 15, 1843, Bishop Gaulin administered Confirmation to 254
                          people at St. Finnan's. He was apparently impressed because, a few
                          weeks after this event, he wrote a letter to the parishoners of St.
                          Finnan's highly complimenting them "on the flourishing condition in
                          which he found matters with them spiritually and temporally", a copy
                          of which is recorded in the register of the parish.
                          Their beloved pastor died on May 9, 1845, in his seventeenth year as
                          a priest and his twelfth as the servant of St. Finnan's. The esteem
                          of his people was such that they erected a marble tablet to his
                          memory and honour, one that has truly been a memorial for all
                          generations since!
                          Restrictions of space require that we can do no more than recognize
                          by name those priests of that era who served so faithfully:
                          1845 Father George Hay, pastor of St. Andrew's Church, who tried to
                          help out from time to time and especially when Bishop Phelan came
                          for Confirmation that year;
                          Nov. 1845 - 1851 Father Denis Begley was named the second pastor;
                          1851 - 1853 Father Alexander Macdonell (Mac Ian Mor), a fragile man
                          of poor health who died in service.
                          1853 Father John Meade who filled in on an interim basis;
                          1853 - 1856 Father John McLachlan who was instrumental in starting
                          the Catholic Separate School and who invited the Sisters of Holy
                          Cross Congregation to open St. Margaret's Convent in 1854.
                          1856 - 1866 Father James Chisholm, a "brillant theologian" who had
                          taken his Doctorate in Rome;
                          1866 - 1879 Father J.S. O'Connor, longest serving of that time,
                          sixth pastor.
                          In the year 1879, the pastor of Lochiel, Father Alexander Macdonell
                          (the fourth of that name to be linked to the Catholic Church of
                          Glengarry, Ontario) was transferred to St. Finnan's. A native son,
                          like Father Chisholm before him, he became involved in parish
                          ventures, the most significant of which came at the recommendation
                          of his Bishop, James Cleary, S.D.T., in 1881: because of the great
                          increase in parish population, that the people build a larger church
                          building. Father Macdonell, with the full support of his people, set
                          out to complete this objective, with the new building to be built on
                          the site of the first church.
                          William H. Hodson, of Montreal, Architect, drew up the plans in the
                          early part of 1883, and the building contract was awarded to Messrs.
                          John R. Chisholm & Son, of Lochiel, on September 22, 1883.
                          On the 13th day of July, 1884, a solemn ceremony took place when the
                          cornerstone was laid and blessed "by Bishop Cleary, assisted by the
                          Reverend Pastor, also by Reverend Fathers O'Connor of Perth,
                          Gauthier of Williamstown, Duffus of St. Raphael's, Cicolari of
                          Lochiel..." (St. Finnan's records)
                          Final construction was completed, and the Church was dedicated to
                          the 'Worship of God', on the 15th day of March, 1885, by Bishop
                          James Cleary.
                          The next significant event might have had a prophetic element: on a
                          visit to Alexandria, September 19, 1886, the bishop informed the
                          Very Reverend Alexander Macdonell that he had been appointed the
                          Vicar-General of the diocese of Kingston.
                          The last event focusses on the pastor and his parish of St.
                          Finnan's. The territory of the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont
                          were separated by papal decree from Kingston diocese, and from these
                          counties a new diocese was to be created. In July 1890, word was
                          received from Rome that Alexandria was to be the new episcopal See
                          and that the pastor of St. Finnan's, the Very Reverend Alexander
                          Macdonell, had been appointed the first bishop of Alexandria.
                          On October 28, 1890, Bishop Alexander Macdonell was consecrated and
                          St. Finnan's became the Cathedral Parish.
                          With the coming of age - 50 years as a religious family in 1883 -
                          with the elevating of the parish status to that of being a cathedral
                          in 1890, with the completion of the new bishop's residence and the
                          cosmetic application to the surrounding grounds by the year 1916,
                          the Episcopal See of Alexandria was functioning smoothly. And in the
                          church building itself changes, renovations, improvements to the
                          physical plant were taking place the first twenty-five years:
                          decorations, new pews, new flooring, heating and hot water system,
                          to name a few items. And equally important were other changes,
                          aesthetic as well as practical going on: a new organ, stained glass
                          windows, marble altars, fixtures, commemorative tablets, and so on.
                          Under Bishop Alexander, and later Bishop William, priority had been
                          given to making the Cathedral an outstanding and beautiful edifice.
                          There is no question but that they were admirably successful!
                          Bishop Alexander's years - twenty-three in all as pastor and bishop
                          - had been full and fruitful, characterized by change that could
                          never have been imagined. They came to an end with his death on May
                          29, 1905.
                          Bishop MacDonell was replaced by another MacDonell, William Andrew,
                          consecrated by another native son of Glengarry, Archbishop Gauthier
                          of Kingston, June 24, 1906. As noted in a previous statement, Bishop
                          William carried on with the plans of his predecessor.
                          If the Scotts emigrated to Glengarry in the first decades of the
                          nineteenth century, it was the turn of the French to cross the
                          border from Quebec in the late 1800's. A French section of the
                          parish of St. Finnan's had its own Sunday Mass from 1896 on. As the
                          numbers in that section increased, plans began for the construction
                          of their own parish church. A site was obtained at Main and Lochiel
                          streets for the new parish of Sacred Heart, in Alexandria, and the
                          first mass was offered there on Christmas Eve, 1912.
                          The fourteen years of service of Bishop William, functioning both as
                          the pastor of St. Finnan's and the bishop of the diocese, similar in
                          fashion to Bishop Alexander before him, came to a sudden end with
                          his death on November 10, 1920. The diocese of Alexandria and the
                          parish of St. Finnan had, again, lost a beloved shepherd.
                          The third bishop of the diocese, a member of a Religious Order
                          dating back to the 13th century, the Order of St. Dominic, or more
                          familiarly called the Order of Preachers, Right Reverend Felix
                          Couturier, had been appointed by Pope Benedict XV as Bishop of
                          Alexandria, Ontario. The new bishop who had been consecrated in
                          1919, and for a short period of time had been the Apostolic Delegate
                          to Egypt, arrived at his new post on August 23, 1921.
                          His term of office could be characterized as that of consolidation
                          and, perhaps, the most outstanding event was the centennial
                          celebration of St. Finnan's on June 29, 1933. Bishop Couturier died
                          July 27, 1941, and was buried beside Bishop William in the parish
                          With each bishop, in the years 1905 - 1941, there was always a
                          priest whose prime responsibility was to act for the bishop, in
                          administering the parish of St. Finnan. Limitation of space, again,
                          demands that we list only their names in sequence, as was done
                          previously for the first pastors that impressed the writer in
                          researching this paper: not only were the priests, who had been
                          chosen to act as Administrators or Rectors, unique in personality,
                          personable in social relations, creative priests, men of strong
                          spiritual direction, but each, in his own way, must have possessed
                          that characteristic of social and spiritual compatibility in
                          humility, in charity. 1890-1906 Bishop Alexander Macdonell,
                          Administrator/Rector; 1906-1920 Bishop William Macdonell, Father
                          Alex McDonald, Father Charles Gauthier; 1921-1941 Bishop Felix
                          Couturier, Father Charles Gauthier, Father John McRae, Father John
                          J. Macdonell, Monsignor Ewen MacDonald.
                          With the arrival of the fourth bishop, Most Reverend Rosario
                          Brodeur, in the summer of 1941, there seemed to be a certain
                          cleavage: the beginning of the new, the ending of the old. Change
                          was quicker, serenity was becoming more rare, motion the dominant
                          characteristic. There is no doubt that much of it was caused by the
                          war, as hundreds of young women and men left Glengarry to enlist -
                          more than 100 from St. Finnan's alone, including some who paid the
                          sacrifice of their lives.
                          The war and post-war era brought radical change: some good - some
                          bad. Waves of materialism, secularism, nationalism, and in the realm
                          of religion, egotism that, more recently, has been labelled
                          individualism. The diocese was not to escape these new trends, nor
                          was St. Finnan's. The sociological movement of people from the rural
                          areas to urban centers slowly eroded much of what had been taken for
                          granted. Yet Bishop Brodeur, an extremely active man, must be given
                          full credit for trying to satisfy the needs of all - building new
                          parishes in Cornwall, for example, and at the same time seeking
                          funds for the restoration of St. Finnan's Cathedral in 1954.
                          And, perhaps, his greatest accomplishment was the successful manner
                          in which he introduced and implemented the changes of Vatican II in
                          his diocese. The Bishop for reasons of age, retire in 1966 and later
                          went to live in Bishop LaRocque's residence in Cornwall. He died on
                          February 7, 1986. He served St. Finnan's well, and he is well
                          remembered by his people.
                          The successor to Bishop Brodeur, Most Reverend Adolphe Proulx,
                          assumed his duties on June 16, 1967. He will always be remembered,
                          for the fact that he established a Diocesan Centre in Cornwall and
                          moved to Cornwall in 1972. In 1974, he became Bishop of Hull and
                          died at his cottage in Curry Hill in July 1987.
                          The sixth Bishop, Most Reverend Eugene LaRocque, consecrated on
                          September 3, 1974, is now the chief shepherd of our Diocese.
                          We will recall all those Rectors of St. Finnan's who served our
                          parish as faithful stewards: 1940-1944 Bishop Rosario Brodeur,
                          Rector - Father Wm. J. Smith (Later Bishop of Pembroke), Father R.J.
                          MacDonald, Father John MacPhail, Father Donald Kerr; 1967-1974
                          Bishop Adolphe Proulx, Father Donald Kerr, Father Leo MacDonell;
                          1974- Bishop Eugene LaRocque, Father D.B. MacDougald, Father Bernard
                          Since its inception as a parish there has been a total of 23
                          priestly vocations and 84 girls who entered religious communities of
                          And now, in 1990, as far as the parish is concerned, we have much to
                          be thankful for, as we participate in a reduced role in this
                          hundredth year of the Diocese. Whether it was by chance or by
                          design, and the Grace of God, we know without any doubt, that St.
                          Finnan's has always been blessed, and still is, with the finest,
                          holiest, and most faithful of priests as Pastors and Rectors.


                          How to reach us / Comment nous rejoindre:

                          220, ch. Montral Rd., C.P. / Box 1388, Cornwall ON K6H 5V4
                          Telephone / Tlphone (613) 933-1138; Fax / Tlcopieur (613)

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