ST. PHILIP’S MISSION CHURCH, BARRINGTON
Laying the groundwork for
a new Mission Church.
A NEW MISSION CHURCH
The idea of a church in the Barrington area came to mind in 1957, when the Air Force Radar Station was built at Baccaro, and the Catholic personnel complained of the long trip to St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, for Sunday Mass.
The first response was to celebrate Mass at the Station, but few were pleased with the makeshift room provided, and preferred to attend Mass in a Church setting. Eventually, the government leaked the news that Personnel Married Quarters ( P.M.Qs.) would be built in Barrington, on Sherose Island, very near St. Philip’s present location.
At a gathering of priests with Bishop Lemenager, in 1962, the possibility of a mission church, in the Barrington area, to service the Catholics of the military base, as well as parishioners of Clark’s Harbour, Barrington and surrounding areas, was suggested. He answered by questioning whether it would be feasible, and said no more.
In late 1963, the Bishop unexpectedly phoned, asking if land had been located in the Barrington area, for the proposed mission church. Surprised at this sudden interest, we indicated that the search for a suitable lot would proceed at once. Within a few days, the Bishop again phoned, asking if land had as yet been located, because , he said, he and Father Louis Armstrong of Notre Dame Parish, Yarmouth, had journeyed to Barrington Passage, and noted that a closed canteen property, across the street from the United Church, had a For Sale sign attached. Somewhat surprised at his sudden, urgent interest in a mission Church in the area, I questioned whether building a Catholic Church where there had not been one, and even facing the local United Church, might create animosity there. Surprised and even annoyed at my objection to the property in question, he curtly suggested that I immediately try to find a better site. That afternoon, I drove to the Barrington area, with a prayer to be guided to a suitable piece of land.
LOCATING A SITE
Uncertain as to how one goes about seeking property for a new mission church, especially in a purely non-Catholic village, I had inquired among Shelburne Catholics about some person I might approach. The name of a Mr. Irving Cunningham, a well respected Baptist of Barrington, was suggested. Although I was not aware of it, at the time, this was the very gentleman who had brought a carload of fellow Baptists to St. Thomas Church , Shelburne, for the installation of the new pastor, on Sunday, May 6th, l956 (see Page B-5). This proved to be providential.
Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham received me most hospitably, insisting I share tea and cookies, whilst he described, in great detail, his long friendship with Father Olivier Bellefontaine and his own attendance at my first Sunday Mass at St. Thomas Church, Shelburne. He eventually got around to revealing that a very suitable piece of land could be had, a short distance from his house, midway between Barrington and Barrington Passage, with a panoramic view of the bay. It was bounded by two narrow brooks, with some two hundred feet frontage on Highway Three. He added that it might have further interest, because it was traditionally held that, centuries earlier, Acadian families from Pubnico had tented there, summers, whilst the men fished off the coast. In fact, it was believed that advantage was taken of the brooks to operate a grist-mill. The obvious question was: “ Is it for sale?” With a twinkle in his eye, he mentioned that it belonged to a Mrs. Edgar Blades, whose house could be seen from where we sat. She was at odds with her fellow Baptists, who had criticized her for plans to set up a trailer park on the property. Actually, a well had been dug, and underground drainage installed, but all was now at a standstill.
“She would sell just to spite her critics,” he answered. I immediately visited Mrs. Blades, and, as Mr. Cunningham had predicted, she agreed to sell.
Returning to Shelburne, Bishop Lemenager was contacted, and, when he
appeared to hesitate, the mention of early Acadian involvement with the
property convinced him to agree. He loaned us the money, and the deed was
signed, sealed and delivered on July 3, 1963, at the Barrington Deed’s
Office. The wording was as follows:
Any thought of immediately constructing a mission church on the site had to be delayed, there being no funds available for such a project, since the parent church in Shelburne would not eliminate its own construction debt until June of l964. Furthermore, lingering work continued on the mission church at Lockeport, which had been moved to a new location, the previous year. It did not seem advisable to try and manage two such projects simultaneously.
Over the following Winter and Spring months, gatherings were held in the Barrington homes of either R.C.M.P. Sgt. Blair McAleenan, or Flight Sgt. Frank Sullivan (R.C.A.F.), during which an Ad Hoc Committee was formed .
At one of these meetings, it was revealed that the R.C.A.F. Station at Beaverbank (near Halifax) was being closed, and its contents (including a chapel) sold through Crown Assets. Corporal Bob Gavin (R.C.A.F.) agreed to accompany me on a fact-finding tour of that station.
On September 9th, 1964, we motored to Beaverbank, and carefully examined the dual-purpose Chapel ( Catholic-Protestant), built on the same design common to many military bases, popularly known as Steel-ox buildings, built of steel sections. This one had many stained-glass panels along the sides. It appeared to be a rather simple job of dismantling it by sections, numbering the parts, placing them on a railway flatcar, and delivering them to our site, seeing that the C.N.R. train to Yarmouth passed along the rear edge of our newly purchased land.
Upon our return, we reported our findings to the gathering of interested parishioners at Barrington, and it was agreed to proceed further. Learning that one’s Member of Parliament could intercede on one’s behalf, with Crown Assets, a letter was sent off to Mr. Fred Armstrong M.P. of the area. Correspondence continued over several months, and, for awhile, it appeared quite promising. Finally, though, a letter arrived in which Mr. F. Armstrong apologized for being unsuccessful in his efforts to obtain the chapel for us. The disappointment had the effect of solidifying our determination to draw up a plan for a chapel, and get on with it.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS
At the meeting of November 23rd, 1964, the following committee was formed
to spearhead the drive for a mission church in the Barrington area:
COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN: Staff/Sgt. Frank Sullivan (RCAF)
CHOOSING A DESIGN
A church plan was the first requirement, so members were asked to gather ideas and suggestions for the next meeting, scheduled for March 25th 1965 ( Feast of the Annunciation).
At that meeting, several appealing drawings were presented, and , one in particular, had a special appeal because , besides its economical design , it could be built in three stages, as funds and growth would indicate. This design was approved by Bishop Lemenager, who attended the meeting at the Barrington Fire Hall. F/O Joe Pitoello, draftsman at the Air Base, had drawn a blue-print to scale, of the first phase, which would seat over a hundred persons. The present St. Philip’s Church, excluding the rear addition, is still in phase one.
It was decided to invite the West Pubnico Construction Company of Wallace and Bernard D’Eon to the next meeting, scheduled for April 13, l965, to iron out a few details, and sign the contract. At that meeting, a decision was also made to hire Ken Collupy (firm of Robert E. Collupy Ltd, Shelburne) to do the excavation; Andrew Scott (local mason) to build the foundation; and Wallace and Bernard D’Eon to construct the building shell, including the doors, windows and tiled ceiling. The remainder would be volunteer labor.
Estimated cost, at that instant: excavation, $104; masonery, $1100; labor: $2040;materials: $4504.
CHOOSING A PATRON SAINT
The choice of St. Philip, the Apostle, as patron saint of the mission church, was influenced by the fact that St. Philip was the patron saint of Sieur Philip Mieux, Baron d’Entremont, whose barony comprised all the territory lying between Cape Negro, Shelburne County, and Cape Forchu, Yarmouth County, according to the “History of Pombcoup“, by historian H.Leander d’Entremont.
On page 36 of the same book, the historian writes:
Mr. Leander d’Entremont , in the same book, records that Abbe (Reverend Father) Jean Baptiste DesEnclaves, who had escaped in the woods to Pubnico, from the Grande Pre deportation of 1755, was with the Acadian families at Barrington, when on the night of April 21st, 1756, with orders from Governor Lawrence of Halifax, 167 officers and soldiers surprised the sleeping Acadians, burned their buildings and took 72 men, women and children prisoners, who were later deported to Boston, Massachusetts. A few Acadians escaped the raid, and made their way through the woods to Pubnico, alerting the residents of the disaster. A similar attack would destroy the Pubnico community in September of 1758.
This information assured us that Father DesEnclaves, living at Barrington, with the Acadians, would have celebrated the Eucharist there. The choice of St. Philip, as patron saint of the Mission Church, seemed very appropriate.
On June 10th, 1965, Ken Collupy arrived on schedule to clear the property of accumulated shrubs etc. and excavate some four feet, well below any possible frost level. Surveying the completed excavation, our Committee sensed that our church would soon be a reality.
On June 17, 1965, Bishop Lemenager, accompanied by Father Louis Armstrong, met with our Committee, at the building site, everyone using a sizeable boulder on which to sit. The proposed setting of the building, with its spectacular view of the bay, plus the space allowed for parking, were immediately approved. The plans submitted by our committee were also approved and the green light was given to proceed at once.
On July 10th, 1965, Mr. Andrew Scott, a local mason, began erecting the footings and the four-foot foundations, in readiness for the superstructure. Three days later, the Chapel Committee met again, at the building site, and, this time, with the West Pubnico construction Company of Bernard and Wallace D’Eon, to finalize the few remaining details. Construction of the wooden building began on August 16th, 1965, and within just two weeks, the building was completely closed and tight to the weather, ready for outside painting, and inside sheetrocking etc.
PREPARING FOR THE FIRST MASS
On September 10th, 1965, the old, unused pews from St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, were transferred to St. Philip’s Mission Church, and temporarily installed on the unfinished wooden sub-floor. A makeshift altar was assembled and installed in the Sanctuary, after which it was announced that the first Mass would be on Sunday, September 12th, 1965.
Only those who have attended Mass in a newly-constructed Church can fully appreciate the joy and satisfaction in the faces and hearts of those airmen, their families and local folk who participated in that first Mass at St. Philip’s Church, Barrington. The altar was of makeshift material, the walls were not only bare, but exposed studs, the floor had many a knot-hole view of the ground beneath and the old-fashioned pews were not built to be comfortable, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and , to all of us, the Church was beautiful. I’ve never experienced after-Mass greetings so heart warming as those on that occasion.
CHURCH DEBT (Sept.12, 1965)
On the day of the first Mass (12 Sept. 1965) the sum of $6400.00 had
been loaned from the bank to cover the cost of the following:
THE CHURCH DEBT, A YEAR LATER (1966)
ST. PHILIP’S ALTAR SOCIETY
Within two weeks following the first Mass at St. Philip’s Church, the ladies of the mission church, foreseeing the need of an auxiliary group, held an organizational meeting ( Sept. 26, 1965) electing an executive and outlining the purpose and duties of their Altar Society.
FIRST ALTAR SOCIETY OFFICERS:
President, Mrs. Lourda Rochon; Vice-President, Mrs. Barbara McAleenan;
Altar Societies are indispensable in all Catholic Churches, attending to the all-important“house-keeping” needs of the Sanctuary and Sacristy. The permanent tidiness of the areas, the constant supply of clean linens and vestments etc. attest to the generous alertness of its members. In a world where people so often demand recognition for generous deeds, these generous and dedicated ladies are rarely known outside of their Society. They exemplify the words of Jesus: “Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt. 6:4)
Following the election of officers, a schedule of duties was approved, and, seeing the crying need of covering the unfinished walls, immediately pledged to raise the money needed to purchase the required 50 sheets of sheetrock. The fact that there were no available funds for this, they promoted socials etc. to fulfill their pledge
By Spring, the funds had been raised, and, during the weeks of April 21st and 26th, volunteers had aptly applied the sheets and neatly seamed the joints. Within two weeks, Blair McAleenan (S/Sgt. RCMP), had organized the complete painting of all four walls. Every such improvement was duly hailed by the Sunday congregation and noted in the records of the Church.
UNUSUAL HEATING SYSTEM
There were smiles of satisfaction on the faces of the Committee, when it met in the partially-finished church, on Sept. 8th, 1965, to determine lighting and heating. The pros and cons of various types of heating were debated, searching for the most economical yet adequate system, for our needs. An oil furnace would take up valuable space, and pose a risk, being unattended most of the time. Stan Messenger, our affable committee member, formerly of Yarmouth but working out of Atwood’s Brook, an electrician and plumber, suggested we consider radiant heating. These electrical heating units, resembling stainless-steel florescent lights, mounted on the lower edge of the ceiling, would heat only objects (humans, pews and floor), which in turn heated the air. The amount of electricity used, would be greater, but the installation costs would be less, with no maintenance costs, would not take up any floor space, and would operate only when people were present.
Nova Scotia Light and Power (Halifax) was approached, and their engineer provided valuable information concerning radiant heating, revealing that two Cumberland County Churches were also considering this system. It was decided to purchase 8 Chromolox radiant heaters from Donald C. Keddy Ltd. of Halifax, and Stan Messenger offered to install them.
Here’s an instance when they proved their effectiveness: One cold wintry day, I arrived some thirty minutes before Mass-time, to discover that the person assigned to turn on the heaters, had forgotten to do so. Several parishioners were waiting in their heated cars. The inside of the Church was hardly any warmer than the out-of-doors. Telling the people to remain in their cars for awhile, I quickly turned on the radiant heaters. Within fifteen minutes the parishioners began arriving to heated floors, pews and a comforting beam of heat overhead. Very few were aware that the Church resembled an ice-box just minutes earlier.
The Vatican II Council opened the door to Mass being celebrated at any hour of the day, made easier by the changes to the Eucharistic fast. For centuries, communicants (Including the priest-celebrant) were required to be fasting from both food and liquids from the previous midnight.
Pope Pius XII softened the rule, allowing liquids to be consumed up until Communion time. The rule was again changed, allowing food and liquids to within one hour before Communion.
These rulings had a bearing on the hour of Mass at Barrington. Sunday morning Masses were already scheduled for St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, and the Chapel at the Nova Scotia School for Boys. An evening Mass was already scheduled for St. John’s Church, Lockeport. A compromise solution was reached by alternating Masses, week by week, between Lockeport and Barrington. Then, Father Arcade Theriault, pastor of the neighbouring Parish of East Pubnico (some 36 kilometers away) generously offered to celebrate the evening Masses at St. Philip’s Church, on the alternate Sundays when Father Thibeau would be at Lockeport. So weekly Sunday evening Masses became a fixture at the newly built Church.
BEAUTIFUL OAK PEWS AND FURNITURE
Now that the Eucharist was being celebrated each Sunday, the need to replace the very old, very uncomfortable reject pews from St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, became a priority. Earlier on, great effort had been made to purchase the chapel from the closed Beaverbank Radar Station, on the outskirts of Halifax. This had not succeeded, however the many contacts , at that time, with Crown Assets revealed that 16 oak pews ( the very number we needed) and both a Baptismal Font and Lectern, made of similar oak wood, were at the Moncton Supply Depot. These would be beautiful additions to our new Church, so it was decided to go all out in an effort to obtain them, and at a low price we could afford.
We bid the ridiculously low price of $200.00 for the lot, and pressure was then applied, by letters, from the officers and airmen from the base, stressing the importance of the Church to them and their dependents. Crown Assets answered that we might have them for $300,00 (still an excellent bargain), and would have to be picked up at Moncton. Again the airmen devised a scheme whereby the items would be delivered free of charge. This was their strategy: each year, a number of personnel were transferred to and from the station at Baccaro; large moving- van Companies vied for the Government contracts to move their belongings; so these men contacted the moving van companies, many of which travelled with empty trucks to Baccaro, saying they would hire them, if they volunteered to freely deliver the pews etc. from Moncton to the Church in Barrington. The company of Maritime Warehousing and Transfer Co. of Halifax delivered them gratis, on February 24, 1966. Both in beauty and strength, these items could outlast the life of the building. They greatly enhanced the interior of the building.
Before the above-mentioned pews could be permanently fastened down, a finished floor had first to be installed on the rough flooring. Underlay plywood was laid from the front door to the Sanctuary step, in preparation for the tiles ordered from Simpson;s of Halifax.
On August 4th, 1966, a volunteer work-bee of men gathered for the laying of 2053 floor tiles. One team of men began by vacuuming , then levelling any nail heads; another team spread the mucilage, and, right on their heels were the tile layers, spread out across the room. In jig time, we stood aside and padded one another on the back for a job well done.
Earlier on, 112 yards of carpeting had also been purchased from Crown Assets for $100, which neatly covered the Sanctuary floor. Now, with the pews lined up and attached to the tiled floor, the Church had a finished appearance.
When Bishop Lemenager of Yarmouth Diocese made his list of clergy-changes, during the summer of 1966, he assigned Father Clarence Thibeau to Yarmouth, as Director of the Catholic Information Centre, effective Sept. 10, 1966. His replacement, as Pastor of St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, was a young priest by the name of Father Gaston d’Entremont, born in West Pubnico, and ordained in 1963.
To lighten the young priest’s duties, Father Thibeau, along with his duties at the Catholic Information Centre, Yarmouth, would continue to supply Mass at St. Philip’s Church, Barrington, Sunday evenings, and, after Mass, continue on to the Barrington Air Force Station, staying overnight, then performing his duties as visiting chaplain, the next day. This arrangement would continue until the summer of 1969, when Father Thibeau was appointed Pastor of Notre Dame Parish, Yarmouth.
Sacraments such as First Communion, Confirmation and, at times, Baptism, are received at specific ages or time periods of the year. This happened to a half dozen boys and girls, children of airmen, who arrived , in 1967, at Barrington Air Force Station. These were two and three years above the usual age for First Communion. Make-up classes were arranged at St. Philip’s Church, on Monday afternoons, after school classes. The hour was not conducive to study, they having just finished schooling for the day and tended to be restless and inattentive. Somewhat exasperated, after several warnings, I notified them that they would be given an oral exam the following Monday afternoon, and, if they failed, they could be delayed another year. To my surprise, the following week, without exception, they each quoted the very answers I had taught them over the previous weeks. Of course they all passed, and made their First Communion, but I wondered how and when they had listened and learned. It soon became clear, that these youngsters were ahead of their time, since today, youngsters do their homework in front of noisy televisions, with frequent interruptions to chatter on the phone.
CHURCH DEDICATION DELAYED
The hope of having St. Philip’s Church dedicated during Canada’s Centennial Year were definitely dashed, when Bishop Albert Lemenager became seriously ill during the summer and passed away on the 17th of August l967. The uncertainty of when another Bishop would be named discouraged any hope of setting a date within the year. This, however, allowed our volunteers more time to leisurely prepare the Church for the event.
A NEW BISHOP
In February of 1968, the Holy Father appointed Father Austin E. Burke, the Pastor of St. Anselm’s Parish, West Chezzetcook, Halifax County, as our new Bishop. His episcopal ordination was held in St. Ambrose Cathedral, Yarmouth, on May 14th, 1968. Shortly afterwards, he announced that he would dedicate St.Philip’s Church on July 4th, 1968.
It was a beautiful summer day when Bishop Burke arrived at St. Philip’s Church, Barrington, for the dedication and Mass, scheduled for 7:00 p.m., to a full attendance. With him were the following priests from the Diocese: Fathers Louis Surette ( Diocesan Chancellor), Adophe LeBlanc ( Cathedral Rector), Ambrose Comeau (Pastor, West Pubnico), Albert LeBlanc (Pastor, Notre Dame Church, Yarmouth), Albenie d’Entremont ( assistant priest at the Cathedral) and Gerald Boudreau (seminarian).
Assisting Bishop Burke were Father Gaston d”Entremont (Pastor of St. Thomas Church, Shelburne), and Father Clarence Thibeau (former Pastor of St. Thomas Parish, Shelburne, and now Director of the Catholic Information Center, Yarmouth).
Music was supplied by Air Force Personnel and the Offertory Procession
included the following:
In his address to the congregation, Bishop Burke acknowledged the zeal, hardwork, ingenuity and perseverance of the Committee which spearheaded the building of the Church, and brought it to a successful conclusion.
At the conclusion of the Dedication and Mass, Capt. G. LeBlanc invited the Bishop, priests and all in attendance, to an elaborate buffet luncheon, in the Dining Hall of Canadian Forces Base, Barrington, during which the Bishop and priests mingled and chatted with the parishioners and guests. The event concluded with a guided tour , for the clergy, through the radar installation. Capt. LeBlanc remarked that this was the first visit of a Bishop to the Station.
BAPTISMS AT ST. PHILIP’S CHURCH DURING 1967
(l) August 3 : Lisa Lynn Stoddard, daughter of Ronald & Regina (Burke) Stoddard Godparents: Lubin & Jeannette d’Entremont
(2) August 28: Lynn Marie Laniel, daughter of Maurice & Carmen (Sevigny) LanielGodparents: Mr. & Mrs. Gerard LeBlanc, proxy for Mr. Mrs. Wilfred Sevigny
(3) Dec. 10th: Violet Louise Francis, daughter of Emerson & Helen May (Morton) Francis;Godparents: Mr. & Mrs. Pat Hindsley Furlong.
(4) Dec. 10th: Vernon Leroy Francis, son of Emerson & Helen May (Morton) Francis Godparents: Mr.& Mrs. Pat Hindsley Furlong
(5) Dec. 10th: Shirlee Montaleta Francis, daughter of Emerson & Helen May (Morton) FrancisGodparents: Mr. & Mrs. Pat Hindsley Furlong.
(6) Dec. 24th: Johanna Brenda Antle, daughter of Raymond & Catherine (Smith) Antle Godparents: Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Ling
(7) Dec. 24th: Catherine Elizabeth Ling, daughter of John & Dorothy (MacEachern) Ling Godparents: Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Antle.
(8) Dec. 24th: Leslie Alison MacMillan, daughter of Eric & Sarah
(O’Neill) MacMillan Godparents: Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Antle.
Father Clarence Thibeau continued his week-end services at St. Philip’s Mission Church until the Fall of 1969, when he was appointed Pastor of Notre Dame Church, Yarmouth, and Father Raoul Deveau was named the new Pastor of St. Thomas Church, Shelburne, re-assuming the ministry at St. Philip’s Mission Church.