THE MISSION CHURCH AT LOCKEPORT
Chap. 1. Early history : 1870 - 1956
Chap. 2. 1956 -1966
Pictures for this section
CHAPTER I: EARLY HISTORY
The history of St. John’s Church, Lockeport, in its early years, has been providentially preserved, thanks to notes by a Mrs. John Carten, one of the Catholics responsible for its being built. Here, then, is a faithful rendering of Mrs. Carten’s notes which she entitled:
EARLY DAYS IN THE MISSION OF LOCKEPORT, N.S.
“There is a sermon and a mission in what you have related, you should put it in writing”, said the late Right Reverend Monsignor Fitzgerald, and he drew from me the promise to do so. Msgr. Fitzgerald, then rector of the Immaculate Conception Church, Camden, New Jersey, was in August 1934 visiting his native city of Halifax, N.S. I had been recounting to him the story of a few Catholic families who settled in the village of Lockport, Shelburne County, about 1870 to 1889 , and where I had spent my young womanhood days and twenty years of my life.
Situated on a small peninsula in Ragged Island Bay one hundred miles west of Halifax, Lockeport was in those years a thriving community of about a thousand souls. Outside communication was either by means of sailing vessels or over difficult primitive post roads. It takes its name from the Locke family, the original settlers who came from New England. They and another family, the Churchills, developed the fishing industry and a considerable export trade in dried fish with the West Indies.
To this little community, there came from Halifax, in 1870, William Freany with his wife Honora and their three daughters Mary, Bridget and Kate. They were natives of Thomastown, County Kilkenny. Mr. Freany was a stonemason. He had the contract to build the foundation for a new schoolhouse in Lockeport and remained there to live. To their great sorrow, they found no Catholic Church there, and only three other Catholic families. There was the Reid Family, Mr. and Mrs. Matthey Reid, two sons and three daughters. Mr. Reid conducted a cooperage. Their two sons died in early manhood. Of the family of Michael Kehoe, the tailor, Mrs. Kehoe was a Protestant, but their three sons and three daughters were brought up Catholics. The other family was that of Captain Dan Cronan, his wife and daughter.
The Fraeny’s home, by reason of their genial friendliness, and ready Irish wit, became an attractive visiting place, not only for the little group of Catholics there, but for others as well. Their salutation to the visitors was invariably prefaced with a prayer: “Praise be to God and His Blessed Mother”, or a like ejaculation. Anyone entering their home in the early evening, knelt with them while they recited their daily Rosary.
Word came from Rev. Father D. O’Connor, stationed seventy five miles away at West Caledonia, Queen’s County, that he would be in Lockeport on a given date. Father O’Connor ministered to the scattered Catholics in the counties of Lunenburg, Queens and Shelburne. He was a real missionary priest, always seeking out anyone with a Catholic name who may have strayed from the faith. Nothing less than a high silk hat served him for headwear, Winter and Summer alike, as he travelled with horse and wagon the difficult roads of the three counties.
On his arrival in Lockeport, Father O’Connor went to the small hotel. Mr. Kehoe offered the use of a room in his newly built house for the celebration of Holy Mass. When the Freaneys came to the house, and saw the room in which Mass was to be said, there was still plaster on the floor from the freshly coated walls, and a bureau stood for an altar with two porter bottles for candlesticks. “And this is the place where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to be offered?” said Mrs. Freany. With thoughts of holy Ireland in mind, tears came to her eyes.
The faithful few knelt about the feet of the priest. The Freanys were delighted to know in Father O’Connor, native of Limerick, a countryman of their own. Mass over, they invited him to their home, saying that when he would come again they would have a clean room in which Mass could be said. “We are poor but clean, and you shall have the best that we can offer”.
On his next visit and thereafter, Father O’Connor stayed with the Freanys. In a room reserved for a chapel, a plain and simple altar was covered with immaculate linen. A crucifix, candlesticks and flower vases that had been brought from Ireland were in place on the altar. A spruce branch from the neighbouring wood served for a sprinkling of Holy ‘Water. “How did you sleep , Father?” asked Mrs. Freany on the first morning of Father O’Connor’s visit with them. “ I never slept so well since my boyhood days “ was the good priest’s reply. From then on, Father O’Connor came oftener, about every three months. He usually remained two or three days and was ever alert in looking up lapsed Catholics. In the village of Osborne, about two miles from Lockeport, he discovered an old Irishman, named Thomas Coumans. Mr. Coumans had been a school master in Ireland and a Catholic. He had been shipwrecked on this coast and settled in Osborne where he began teaching. He married a Baptist, attended the Baptist Church and , at times, preached there. His children were brought up Protestants. Father O’Connor , thereafter, would always call in his wagon for Mr. Coumans and bring him to Mass at the Freanys. Later, when the old man was too feeble to come , the priest said Mass in his room.
Another member of the little Catholic group in Lockeport, was Nellie O’Brien, also a native of Ireland. She had earned her living here by going out to do housework. She was getting on in years and walked a long distance to Mass every time the priest came. When she could no longer work and was without resources, the people provided a home for her with a Protestant family, willing to care for her. She told the family with whom she lived to leave her Scapular on her after her death, and to put on her brown habit she had long kept for her shroud. She asked Mr. Freany to give her books to Father O’Connor. When the priest saw them, he said they were a library in themselves. In an old newspaper, she had wrapped a gold sovereign which she said was for Fr. O’Connor. Another Sovereign, separately wrapped, was to pay to take her remains to Liverpool, forty miles away, that they be buried in consecrated ground.
About this time, October 1875, I came with my husband, John Carten, and our two small children, Franklin and Arthur, to Lockeport. Mr. Carten opened a dry goods store. We also were disappointed at finding no Catholic Church here, and only four other Catholic families.
Occasionally, Catholic sailors landed from vessels, that came to the
port. A sailor became ill and was visited by Father O’Connor who heard
his Confession. He had not been to confession in forty years. He lived
but a short time after. We hailed the coming of Father O’Connor with joy.
About 1877, he was transferred to Enfield, in Halifax County, and was succeeded
on our mission by Father T.J. Butler. Bella Hollinsworth , a maid who lived
with us, expressed her desire to become a Catholic. She was baptized by
Father Butler and became a very devout Catholic. On account of failing
health, she returned to her family at Truro and afterwards died. About
1877, Thomas Quinn and Captain William Clarke of Halifax arrived at Lockeport.
Mr. Quinn came to take employment as a moulder in the foundry, of the Lockeport
Iron Works where stoves and ship’s iron work were made. Both were staunch
Catholics and married and settled in Lockeport.
They arrived one evening. Archbishop O’Brien and Fr. Ellis were our guests and Fr. Butler stayed with the Freanys, where Mass was said. In the morning, the little Mass room was filled. His Grace celebrated Mass. Mr. Carten was the server. The Archbishop said to us: “You should build a church here”. We were much surprised at the suggestion, and even Father Butler smiled at the notion, there were so few to attempt it. His Grace said: “You begin, and if you do you will finish it and then wonder how you did it. Today is the feast of St. John the Baptist, we will call it St. John the Baptist’s Church”.
His words all came true. That day, Mr. Carten went about looking for a site. He succeeded in finding one and approached the owner. It was about an acre of ground and the price was one hundred dollars. His Grace paid half that sum and my husband paid the other half. A few days later, Mr. Carten went to Halifax on business. He was well known there, and called on prominent business men, Daniel Cronan among them, soliciting aid for our projected church. He returned well pleased with his measure of success.
Mr. Freany gladly undertook the contract to build the foundation. The few Catholics of Lockeport gave what they could of money and labor, and so the work commenced, as Mr. Freany expressed it : “In the name of God”. In the cornerstone were placed a few coins and a newspaper, and with the blessings and prayers, I know. We continued to beg for materials, nails, putty, lime, lumber, anything. Mr. Carten went to Jordan River, fourteen miles distant, to purchase lumber from Mr. Freeman, mill owner there. He had secured a competent carpenter, Jacob Smith of Lockeport, and arranged for the building to proceed as far as means would allow. When the frame was raised, we were very happy, and as the work progressed, went to view it from all angles. One curious onlooker inquired of Mr. Freany: “What are you building, a barn?” In typical Irish fashion Mr. Freany replied: “ Call it what you like, Our Lord was born in a stable and this is for Him”.
Funds were low and more lumber was needed, which Mr. Carten went to Jordan River to purchase. He took our own horse Pat, and the wagon , but came back without them. On his return, our son Arthur asked of him: “ Daddy, where is Pat?” His father said: “ I exchanged him and the wagon for lumber for the Church”. The boy’s eyes filled up. Pat was his pet and care. Daddy said: “ The Church is better for us, Arthur, than the horse and wagon. Some day we’ll get another”. But that day never came. Mr. Carten’s health declined, and to our regret and sorrow, he was taken from us. He did not live to see our Church completed.
We managed to get the outside finished, windows in, walls plastered and a temporary altar. Another Summer came and His Grace visited us again. He was well pleased with the work and the laborers. Our mission was now placed under the charge of the parish priest of West Pubnico, Rev. J.J. Sullivan. We were ten miles nearer to West Pubnico, in Yarmouth County, than to Caledonia. Fr. Sullivan was enthusiastic in his encouragement of our labors, but the prime worker among us had been called to his reward on April 8, 1889. Into the little unfinished church his dear remains were carried for the funeral rites. Fr. Sullivan came for that Requiem Mass and remained a few days consoling us in our loss. A white marble cross marks the grave in the small rough cemetery on the mainland, at the far end of the beach where most of the other faithful few have been laid to rest.
There was now the interior of the Church to be finished. I solicited from friends and wholesale merchants in Halifax sufficient goods to enable us to get up a bazaar. Our firm sent a large dry goods case filled with material which gave us work for the Summer months in sewing and making saleable articles. The valuable assistance of Halifax ladies, especially Mrs. Charles J. Carten, secured for us donations of many things for sale. The bazaar was scheduled to take place in October when the fishermen would be home from their Summer’s work. We hired the Temperance Hall for three days, served a supper or tea each day and had a most attractive display of things for sale. Fr. Sullivan came from West Pubnico to encourage and help us during the bazaar. He suggested selling votes for the most popular school teacher and for the most popular sea captain with prizes for the winners. Everything was completely sold out, a clean sweep. No other church organization in Lockeport had ever done so well, and we few Catholics were proud and grateful for the results achieved.
Work was renewed within the church. A fine birch floor was laid, seats and kneeling benches and an oak communion rail were installed. A stove was purchased, the sacristy finished, a portiere hung in the sacristy doorway, a carpet laid in the sanctuary, and the church painted. The new altar, finished in white and gold, and a set of white vestments were gifts of Right Reverend Msgr. Edward Murphy, V.G. of Halifax to Lockeport Church. The altar was built in West Pubnico and brought to Lockeport in a sailing vessel.
Mrs. A. O’Connor of Halifax gave all the linen required. Miss Walsh, sister of Rev. Canon Walsh, gave the silver chalice. Archbishop O’Brien gave framed altar cards, altar stone and missal. Mrs. Freany gave a large picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, two small tables and four chairs, and for the altar, two china vases brought from Ireland. Mr. Kehoe gave a large picture of the Crucifixion which hangs in the sacristy. Two small pictures of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were given by the writer. A friend and relative in London, England, sent a statue of St. John the Baptist and a steel engraving of our patron saint. The statue was placed on the altar. The Charlottetown Convent of Notre Dame presented green vestments. Mrs. Richard Weir, daughter of Mr. Matthew Reid, Lockeport, aided me in making velvet vestments and in lining the tabernacle with white satin. Thus, in 1891, our little church of St. John the Baptist was completed, furnished and without debt; a well proportioned white frame building with a sharply pitched roof surrounded, at the front, by a neat tower with its gilded cross. Inside, the roof was sheathed to the peak, panelled with large beams and supported by crossed beams and stained in light oak.
I wrote to Archbishop O’Brien to tell him it was completed and paid for. His answer was: “ You see, Our Lord does send money for His Church”. His Grace came the following Summer, accompanied by Rev. Father E.J. McCarthy, who was later to succeed him as Archbishop of Halifax. With them was our then parish priest, Rev. L. Ducheneau of West Pubnico. We now had the joy of seeing our little church consecrated.
It was a gala day for us. The Church was filled to the door. His Grace celebrated Holy Mass and spoke to the people beautifully of their efforts, and of Mr. Carten’s work until death claimed him. He said “This little church is Mr. Carten’s monument“. We were proud of our little church, and kept it spotless always for the coming of our Lord and his priest. Although the priest came but once in three months, the Freany family went to the Church every Sunday morning to read their Mass prayers. They, as years rolled on, passed away one after the other, each without the rites of our Holy Church, on account of the distance for a priest to come. Likewise passed the Reids, the Cronans, the Kehoes and later, Captain Clarke. The marriage of Capt. Clarke’s youngest daughter was the first marriage in the new church.
I am the last one living, of the little group to whom the Archbishop
O’Brien said on his first visit to Lockeport in 1882: “You should build
a church here”. I left Lockeport with my children in 1896. I was sorry
to leave our little church more than anything or anybody. Although my Catholic
friends I left there have long since passed away, I wished to go back once
THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS LATER
Thirty-eight years after, in October 1934, I returned. From Liverpool, where I had been visiting for a week, I motored to Lockeport. I called at the house of a Catholic woman who had a key to the church. I asked her if I might have it. As I was a stranger to her, she rather hesitated until I assured her I would return it.
Again I went through the village streets that I first knew in October, 1875, exactly fifty-nine years before. I passed the old Freany house and the woods opposite, to our little church at the top of the rising ground beyond. Again I opened the dear familiar door. On entering the church and looking around, I knelt at the rail. I was shocked, even to tears, at the deplorable condition I found there. Windows had been broken out ( four of them) and birds had taken shelter and built their nests within. The altar cloths, soiled and black with dust, had not been removed since the priest had left there, six months before. There was dirt and disorder. A broken pipe prevented making a fire to dry out the damp building. Vestments, kept in a box, were damp and not fit for a priest to put on. A picture of the Sacred Heart I had hung at the back of the altar, forty years before, was on the floor, the cord rotted and broken. Here again was work to do. I decided to remain a week, and with some assistance, make it orderly.
On Saturday night, the woman from whom I had obtained the key, told me the priest would arrive Sunday evening for Benediction, and Mass on Monday morning. “How about the altar cloths”, I asked, “ will you allow me to come to your house and wash them ?” Reverently I gathered them up, three of them. I had made them and placed them on the same altar more than forty years before. We washed and ironed them. She could not return with me to finish putting things in readiness. I asked if all the Catholics in Lockeport knew the priest was coming. “All but one” she said, “ a maid servant”. I went to advise the girl, who was very glad. She came to Benediction and Holy Mass. I then returned to the church. I polished the candlesticks, washed the flower vases, swept and dusted , and then dressed the altar as I had done in days of yore. The things I handled, many of whose donors rest in the little cemetery beyond the beach, each held some sacred memory of the past.
Darkness came on that October Sunday early. I lighted the sanctuary lamp. It happened to have a little oil in it. I found two small pieces of candles and lighted them, in order to have some glimmer in the church for the priest to see as he came along the dark road. I waited for the sound of his car. A few people were there ahead of us, and I suppose wondered who I was. Father Bellefontaine came with his server. He gave Benediction and heard Confessions.
Monday morning we were about nine communicants. After breakfast, I called to pay my respects to the priest and then returned to the Church to put away the vestments, etc. I Procured a new box for them, as the old one was unsuitable. While thus occupied, a young woman came in. I asked her if she belonged to our Church. She said that she did. She said she had been a Catholic only since the time of her marriage and that she was anxious to learn more about her religion. I promised to send her Catholic literature, which I since have been doing, and she writes most grateful letters in reply.
My brief return visit thus ended. During one of those bright October days, with a small basket of fresh flowers that had been given to me, I walked across the mile-long beach to our little cemetery, at the far end on the mainland. It is only about an acre of somewhat rough and brush-strewn ground, fenced off from the wood land about it. Quiet and apart, its few white crosses facing the sands and the sea where the Atlantic surf breaks in unending requiem. .Archbishop O’Brien had been impressed by the sight of the surf on this beautiful crescent-shaped beach of glittering yellow and white sands. After a walk on the beach, with a group of children, he wrote over his signature, in the small autograph of one of them, the following lines:
WHAT I HEARD ON THE BEACH
A voice came up from the deep,
( This concludes the notes of Mrs. John Carten concerning the beginnings
of the Mission Church of St. John the Baptist , Lockeport, N.S. )
* * * * * * * *
PRIESTS WHO MINISTERED TO LOCKEPORT CATHOLICS
1870 Father D. O’Connor, pastor of West Caledonia Parish, West Caledonia, Queen’s County , (some 75 miles away) visited once or twice a year and celebrated Mass in the home of M. & Mrs. William Fraeny.
1877 Father T.J. Butler replaced Fr. O’Connor and visited Lockeport as did his predecessor. The church building was planned and begun during his pastorate (about 1882).
1883 Archbishop O’Brien , of Halifax, officially placed the Lockeport mission in the care of the West Pubnico Parish , some ten miles nearer than Caledonia. Father J.J. Sullivan, pastor.
1895-1900 Father L.E. Ducheneau, replaced Father Sullivan, and increased the Lockeport visits to every three months.
1900-1909 Father D.J. Summers replaced Fr. Ducheneau, and continued the quarterly visits.
1910 East Pubncio parish was established, and Lockeport became its mission. Father A. Fortier, the first resident priest, increased Lockeport visits to every six weeks.
1911 Father H. Semery replaced Father Fortier in 1911, and, in turn, was replaced by Father Lichtemberger cssp from 1912-1916
1916-1927 Father Emile Bourneuf (later Monsignor) continued the regular visits of his predecessor, and, at times, monthly.
1927-1941 Father Olivier Bellefontaine increased the Lockeport visits to monthly, arriving Sunday afternoon, conducting Benediction that evening, and celebrating Mass Monday morning
1941-1953 Father Louis Comeau, replaced Fr. Bellefontaine, early in the war, and , due to the influx of servicemen and workers in the Shelburne area, visited St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, weekly, and Lockeport more frequently.
1953-1956 Father Arcade Theriault continued the same schedule, until the Lockeport Church became a mission of the newly-established Shelburne Parish.
ST. JOHN’S MISSION CHURCH: LOCKEPORT
CHAPTER II : 1956- 1966
When Bishop Albert Lemenager of Yarmouth, in 1956, decided to upgrade St. Thomas Church of Shelburne to parish status, he was explicit in stating that St. John’s Church , Lockeport, would become its mission Church. Both of the Churches had been mission churches of the Pubnico Parishes, dating back to the late 1800s.
Once settled into a Shelburne apartment, in May of 1956, as first resident pastor of Shelburne County, it seemed appropriate to pay a visit to the mission church in Lockeport. Several years earlier, I had driven a carload of basketball players , from the Yarmouth Catholic High School, for an exhibition game against the Lockeport High School, but that was my only visit ever to Lockeport, and it was at night, so the landscape was not familiar to me. Anyone born in a seaside town or village, as I was, would be impressed by the rugged shoreline leading to Lockeport. The entrance to the Peninsula Town is along a beautiful crescent-shaped beach, which gives it an unusual, even distinctive, setting, as Archbishop O’Brien of Halifax had noted during his visit there in 1883.
FAMILY OF CHARLES BALISH
Not knowing where our small mission church was located, I entered the centre - town area, where I spotted the general store, which, I had earlier been told, belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Balish, who had once lived in Yarmouth, my home town. Charles Balish, of Lebanese extraction, a very outgoing and genial person, met me in his store, and we soon began to reminisce about his early days in Yarmouth. He had always been enthralled with movies, and, as early as the late twenties, had owned a moving van which, for a penny or so, clients could look into the lens of a machine, steadily rotate a crank, and be amused with action movies. He would tour the Western Counties with this travelling show.
Mrs. Balish eventually arrived, a likewise congenial person, and we switched the conversation to our mission church. He and his wife, as well as his married son Harold, and Harold’s wife, had been caring for the Church for some years, keeping it tidy for the monthly arrival of Father Arcade Theriault, Pastor of the East Pubnico Parish. The gist of the conversion was that the building badly needed repairs, due to age, neglect and location.
OUR HUMBLE MISSION CHURCH
Having informed me that the Church was on John Street, and explained how to get there from where we stood, I went off in the direction given, soon realizing that John Street was not in the heart of the Town, but along the peninsula heading towards the ocean. As I approached the humble structure, I sensed a feeling of sadness, at the unkempt surroundings, and its poor location. It stood sideways to the street, with neighbouring houses rather close to the front and back of the building. Worse still, the land, away from the building, dropped off somewhat sharply towards a type of gully. Gazing about the area, I noticed a large, vacant field across the street, which immediately occurred to me as a much more fitting site for our Church. Inside , there was the odour of a closed , rarely used building, though not in disarray at all. Credit to the Balish family.
Masses at St. John’s Church, Lockeport, were increased to alternate Sunday evenings, with some twenty to thirty parishioners in attendance. The people living in the house facing the front door of the Church, were of the Pentecostal persuasion, and, in warm summer evenings, made it a practice of entertaining the neighbourhood whilst Mass was underway. creating a noisy distraction. This, added to the precarious slope of the land away from the Church, set us all looking ahead to moving the Church at some later date. In the meantime, however, priority had to be given St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, the parent church of the new Shelburne County Parish.
As is generally the case, there were Catholics who had gradually drifted away from the practice of their faith, some due to negligence, others due to lack of transportation. This was true of several Williams’ families of West Green Harbour, across the bay from Lockeport. These were quiet, good living fishermen’s families, and readily consented to attend Mass, when I offered to drop by for them on my way to Lockeport’s evening Mass. They were always ready, waiting and grateful.
“SAVED” OR NOT SAVED
There was an Acadian lady living in Lockeport, married to a Pentecostal gentleman. She faithfully attended Mass with her two teenage daughters. One day, he made it a point to meet me, and angrily demanded that I guarantee the eternal salvation of his wife and daughters. He called it being
“saved”. He loudly stated that his denomination could promise that its members “were saved”, and he demanded the same of the Catholic Church. I assured him that we use the term “being in the state of grace”, and by maintaining that sinless state, we’re guaranteed eternal life. He wasn’t familiar with that theological term, but he pretended to understand, and he walked away somewhat puzzled.
WINTERS: SPARSELY-HEATED CHURCH.
Harold Balish was faithful in starting up the oil-fired space heater, for Masses in Winter, but the building was not winterized, so the struggling heater only slightly succeeded in killing the chill. Exposed to cold pews, the faithful parishioners were not well disposed for lengthy homilies. We kept dreaming of an eventual better situation.
VATICAN II INFLUENCES
In early 1962, when the Vatican II Ecumenical Council approved the vernacular language at Masses, and altars facing the congregation, most pastors made hasty plans to conform. The adjustment, at St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, had been rather straightforward, given the recent alterations to the Church. The same was hardly the case at St. John’s Church, Lockeport, where the altar was fixed to the back wall.
On the Sunday foreseen as the day to turn the altar around, I purposely arrived an hour or so early, allowing time to loosen the altar table from the back wall, and moving it forward on its elevated platform. Luckily, there was sufficient room for this. In gently hauling the altar away from the wall, there occurred the crashing sound of broken glass. It seems that , years earlier, two large , heavily framed,
black and white pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Holy Heart of Mary, had been tucked away behind the altar, out of sight and out of the way. Moving the altar allowed the two pictures to fall, breaking the glass into a multitude of pieces, exactly at the spot where the priest would normally stand during the Eucharist. The early-arriving parishioners were greeted by their pastor, broom and dustpan in hand, cleaning up the splintered glass. With their help, the area was cleaned up and readied for Mass, facing the congregation, catching most by surprise. Hardly a glorious introduction to a change in the Liturgy.
OBTAINING A NEW LAND SITE
It was revealed that the open field across the street from the Church belonged to a Catholic lady living in the United States. After lengthy inquiries, her address was procured, and a letter dispatched to see if she might consider selling all or part of it. It was sufficiently large for two good-sized lots. after several exchanges, she sent a most welcome letter, stating that she would donate half of the property to the Church, with a proviso, however, that if it ever ceased to be used for church purposes, it would revert to her or to her estate. We graciously thanked her, and assured her that her generous gift would be greatly rewarding.
Although plans to move the Church across the street would have to wait until the Shelburne Church construction was completed, and until some funds could be saved for the project, nevertheless, parishioners were buoyed up by the anticipation of better days ahead.
PLANS TO MOVE THE CHURCH
During the Winter of 1961-1962, the decision was taken to examine the logistics of moving St. John’s Church from the West side, to the East side of John Street. The Town of Lockeport assured us that it had no objections, as long as permissions were obtained from the Nova Scotia Light and Power Company, and The Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company, both of which had large pole-hanging cables blocking the move.
A favorable letter from the Nova Scotia Light and Power Company merely asked to be informed well in advance of the date, so two of their linesmen could be present to temporarily cut the lines, allowing the Church to pass through. The Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company ( M.T.T.) bluntly refused, stating that cutting off phone connections for such a number of clients could not be justified.
OUTFOXING THE TELEPHONE COMPANY
M.T.T.’s refusal placed in jeopardy our proposed plan to move the Church to this better location. Deschamps Construction of Shelburne had agreed to build a full basement foundation on our new site, place our Church on skids, and, with his huge bulldozer, haul the building to its new location.
Somewhat depressed, Mr. Deschamps and I met at the site, in the hopes that there just might be another option of some kind. Then, standing beside the Church, and , looking up and down the street, our “mental lightbulbs” lit up, as it occurred to us that the phone lines need not be cut after all. Since the Church was situated on a hill, the phone lines would merely have to be disconnected from two poles either side of the Church, lowered to the ground, momentarily burying them in a shallow trench, whilst the Church , on skids, would pass over them.
This idea was proposed to Mr. Roy Cooper, the M.T.T. representative living in Yarmouth, who then contacted his superiors in the Annapolis Valley, who in turn sent their engineers to check out the idea. They agreed to the ingenious idea, and agreed to have two linesmen on hand the day the Church was moved.
After the moving had successfully occurred, the N.S. Light and Power Company sent us a bill for $29.00, for the labor costs of their two linesmen, who had cut and re-connected the cables. M.T.T. sent us a bill for $75.00, for their two linesmen, on the job for the same length of time. Cheques for $29.00 were sent to each of the companies , with an explanatory note to M.T.T. explaining that their two linesmen had worked less than the two from N.S. Light and Power. After all, Mr. Deschamps had dug the trench in which their cable had been safely protected during the moving of the Church. Later, in Yarmouth, Mr. Roy Cooper accosted me stating that we had pulled a “fast one”, but that the Company considered the bill fully paid.
MOVING THE CHURCH
Carpenters first detached the small sacristy (small annex where the priest usually vests ), then the small belfry (a common cause of water leaks) and hoisted the whole remaining building on skids. With a good number of locals curiously witnessing the proceedings, the huge bulldozer carefully hauled our St. John’s Church to its new foundation, and gently nudged it into place.
A hot -air furnace was then installed, the interior walls re-decorated, the floors tiled, the windows repaired, the small sacristy re-attached, new wiring throughout, outside cement steps installed and the outside walls freshly painted. St. John’s Mission Church now proudly stood on spacious high ground, high enough to view the bay, an immeasurable improvement over its previous site, a mere few hundred yards away. The number of parishioners attending only marginally increased, but those who did, displayed new interest.
THE SUTTLE FAMILY
In the early 1960s, Chief Petty Officer Charles Suttle (RCN) , nearing the end of a long navy career, was transferred to the Shelburne Navy Base, to eventually take his retirement. Falling in love with the area, he bought a house, on the mainland side of the Lockeport Crescent Beach, and, with his wife and children, became regular attendants at Mass. He was an enterprising type, still sporting his native British accent, and soon had a thriving roadside canteen near his home, staffed by family members. It’s reported that a Protestant Church in Lockeport sought tenders to remove an unwanted steeple. He won the contract, and successfully toppled the spire along a carefully planned line, causing no damage whatsoever. During my regular Friday visits to the Navy Base, I invariably looked him up, and we chatted concerns of St. John’s Church Mission, as well as of other things. He proved to be a very pleasant gentleman.
NEW PASTOR APPOINTED
Visits every two weeks continued during the next several years, but the pre-occupation of enlarging the Church in Shelburne, and building another mission church in Barrington, allowed little extra time to be spent in Lockeport.
On September 12, 1966, Father Gaston d’Entremont became Pastor of Shelburne and Lockeport
Churches, and, relieved of services to Saint Philip’s Church, Barrington,
was able to initiate weekly Masses at St. John’s Church, Lockeport, to
the joy of that small Catholic Community.
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