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History of St Rose of Lima Church 1886 – 2018

The Early Years

In Saint John’s early days, only one Catholic Church existed for the entire city. It was named St Malachi’s which stood approximately where St Malachy’s High School now sits. People traveled by foot, horse and buggy and for those living on the west side, it meant taking a ferry. Eventually, the flow of immigrants from Ireland was great enough that it was determined a new church should be built in Carleton (today’s west side). In 1849, The Lady of the Assumption Parish was erected.

In 1876, one of the priests of the Assumption, Rev. EJ Dunphy passed away, leaving behind a Last Will and Testament which stated another church should be built in the ‘Parish of Lancaster this side of South Bay”. To ensure that this would be accomplished, he asked that five hundred dollars be set aside and invested so that sum, plus interest, would go towards the construction costs. 

Work on the new church began in 1877 and was completed in 1880. The tower and spire were added in 1898 at a cost of $4000. The bell arrived in 1902. St Rose remained a mission church of the Assumption until Most Rev. Bishop Sweeney declared it a separate parish. On October 6th, 1886, the church was consecrated as St Rose of Lima. 

No record has been found on why the church was named “St Rose of Lima”. There are 3 popular theories:

  1. There was a church in Ireland that bore that name, so it was chosen as a tribute to the Irish
  2. Another is that it was erected on her feast day but the church was dedicated on Oct 6th and her feast day is August 23rd so unless the feast day has changed, this is unlikely.
  3. Perhaps it was because the church was dedicated in the year that marked the 300th anniversary of her birth. 

Nonetheless, St Rose was known for her striking beauty, so it is fitting that this beautiful structure bears her name.   Below is a statue of St. Rose located in the foyer.

Recent History

In 2016, Bishop Harris hired the Catholic Leadership Institute, a U.S. based organization, to commission a study on how to deal with a declining population of worshippers and the cost of maintaining the many aging buildings in the diocese. Nearly 6,000 people were interviewed and nearly 3,500 people attended meetings held in impacted areas. Over 1,600 people also submitted feedback, either electronically or by mail. 

In September of 2018, St. Rose of Lima merged with St. Augustine’s and St Matthews and renamed via a public vote to Holy Spirit Parish. As there was only one priest, Fr. David Martin, serving both worship sites (St. Rose & St. Matthews) adjustment of mass times was required.

To facilitate the merger and to reverse the trend of shrinking numbers at mass, Fr. Martin had the vision to create a Revitalization Committee. The role was to both prioritize tactical actions, such as merging of bank accounts, building a pandemic plan etc., as well as strategic items such as coming up with a mission statement and running a baseline survey to measure the engagement of our parishioners. Initial members representing the feelings and wishes of the former St Rose parishioners were, Mark Palmer, Barb Tracey-Laroque, Matthew and Joann Tingley, Angela, Sarah and Alex Butler.

The History of the Bell

The church bell, which weighs 2,015 pounds, was purchased from a firm in Baltimore. It was a gift from the late Doctor James Edward O’Neill of Fairville. Many neighbors have fond memories of the ringing of the church bells. However, in the late 1970s, the belfry was structurally in disrepair and the bell was no longer being rung regularly. It was determined that the safest thing to do was to remove the bell from the tower. While it is difficult to fathom the difficulty of the task to install it in the first place, the company that came to remove it, did so in less than half an hour! 

The company that did the removal set the bell directly in front of the church where it remains today. The inscription on the bell reads as follows:

This bell is dedicated to the honor of the Most Blessed Trinity; The Ever Immaculate Virgin Mary and St. Rose of Lima A.D. 1897 The gift of James Edward O’Neill, M.D.

1986: The Hundred Year Celebration

The proud people of Fairville, Milford, Randolph and surrounding areas decided that it would be fitting to hold a celebratory weekend to honor the 100 year anniversary of St Rose Parish. Catherine Ryan wrote a history of the church, and a directory of all Parish members was compiled. 

A gala reception was held at the Delta Brunswick Hotel on October 4, 1986. For a cost of $12 a ticket, guests were served cream of celery soup, chicken chasseur with wild rice followed by a kiwi lime mousse. Many dignitaries were present including, Most Rev. Arthur J. Gilbert, former Bishop of Saint John, Louis Murphy, former MLA and Elsie Wayne, then Mayor of Saint John, to name a few. Fred Hazel, a parishioner, and editor of the newspaper was the guest speaker. He told stories about growing up in the church and ‘seeing some of the characters”. These people, according to Hazel, “were simple, steadfast men and women who were taught and realized early their responsibilities in life”.  He told stories about some of the characters such as JJ O’Toole who started the ‘St. Rose Dramatic Society.” This group put on hundreds of performances with the St Patrick’s day event being an annual favorite. 

The following morning a special mass was held with several celebrants attending including Rt. Rev. George W. Martin, Fr. Raymond Riley, Fr. Donald Gillis, Fr. Robin Evanish and Fr. Michael LeBlanc. Special bulletins were handed out and the hymns sung included, “The Church’s One Foundation, “Here I am Lord” and “ I will Never Forget you My People. One of the verses to that hymn reads:

Does a mother forget her child?

Or a woman the child within her womb?

Yet even if these forget, yes, even if

These forget, I will never forget my own


In the written history of this event, the final line paid tribute to this verse by saying “The People of St Rose parish exhibit that same Christ-like quality for, even after a hundred years, they have never forgotten their own”. 

Priests Who Served in St Rose of Lima

Rev. C. J. Collins 1886-1925

Rev. M. T. Murphy 1926-1941

Rev. W. J. Osborne 1941-1969

Rev. R. J. Riley 1969-1989

Rev. G. E. Riley 1989- 2002

Rev. Brian Keating CSC 2002-2006

Rev. Joe Arsenault 2006-2007

Rev. Ralph McRae 2007- 2013

Rev. Gerry White 2013-2018

CWL History

For many years, the CWL was the only active service group at St Rose of Lima. The original charter is dated July 3, 1944. Yvonne Theriault, who has been the President for 40 years, sadly reported that due to the aging population, and limited members, they are having to close the chapter in the spring of 2024. The NB Provincial President says that Yvonne has been a wonderful supporter and have tried everything to try to keep the Chapter alive. 

In its day, the CWL was very active in the Parish. They would hold a fall dinner with the money raised going to Christmas food boxes for families in need. They also would hold a spring tea with money going to the needs of the Parish. The CWL would hold receptions for the First Holy Communion class as well as for the Confirmation class. They would host a graduation breakfast and organize all Parish functions. 

One of their members, Miss Genevieve Dever, was granted the National recognition as an Honorary Member of the CWL. She lived until nearly 100 years of age and was recognized for her tireless work with immigrants. She would meet the immigrants, Irish and others, at the dock, determine their needs and help them navigate their new homeland. 

Council 8094 – St. Rose of Lima

The year 2020 saw Council 6770 of Our Lady of the Assumption begin the process of merging with Council 8094 (Saint Rose Worship Site) to form a new and larger council. The last number of years have been difficult on both Council 6770 and 8094 with members getting older and not many new young Catholic men coming forward to carry on the work. 

Our Lady of the Rosary, Council 17984 was granted a Charter on the 16th of May 2022 to serve the Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption and the former parish of Saint Rose of Lima, now known as Saint Rose Worship Site. 

With the coming together of the two Councils, a membership of 250 Catholic men are dedicated to the principles of charity, unity and fraternity through the KOC.


History of St. Matthews Church 1985 – 2018

It was in the early eighties when the town of Grand Bay was growing and St. Augustine’s located in the village of Westfield was at capacity, when the Diocese of Saint John identified the need to build an additional church.  In 1983 St. Matthews was canonically established by the Most Rev. Authur J Gilbert.  Fr. John Fraser was the parish priest from 1983-1993,

Parish Council Established in 1983


A parish council was formed in 1983 to assist Fr. Fraser in establishing he church.  This council was vital in getting the identity of the parish established.  They were out in the front lines.  They arranged with St. Giles United Church to use their building for a year or so.  This created a special bond between the two churches.  The council was also very active in assisting with the liturgy, getting lectors, altar servers, and with the financial operations for the construction of the church.

How the parish got its’ name?


The bishop’s decree for erecting the parish left the name open and in a covering letter with the decree, he asked the parishioners to suggest a name or names.  About 40 suggestions were submitted and the newly established parish council narrowed down the list to four saints (St. Matthew, St. Paul, St. Elizabeth, and St. Martha).  A special mid-week evening mass was held at the KBM to pray for the name and for the parishioners to vote by secret ballot.  St. Matthews led the vote by 66%.  The name was approved by Bishop A. J. Gilbert.

Construction 1984


In August 1984 concrete was poured and construction was underway on the $600,000 St. Matthews Church.  There was a $50,000 donation from the St. Augustine parish and $50,000 from St. Rose of Lima.  The Bishop of Saint John donated $120,000.  The remainder of the funds came from parishioners and from a bank loan.  The natural wood sanctuary furnishings were a donation from the Sisters of Charity.  The furniture valued at $15,000 was formerly housed in the Rosary Hall Renewal Centre in Fredericton.

Christmas Eve 1984


Although the church interior was far from finished, hundreds of people gathered for the celebration of Mass on Christmas Eve 1984.  Many people brought their own chairs; however, most chose to stand on the concrete floor. 

The service was led by the first pastor of St. Matthews Rev. John Fraser, with Rev. Michael LeBlanc as associate.

Corner Stone 1985 


The cornerstone was laid on May 2, 1985 (front of church right side).  A special mass was held for church dedication by Bishop Arthur J Gilbert to officiate the Rite for Dedication of a Church.  Many guests attended including 20 priests and special guest Fr. Joseph Whelley who was a former priest of St. Augustine parish from 1967 – 1981.

Dollard Drive


The street leading into the church was named Dollard Drive after the first Bishop of the Diocese.  The church property is located at the boundary of the city of Saint John and in Town of Grand Bay.  In 1998 the Town of Grand Bay and the Village of Westfield merged into the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield.  Below is a photo taken in at the grand opening with the Mayor of Saint John, Mayor Elsie Wayne, to her right is Fr. Fraser, and to her left is Bishop Gilbert.

History of Stations of the Cross – Summer 2000


In the summer of 2000, the work began to build outdoor Stations of the Cross in the wooded area at the back of the church property.  This was a lifelong dream of parishioner Joe McAulay who oversaw the construction.  

Several parishioners got together and formed groups with each group owning a particular station. Throughout the area the volunteers planted greenery and installed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a centre garden.  There is also a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in a wooded corner.

The official blessing was on Sept 16, 2001 by Rev. Fr. Brian Hansen.

Sadly, over the last 20+ years the Stations have been in need of repair. The deer have eaten all of the greenery that was planted. Every year more trees fall from the winter storms which creates a need for maintenance to remove the dead wood. Also the trees have 20+ years of growth and the area is very dark with not much sunshine.

What is required to keep Joe McAulay’s dream alive is for parish members to adopt a Station of the Cross with the intent of improving the site.  We need 14 groups.  If you would like to get involved please use the link below.  To understand the work required please link to Parish Activities.

List of Priests:

Rev. John Fraser 1983 – 1993

Rev. Dr. Brian Sheehan 1993-1994

Rev. Donald Breen 1994- 2000

Rev. Dr. P. Brian Hanson 2000-2011

Rev. David Martin – 2011 – 2018

The First of the many Sacraments in the last 40 years:

The first baptism was celebrated on July 13, 1985

The first marriage was celebrated October 1, 1985

Council 9176 – St. Matthews 1986 – 2022


The council was formed in 1986 by a group of men from St Augustines and St Mathews Church in Grand Bay-Westfield. At times, the active membership was as high as 80 people. Throughout their history, the Knights were committed to being a charitable organization. 

The 9176 Council provided great financial aid to the  parish  by  having  various  fund  raisers. One of the largest was a bingo which ran for several years. This not only provided much revenue but it  was  a great chance  for  the  group to get together.

They ran a Sunday brunch for many years which was attended by many from the community. 

Other functions included dinners, dances, a Christmas exchange, children’s Christmas parties and Cribb nights, to name a few.  Money raised from “Chase the Ace” allowed the Knights to donate $ 25,000 to  pave  the parking lot at the back of St. Matthews Church. The Knights also regularly helped augment winter expenses such as snow removal and increased heating bills.

Other community initiatives were often sponsored or supported by Council 9176 such as support for the inclusive playground at Westfield School, Pals, Romero House, Right to Life, etc. 

In  the early years, the Knights were  responsible for  the  construction  of  the  rooms  in  the  church  hall. The Knights were central to several building and property maintenance projects such as painting the parking lot, Cleaning up the Stations of the Cross garden, hall rentals etc.

The members were also active in weekly mass serving as greeters, altar servers and Eucharistic Ministers. They were also responsible for taking up the collection at mass. They supplied bibles to the Year Four Education Class and provided scholarships to family members. 

We are eternally grateful for the countless contributions of the fine members of Council 9176.

In 2022, with an aging population, the difficult decision was made to close Council 9176. Some former members however have joined Council 17984 who meet at the Assumption Centre in Saint John west.

Past Grand Knights of the Father Albert Butler Council 9176


Bob Lirette



John Goddard




Malcolm Dempsey



Roger Gaudet



John McNeill



Adrian Coleman




Bud Carr



Bob Fergus



Pat Chaisson



Michael Chaisson


Gary Parent



Keith Doiron





Jim Lyons




Blaine Walsh



Michael Murphy