Canadian Martyrs/Saint Thomas Aquinas
1725 Oxford Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3Z7
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (902) 423-3057 | Fax: (902) 484-6944
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Front Cover


This cover of the original 1958 history of Saint Thomas Aquinas is a little worn, but still quite stylish.

Inside Cover

The inside cover says regarding Saint Thomas Aquinas:

His undisputed mastery in scholastic theology, as displayed in his ?Summa Theologica,? gained for him the title of Angelic Doctor. Leo XIII declared him patron of all Catholic schools. His love for the Holy Eucharist found lasting expression in the ?Lauda Sion? and ?Pange Lingua? which he composed. He died in 1274 and is the patron saint of Saint Thomas Aquinas Church

Introduction: 1919-1958
The Story of A Dream Come True

From its incorporation in 1749, the first years of the Catholic Church in Halifax were not happy ones. Being a British settlement, the town was subject to the severe Penal Laws of the Old Country then in force. As a result, public and even private Catholic services, were forbidden. Nevertheless, the Government did permit one French priest, Father Maillard, to administer to the Indians, to keep them from rebelling. He also administered secretly to other Catholics in the area. In 1762 Father Maillard celebrated the first Mass in Halifax in a barn on South Street. With the relaxing of the Penal Laws in 1783, the Catholic Church began to flourish in Halifax.

The first Catholic Church, St. Peter?s was built in 1783 on the site of what is now St. Mary?s Basilica. Before long, other churches were erected and St. Joseph?s Parishes were established. By 1890 it was necessary to open another Parish in the north-west section of the city and St. Agnes? was then founded. Early in the next century, the increasing numbers of Catholics in the West-end of Halifax created an imperative need for a more convenient place of worship. Consequently in 1919, a group of Catholic laymen approached His Grace, the Most Reverend E.J. McCarthy, then Archbishop of Halifax and requested a new Parish for the area.

The names of these pioneers deserve to be recorded: John R. Regan, J.F. Ryan, E. J. Kelly, P.J. Brennan, Felix Quinn, E.D. Farrell, J.F O?Connell, and F.A. Gillis. His Grace asked them to form a temporary committee to act with him and his Vicar-General, Monsignor Gerald Murphy to decide on the best site for a new Church. Four properties were considered but the Clark property at Oxford Street and Jubilee Road was chosen as being more centrally located than the others.

On April 22, 1919, Father Thomas O?Sullivan was named the first Pastor and charged with the responsibility of the new St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, which included the area between Quinpool Road on the north, Robie Street on the east, and the North West Arm on the west. Fresh from the active life of an Army Chaplain, he soon had preparations under way for a temporary Church, and by 25 May, the work of excavation had begun. Two months later, on 20 July, His Grace, Archbishop McCarthy laid the cornerstone of the new Church. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and many of the parishioners and clergy were present. Following the ceremony, the Mass of St. Thomas Aquinas was held in the open air. This was the first Mass in the new Parish.

Another month saw the building advance to the stage where it was possible to have Mass in the Basement. Following this first Mass, a series of other ?firsts? now began for the Parish. The first Baptism, that of William Henry Burns; on 6 August; the first Confession on 16 August; the first Marriage, that of Robert Douglas Brown and Maude Veronica Hogan, on 17 September, and the first Mass in the upper Church on 19 September. Many activities were underway in St. Thoomas Aquinas at this time under the able direction of Father O?Sullivan. Unique among these was the workshop which he established in the Basement, where, in company with the young men of the Parish the wodden lanterns, the confessionals, the door lateches, the sanctuary lattice work, the Bishop?s throne and chairs and the Altars were made without benefit of nails, but joined with wooden pegs. The Church had been designed by Father O?Sullivan, and now he directed the work of finishing it.

Unfortunately during the early years of his pastorate, a ponderous debt was placed upon the Parish by the purchase of the Dwyer Field for $55,000 which transaction was considered a good investment by some of the parishioners at the time. This, in addition to the Church debt, brought the total Parish liabilities to $105,621as shown in a booklet prepared by Father O?Sullivan at the end of 1919.

During the early twenties every possible source of income was therefore sought by Father O?Sullivan. Under his direction the lot beside the Church on Oxford Street was flooded in the winter months to provide a popular rendezvous for skaters. And in the summer its tennis courts were rated among the best in the city.

The Saint Thomas Aquinas Pavillion was built at this time to provide dressing rooms for these sport enthusiasts. Also, the Basement of the Church soon became the mecca for movie fans.

Ill health, however, forced Father O?Sullivan to resign in 1927. He retired to his native Ireland, where he died a few years later. During his nine year pastorate Father O?Sullivan was assisted by a number of priests. The older parishioners will remember the names of Father D.J. Summers, J.J. Lanigan, P. McQuillan, L. Stone and W.L. Murphy. In January 1928, Father John L. Quinan, then Pastor of Woodside, was appointed to succeed Father O?Sullivan. One of the first acts of the new Pastor was the planning of a new Rectory. Until this time, a small house on the Church property at 215 Jubilee Road had been used by the priests. It was soon found to be wholly inadequate, and the house next to it was rented as a temporary dwelling until plans were drawn up in May, 1928 and the present Rectory built.

By 1930 the Church debt had risen to $118,000 brought about by the new Rectory, the Bell Tower and the interest and the taxes yet unpaid on the Dwyer Field. The latter was then taken over by the Archdiocese for taxes and interest and sold to the City for school purposes. It is now the site of the new St. Thomas Aquinas School.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Ordination of Father Quinan in 1939 was the occasion of the beginning of a parish-wide financial drive to reduce the burden of the Parish debt. This was instituted and directed by Father Lawrence O?Neill, the first assistant of the time. During the years of the Second World War greatly increased efforts and sacrifices of the parishioners wiped out the debt completely by the end of 1944. The following year the New Church Fund began. In September 1954, increasing illness forced Father Quinan to resign. During more than a quarter of a century he was a loving pastor to his people and a zealous example to the many priests who assisted him. These included Father W.P. Stone, L.J. O?Neill, H.J. McCallion, Fr. Pius, F.L. Carroll, G.B. Mabey, G. Gregory Murphy, Ernest Sweeney, Thomas J. LeBlanc, William J. Donnelly and John F. DeLouchry.

Father William H. Smith was appointed to succeed Father Quinan in October of 1954. Previously in 1928, Father Smith had followed Father Quinan at Woodside??.and now history was repeating itself!

The new Pastor immediately instituted plans for a new Church and after many details were decided upon, as regards size, design, and building materials to be used, a well known Architect, Franco Consiglio, was chosen to draw up the plans and specification for the contemplated Church.

With the division of the Parish boundary in 1952, the section south of University Avenue was attached to the newly formed Parish of the Canadian Martyrs. Because of losing these two hundred and fifty families, the remaining parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas now realized that greater sacrifices were necessary to make their dream of a new Church come true.

On the occasion of the first visit of our beloved Archbishop Berry to the Parish, His Grace announced that he would like to see a new Church built; but he pointed out that it would be necessary to have at least one-half of the cost on hand. A financial drive on a large scale was therefore deemed necessary. Early in 1956 the Community Counselling Service was engaged by FAther Smith to conduct a fund-raising campaign. As a result of this well-directed drive and the self-sacrificing efforts of the parishioners the splendid total of $175,000 was raised,of which $40,000 was in cash, the balance to be paid over a two year period.

With invested funds on hand amounting to $140,000 and the $40,000 cash collections of the Drive, the total of $180,000 on hand was sufficietn to meet the conditions of His Grace. Tenders had already been called and so the Contract was awarded to the Standard Construction Company of Halifax.

We might note here that such was the confidence of His Grace the Archbishop in the generosity of the people of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish that he permitted the ceremony of ?Turning the first Sod? to coincide with the official opening of the Campaign.

So, on 9 March 1956, the Vicar General, Right Reverend William J. Burns performed this ceremony in the absence of His Grace, who was in Rome at the time. His Grace?s confidence in the generousity of the faithful of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish proved to be very well founded, as we see from the results of the campaign.

Actual work began in May 1956. Much delay was caused because of the shortage of steel and work ceased over the Winter of 1957. However the stately steel and stone structure gradually took shape. It was finally completed in the Spring of 1958.

His Grace again showed his deep interest in the new Church by consenting to solemnly consecrate it. This was indeed a great privelege,the third Church in the Archdiocese to be consecrated,the first for over fifty years. On 10 April the Church was opened with the laying of the Cornerstone. On 12 April the ceremony of Solemn Consecration took place followed by the first Mass at the newly consecrated High Altar. This lengthy ceremony was performed by Archbishop J. Gerald Berry in the presence of many priests of the Archdiocese and crowds of parishioners and friends.

This is only a partial record of a Parish which without even a plot of land in 1919, now, thirty-nine years later has seen the dream of its Pastors and People come true in the NEW and beautiful Church of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Nothing has been said about the spiritual care of the thousands of souls of the Parish?.Nothing of the St. Thomas Aquinas School and its devoted Sisters and lay teachers who have educated and developed the characters of our young men and women?.Nothing of the many vocations of the Priesthood and the Religious Life. This is a story for another time and occasion.

Father Smith and his Assistants, Father Mackkey and DLouchry, now join the Parishioners in giving thanks to God and the Patron Saint of the Parish, Saint Thomas Aquinas, for this blessed realization of their hopes and prayers.


On the Evening of 10 April, 1958 Archbishop Berry laid the Cornerstone of the new St. Thomas Aquinas Church with the solemn rites of the Roman Liturgy. A large gathering of Prelates and Priests of the Archdiocese, of Religious Priests and Sisters, of Officials of City and State, of friends and Parishioners witnessed the ceremony.

This was also the Official Opening of the Church. Guests and Parishioners were welcomed by the Pastor, Father Smith. He took this opportunity to express his gratitude and that of his parishioners to God, ?the Giver of all good gifts.? He thanked the Archbishop for his help and interest. For the Architect, the Builders and all who participated in this great project he had words of praise and appropriate remarks and then closed the Ceremony with Pontifical Benediction.

After the Ceremony, His Grace, the Archbishop and the Pastor welcomed the Guests at a Reception held in the Basement Hall of the old Church. It was a gala occasion.

On Saturday Morning, 12 April 1958, the new St. Thomas Aquinas Church was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Berry. This age old ceremony is most impressive and full of significance. By this act our Church was dedicated perpetually and solely for divine worship.

The foundation, walls and roof were consecrated from the outside. Then the Archbishop and his ministers entered the Curch and proceeded to consecrate first the floors and then the walls. On the walls are fixed twelve small ceramic crosses, where the anointings with Holy Oil were made. Above these crosses twelve candles burned the whole day of the Consecration. They will burn again on every Anniversary of the Dedication to remind the faithful of the sacredness of this place.

The Main Altar was finally consecrated,purified with Holy Water and anointed with Holy Oil. Relics of Saints, one at least of a Martyr, are buried in the Sepulchre of the Altar. The Ceremony of Consecration was brought to a close with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by the Archbishop.

Some finishing touches had yet to be done to the Church and so it was not until Sunday, 27 April, that the Parish moved permanently into their new Church. This occasion was marked by the celebration of a Solemn High Mass by the Pastor, Father Smith.

History: 1952-2005.

This section is currently being written and should be available by year's end.


Today Canadian Martyrs has joined with Saint Thomas Aquinas under the name of the South Halifax Pastoral Unit. The Parish priests of this new unit are Fr. Mark Cherry and Fr. James Mallon.