Parish History

  

St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church as we know it today was built in 1961 in the hamlet known as Pine Grove.  Prior to the establishment of the church Catholic families that resided in Vaughan had to attend Mass in St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Thornhill.  The first Catholic families known to have resided in Vaughan were the Brennan's, the O'Rourke's and the Foley's.

Bishop Power established the Parish of St. Luke the Evangelist, in Thornhill, in 1846.  This parish was responsible for the Roman Catholic faith throughout most of Vaughan Township.  In October 1949, the Mission at Pine Grove of St. Luke's Parish opened its doors to fifteen families which included the families: Budd, Cannon, Cooper, Cronshaw, Fullerton, Friffith, Guliker, Hallman, Kearns, Leece, Lund, Newell, O'Rourke, Powers and Shaw.

Father Arthur McMahon the first Pastor of the Mission of St. Luke's Church in Thornhill, arranged for the celebration of Mass in the Pine Grove Memorial Hall on Sunday, October 9, 1949 at 9:15am.  Mass was celebrated by Father J. Timmins, C.S.B., Joseph P. O'Rourke Jr. was the alter server.  For the next eight years Mass would be celebrated by Father McMahon in the Pine Grove Memorial Hall, with the assistance of Father Murray Allen for one year, and then by priests of the Basilian Order.

Father McMahon was succeeeded by Father Salvatore Cirivello.  Father Cirivello, remembered for his warm and outgoing personality enjoyed visiting families and would often bring his violin to play during his friendly visits.  Father Cirivello encouraged a group of parishioners in Pine Grove to approach Mosignor T. Fullerton at the Chancery Office about the possibility of building a new parish and a school in the hamlet of Pine Grove.

A Temporary Church is Built

Progress was made in the establishment of a temporary church.  The former Woodbridge Primitive Methodist Church located at 218 Woodbridge Avenue was purchased.  Under the supervision of Joseph Patrick O'Rourke Jr. the interior of the Methodist Church was renovated for use for Catholic services.  The interior was suited with pews, an alter railing, a confessional booth, and a pair of brass candelabras from the Holy Trinity Martyr's Church in Bradford.

On Wednesday, July 10, 1957 the church was blessed by His Excellency Most Reverend Francis A. Marrocco, D.D. who was the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto.  The church was named St. Margaret, Virgin and Martyr, which was in honour of Mrs. Joseph Patrick (Margaret) O'Rourke, Sr.  The name would later be changed to Margaret Mary.  The first Mass was celebrated on the evening of July 10th by Father N. Fitzpatrick C.S.B. of St. Michael's College School.  Joining Father Fitzpatrick and the congregation were Father J.D. Driscoll, Rev. Dr. E.F. Crossland, Father P. Gorman, C.S.B., Father J. Mullins, C.S.B., and Father F.A. Robinson.  Following the Mass the O'Rourke family welcomed the Bishop, priests and alter servers into their home for dinner.

On September 26, 1957 the new Parish of St. Margaret Mary was established when the western half of Vaughan Township was separated to form an independent parish.  The first Pastor would be Monsignor John A. O'Mara J.C.L.  The parish grew rapidly and by 1962 was serving 180 families, which was quite an increase from the forty families in 1957.  This growth made it clear that the need to build a Church was imminent.  A ten acre area of land at 8500-8532 Islington Avenue was purchased for the future site of the present St. Margaret Mary Parish and Parish school.

Community Receives its First Catholic Elementary School

 On September 6, 1960 St. Margaret Mary Separate School was opened.  It was the first separate school in Vaughan Township.  It was a modest four room school with 91 students and was staffed under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph with Sister St. Philip as Principal.  A two room addition was added in 1962 on the south eastern end of the building to accommodate an enrolment of 155 students.  A permanent addition to the school was added in 1979 to house 581 students.  Today, St. Margaret Mary Parish continues to service St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, as well as Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, Father Bressani Catholic High School and Holy Cross Catholic Academy.

New Church Construction

Construction of the new church began in April 1961, and by September 24 of that same year the Parish was celebrating the Solemn Blessing of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church by His Eminence James Cardinal McGuigan, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto and assisted by Pastor Monsignor J. O'Mara, Monsignor J. McConagh and Monsignor V. Foy.

The style and design of the Church was created by architect Mr. Alson Fisher.  It was simple with the intent of creating harmony between the interior and the exterior, while providing opportunity for easy expansion since the seating capacity was only 250 and the community was a growing one.  William McElcheran, artist and sculptor, is credited with the beautiful gold-finished plaster and rosewood crucifix, as well as the Stations of the Cross adorning the church.

Reverend Dr. Basil Courtemanche was named the first resident Pastor of the Rectory, that was purchased in the fall of 1969, and located just south of the Church.  Father Thomas Harding served from September 1970 to September 1971.  Father John Moyer was his successor, serving from September 1971 to June 28, 1973.

St. Margaret Mary Parish continued to experience tremendous growth during the Pastorate of Father Donald S. MacLean (1973-1980). By 1975, the Parish included 700 families. The Archdiocese of Toronto then decided to form St. Peter's Parish in West Woodbridge.  St. Peter's Church was built in 1976, with Fr. Eramanno Bulfon as its founding pastor.  Though St. Margaret Mary Parish was left with 325 families, however the growth continued.  Father MacLean welcomed a rapidly growing Italian community.  Beginning in 1976, he invited a friend of his, Father Rocco Volpe to come and celebrate an Italian Mass each week for the Italian speaking parishioners.  Father Volpe officiated at the Italian Mass until October 1982.

In 1982 the Parish Celebrates its Silver Anniversary

In 1982, St. Margaret Mary Parish during the pastorates of Father Bernard J. Cryer and Father Ugo Sturabotti celebrated its Silver Anniversary.  The parish community now numbered over 1300 families.  The anniversary celebration included a special Mass and dinner with many special guests and dignitaries.

On October 7, 1982, Father Cryer was succeeeded by three Italian priests belonging to the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception: Pastor, Father Ugo Sturabotti, Father Nicola De Angelis who later was appointed Bishop for the Archdiocese of Toronto, and Father Eugenio Baggia.  This was the beginning of a new era at St. Margaret Mary.  Under the leadership of the three new priests there was an air of excitement and renewal throughout.  Development brought hundreds of new families into the parish and along with this growth came the challenge of building a strong faith community.  The opportunity was not lost

  

Construction of the Church Hall and Expansion of the Parish

In June 1983, the Parish undertook a project of renovations and new construction to meet the needs of the growing community.  More and more activities were being held at the parish that required an area where parishioners could congregate, meet and celebrate special occasions together.  The work project consisted in expanding the church proper to allow for more seating as well as the construction of the parish hall. 
Under the watchful eye of the project's architect Ron Mauti, Father Ugo Sturabotti and members of the Building Committee, the work progressed to completion in 1984.  Many parishioners contributed to this project by giving of their skills, time and resources.  Today the hall continues to be used by the many parish groups for meetings and celebrations and social activities.
 Immaculate Conception Parish Springs from St. Margaret Mary's Growth 1986

Even with all the expansion that St. Margaret Mary Parish was undergoing, the demands of the community were surpassing its capacity.  Once again, St. Margaret Mary Parish was divided, this time on the East side.  The new parish of Immaculate Conception began to take roots in the community along Ansley Grove.  Immaculate Conception Parish was placed in the care of the Sons of Immaculate Conception (F.I.C.).  On September 17, 1986, Father Ugo Sturabotti, founding pastor, along with his fellow priests would for the first time, greet the new parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish for the celebration of Sunday Mass.

After the departure of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception priests, St. Margaret Mary Parish reverted to being under the auspices of the Archdiocese.  A new pastor, Father Vito Marziliano who was already serving in the parish, was appointed.  Father Vito immediately began to put his own mark on the parish with his work with the young people in the community, and by involving all members of the community in his numerous creative and artistic projects.  Father Vito will also be remembered for his efforts in reaching out to the other Christian denominations in Woodbridge to try and build a strong, vibrant, united and caring community.

In 1990 Father Mirko Soligo was appointed Pastor of St, Margaret Mary succeeding Father Vito Marziliano.,  He continued in the task of providing the spiritual guidance to the vibrant Catholic community.  With several associates he continued to shepherd the Parish through continued growth and change.

Growth Continues North of the Parish

With the sale of local farms and vacant land just north of Rutherford, suburban growth began to sprawl quickly and houses began to appear more rapidly than the community could ever imagine.  Once more, the growth was having an effect on St. Margaret Mary Parish and it became evident that the community would have to once again approach the Diocese for a new parish.  On August 11, 1995 the Diocese founded St. Clare Parish.  Founding Pastor, Father John Borean would oversee the planning and construction of the impressive church building.

In 1997 The Archdiocese of Toronto once again decided to make changes at St. Margaret Mary by appointing a new Pastor, Monsignor John Iverinci to lead the Parish into the New Millennium.  Father John was welcomed into the parish and he immediately began to immerse himself into the life of the Parish.  He continued in his predecessor's footsteps to provide the community with strong spiritual and moral leadership.  He presided over numerous projects and initiatives which strengthened and solidified the faith community of St. Margaret Mary.

Installation of the Stain Glass Windows

The large stained glass window which now adorns the entrance to the church was originally made in France for a church in Quebec.  The window depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus appearing before St. Margaret Mary.  One would think that the window was custom made for the church, but how the window came to find its current home is indeed interesting.  Father John Iverinci had seen the stained glass window in the least likely place imaginable, above the bar at Ed's Restaurant on King St. West in Toronto.  At that time, Fr. Iverinci admired the window and thought that it would be a wonderful addition to his church.  He asked if they would consider selling it to him, but his offer was refused.  Father Iverinci did not give it much thought until approximately 20 years later when Ed's Restaurant closed its doors in September 2000.

 
 

Father Iverinci saw this as a golden opportunty to approach Mr. Mirvish for the window once again.  With the help of George Damiani, Mario Biscardi and John Gennaro, Father Iervinci contacted Mr. Mirvish with an offer.  They were not prepared to let this window go to auction with the many other items in Mr. Mirvish's restaurant.  Ed Mirvish and his wife Anne, did more than accept the parish's offer for the window, they donated it along with two other windows, a gift valued at over $100.000.

On May 1, 2001 Bishop John O'Mara, founding pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish, presided over the consecration ceremony of the stained glass window.  Mr. Ed Mirvish and his wife Anne accompanied by a nine-member honour guard of the Knights of Columbus were amoung the 500 guests present to celebrate in the joyous event.  Father Iverinci was elated to finally have the long desired window adorning the church.  Mr. Mirvish commented, "I'm happy it's there ... it's in its proper place." (Toronto Star, May 2, 2001).  After a long journey and an interesting story, one would have to agree that the window is indeed in its proper and most fitting place.

In 2001 Father Gregory Ace was appointed Pastor of St. Margaret Mary.  Following in Mosignor Iverinci's footsteps, Father Ace continued to provide a spiritual presence and leadership to the community.  Father Ace along with his associate Father Mario Salvadore devoted much energy and enthusiasm to World Youth Day 2002.  Under their guidance and leadership this event became a most memorable one for all parishioners both young and old.  St. Margaret Mary Parish had the largest representation of any group at the Papal Mass with Pope John Paul II at Downsview Park.  The many parishioners who were able to attend certainly experienced the power and the charisma of the Holy Father and the love he had for young people everywhere.  Many parishioners also hosted pilgrims from other countries in their homes and happily participated in various spiritual and social activities planned in the parish.

Father Ace's stay at St. Margaret Mary was short lived as he was asked to found a new parish, St. Padre Pio, on the northern boundary of St. Margaret Mary Parish.

Ardorini Missionaries Acquire Property on Pine Grove Road

 In 1992, the farmhouse now known as the Seminary was purchased by the Ardorini Missionaries with a vision that the location would serve as a home and place of worship for its Religious Congregation and the neighbouring community.  At that time, Father Eugenio Filice was at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish on Eglington Avenue in Toronto.  Father Eugenio had heard of the property on Pine Grove Road located just across from Hayhoe Mills in the quiet hamlet of Pine Grove.  It didn't take Father Eugenio long to envision the property as a place where young people would have a chance to study and discover their vocation.  Renovations to the house continued throughout the summer and fall of 1996.  A community of friends of the Ardorini, stretching from Brampton, Maple and Woodbridge agreed that there was a need for a new chapel.  In 1997 a second chapel was built by combining the home's two porches.  The doors would be open to welcome those who wanted to come together to pray Rosary and celebrate Mass.  In May of 1997, the project was completed and Bishop Anthony Meagher blessed the new chapel.  Seminarians were called from the Philippines and South America.

 Ardorini Missionaries are Offered St. Margaret Mary Parish

In 2002, St. Margaret Mary Parish was offered by the Archdiocese of Toronto to Ardorini Missionaries.  Father Eugenio Filice, director of the Ardorini Congregation in Toronto and Woodbridge accepts the challenge and becomes the new Pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish.  He is joined by Father Jose Maria Naranjo, ordained in 2000 from Columbia.  Father Eugenio and Father Jose were joined by Father Franco Ierardi, from St. Thomas Aquinas in February of 2005 and on May 13, 2006 St. Margaret Mary parishioners gathered for the ordination of Father Rony Grayda.

Upon taking over the parish, Father Filice promptly recognized the need to pay some close attention to the overall condition of the parish, which over the years had opened its doors to thousands of parishioners, serving thousands of religious celebrations and hosting an abundance of community events.  The first project that was presented to the Parish Council was to refurbish the pews in the church, the exterior railings, the banisters and stairs.  The washrooms were renovated and made fully accessible.  The stained glass windows were repaired and washed thus allowing their brilliance to shine once again.

Here We Grow Again... Parking Lot Expansion

In 2006 expansion of the church parking was undertaken.  This was to address the problem of inadequate parking facilities for Sunday Masses and especially celebrations at Christmas and Easter.  In order for this project to be realized it was necessary to purchase the home immediately south and adjacent to the parish.

Work was undertaken to renovate and modify the two houses.  The original house has offices on the first floor so that each priest has his own workspace, and the secretary also has a larger and more efficient office as well.  The second floor houses the Parish Archives and a Boardroom, for meetings. These changes modernized the rectory and updated its previous rural design to meet the progressive needs of the suburban community.  The second house, most recently acquired is the main residence for our Pastors, but there is also ample room on the main floor for groups to meet and work.

50th Anniversary Celebrations

The first celebration to mark the beginning of the Parish's 50th Anniversary celebrations was the Valentine Dance which was held on February 10, 2007 at the Terrace Banquet Hall.  In keeping with the culture of the community, ample food and fun was had by all in attendance.

On Friday, June 15, 2007, celebrations continued with the Feast in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Parishioners gathered for devotions, Holy Mass and Holy Hours.

On Sunday, September 2, 2007 the Parish Friendship Celebration was presided by His Grace, Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.  Many parishioners and honoured guests joined together in prayer at 12:30pm for a Solemn Holy Mass.  Our celebrants included Fr. Ugo Sturabotti, Fr. Vito Marziliano, Bishop O'Mara, and our Pastor Father Eugenio.  Holy Mass was followed by a Banquet luncheon at Monte Cassino Place that afternoon.
It would only be fitting that St. Margaret Mary Parish recognize its founding parish, that of St. Luke Parish.  On Sunday, September 16, 2007 parishioners participated in a pilgrimage to the mother church, St. Luke the Evangelist in Thornhill.
  • Grandiose Culminating Anniversary Celebration
  • Sunday, October 21, 2007
  • Feast in Honour of St. Margaret Mary, Our Patroness
The afternoon celebrations had long been anticipated and prefaced with many months of preparation and planning.  Devotions began at 3:30pm, which were followed by a procession into the church, which included a Marching Band, The Knights of Columbus and the celebrants: Father Salvatore Cimino, Superior of the Ardorini Community of Rome, Father Eugenio, Father Jose, Father Franco and Father Rony.  Sam Ciccolini, longstanding president of the Parish Council, addressed the congregation with eloquent words encompassing the many accomplishments of the parish over the years and the hard work and dedication of the committees involved in the organization of the anniversary celebrations, as well as the dedication and spiritual guidance of Father Eugenio and his associate Pastors.
Father Salvatore Cimino's homily brought to the forefront the distinguishing features of our church, that of true devotion to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and respect for the church as a place of worship and prayer. His message was clear: this celebration was not to be seen as an ending but as a beginning of our spiritual growth and development.  It is an occasion for spiritual development.  Progress must go on and one must move ahead and do other things to continue on the road to spirituality.  The spirituality could most certainly be felt and heard throughout the church while the Italian choir led parishioners in hymn and joyous song.  
  Following Mass, the various groups including: The Catholic Women's League, San Padre Pio Prayer Group, the Knights of Columbus and representatives from other parish groups formed a procession out of the church making its way throughout the church grounds and back to the entrance of the church.  Rosa Bertuci led the participants in prayer and song throughout the procesion while a marching band played religious songs.  Fireworks culminated the afternoon's celebration sending loud resounding explosions throughout the clear autumn sky.  A celebration in Woodbridge would not be complete without the sharing of food and an abundance of it!  Parishioners, clergy, and guests gathered together in the church hall to enjoy the many cakes, cookies, fruits and refreshments that were generously donated.  Stories of the past were shared alongside plans for the future.
 
  May St. Margaret Mary Parish and its community of Parishioners enjoy many more years of spiritual growth and fulfillment.

 

 


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