Learn more about Holy Name of Mary Parish, first established in 1842.

Our Beginnings

Interior of Holy Name of Mary Parish, AlmonteThe physical site of the present Holy Name of Mary Church was established in 1842.

Daniel Shipman made this gift of one and a half acres of land to Fr. John Hugh McDunagh, to enable the building of St Mary’s Mission church in the community then known as Shipman’s Mills. The 10m x 15m frame church was constructed in 1842.

A quarter of a century earlier, amid an influx of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, Father John Macdonald regularly visited the settlement of “Sheppard’s Falls,” a hearty walk through the woods from Perth – for his parish was all of Lanark County.

The small community of mills on the Mississippi River started to flourish in the mid-1850’s, and in 1856 the town was officially (and quizzically) named Almonte. The famous Mexican general and diplomat who said “No” to los Yanquis was probably never aware of the honour paid him. On Christmas night, 1868 fire claimed the old wooden church. Immediately the faithful of the parish joined to raise a new stone church.

One parishioner, William Madden, even mortgaged his farm and home for $2000 to get the work started. The new church was almost twice as large as the old one. On Christmas Day, 1869 parishioners gathered for Mass at dawn. As was the custom, the letters A.M.D.G. were carved into the arch of the entrance. Those letters signal the banner of faith: Ad Majorem Dei Glorian, To the Glory of God! Three years later St. Mary’s became a parish in the Diocese of Bytown.

Dynamic Change

Holy Name of Mary in 1875On October 7, 1875 it was consecrated by Bishop J. T. Duhamel. Although the parish has historically and formally been called Holy Name of Mary, with references to such in diocesan material dating to the 1930’s, the sign on the front of the church was not changed until after Fr. William Penney (1996-2002) took over as pastor. He engaged in a dynamic renewal of the parish and the church. Renovations to the bell-tower and restoration of heritage details in the interior of the church began under him in 2002.

In 1998 Holy Name of Mary elementary school – a testament to Catholic education – changed building and location; from behind the church, where it had been since 1873, to its new locale on Paterson Street . The same year the Town of Almonte became part of the larger, consolidated municipality of Mississippi Mills, Ontario.

Under Fr. Pierre Champoux (2002-2009) the roof corner spires were removed for safety reasons, the parish embarked on a program to clean the enormous and magnificent stained glass windows and restoration of the rectory commenced.

Fr. Lindsay Harrison (2009-2015), continued the work of restoring and upgrading the parish buildings. Concurrent with the restoration of the physical structure has been an ongoing renewal of the “living stones” that, by the grace of God, “are being built into a spiritual house.”.

In August 2015, the Parish welcomed Fr. Ben Iheagwara (C.S.Sp.) as the parochial administrator. In his year (2015-16) in the Parish, this Spiritan priest created and encouraged a parish mission to successfully sponsor a Syrian refugee family into the Parish. The Jarouses – and indeed all parishioners – are the beneficiaries of Fr. Ben’s leadership.

Additional History & Information

Textual Histories

Read this “centennial booklet” published in 1969 about the first 100 years of “Old St. Mary’s church” in Almonte.

In addition, flip through this fascinating account of our parish, entitled “Sketch of the Parish of St. Mary, Almonte, Ontario, 1823-1885 by a Priest of the Diocese of Ottawa”

In the Media

Dedication of new altar, September 12, 2013.  Article in the Millstone

Photographic Resources

The 2002 Restoration Committee examined the 1913 photo of the church interior and listed 22 detailed changes since 1913. Download the PDF.

Views of the Church exterior from 1969
Click to enlarge

Photos of Exterior, 1969? This is a string of photos of the church exterior (before or after the centennial celebration).

Note: the shelters (over the three front doors) were not in the booklet cover picture.

This is a photo (circa 1953-1956?) of pastor Fr. W.Maurice Egan, Dr. J. Dunn and Joseph Brunette (d. Apr 3, 1956), father of Mrs. John Lyons – hence the erroneous notation of “J. Lynns” on the photo.

Thanks to former parishioner Judith Scott Maloney for the correction.