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|From inception the parish conducted services for both French
and English-speaking Catholics. That situation continued, as with the Holy
Family School, until 1930 when the English-speaking parish of Canadian Martyrs
was created. There is much more about this story found here in the Canadian
Martyrs Church section and the story of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate found
It is indeed fortunate that Thérèse Therrien and Valérie Sirois wrote a detailed chronicle of Ste-Famille Parish for the Summer 1995 edition of the Mainstreeter. That article is reproduced just below.
Reprinted from the series Churches of Ottawa East, Mainstreeter, Summer 1995.
Some pictures and links have been added from the collection on this CD-ROM.
Many might be surprised to discover that the community of Ottawa East can add yet one more church to its already impressive list, but it can and a very special one at that. Rather than being right on Main Street, Sainte-Famille Church is discreetly nestled away on Glenora Avenue.
It saw the day on the crisp and bright afternoon of October 25th, 1959. Following a blessing ceremony by Archbishop Joseph Lemieux, parishioners and friends celebrated the construction of a new church, a project that took three years from start to finish.
This was a turning point in the parish's history. Did you know that our
registry can boast of records of the first baptism, wedding and funeral
dating back as far as 1901? Ottawa East was still a village when Bishop
Duhamel responded to a request from 105 Catholic families - 55 French
Canadian and 50 Irish - to open a separate school and erect a parish to
be administered by the Oblate Fathers. Sainte-Famille became not only
a religious, but a social rallying point for the Franco-Ontarian community.
The first chapel, school and parish hall were briefly housed in the White
House, a modest wood construction
located beside St-Joseph Scholasticate (Deschatelet), which was demolished
in the fifties. In September of 1901, a school opened on Main, close to
Hazel. The construction of a church on Oblate Avenue took six months,
from April to October 1902. For the next ten years, all sorts of fund-raising
activities took place - sugar bushes, summer picnics, horse rides and
other parties. A quote from a July 1902 newspaper illustrates one of these
activities: "One of the most pleasant festivities of Dominion Day
was a Strawberry Festival to assist Holy Family Church in Ottawa East
... It was a continuous performance from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. ... The scene
of the picnic was a large and shady grove, forming part of the grounds
of the Oblate Scholasticate on the banks of the Rideau River. The framework
of the new church rising up a little to the right of the scholasticate
was gaily decorated with flags ... There are a number of French-Canadians
in the Parish, so the Tricolor was in evidence, but the Union Jack was
the prominent note of decoration, having a good accessory in the green
flag with the Irish harp." (Editor's Note: The complete article has
For three decades, Holy Family Parish developed as a bilingual parish
and became exclusively French in 1930.
With the opening of De Mazenod
School in 1934, this marked the beginning of half a century of continuous
growth. However, transition did not come easily for all. In many families,
spouses had roots in different linguistic groups. For years after, several
chose to be registered in both Canadian
Martyrs and Sainte-Famille parishes, enabling worship in one's mother
Until 1956, the Parish remained under the direction of the Oblate Fathers. Then came a radical shock. The late Charles Bruyere, journalist, described it as such: "Puis en 1956, on peut imaginer la stupeur, la consternation qui s' emparerent des anciens paroissiens de Sainte-Famille, lorsqu'ils apprirentque les bons Peres Oblats allaient, pour des raisons jamais divulguees officiellement, remettre la paroisse qu'ils avaient fondee entre les mains des auto rites diocesaines, qui devaient en confier la direction au clerge seculier". *
With this transfer from the Oblate Fathers to the diocesan secular clergy and the arrival of Father Jean-Paul Poirier, a new era began. Sainte-Famille was the first to have a Parish Council where the leaders of the various committees met monthly to advise the parish priest collectively. In the seventies, as many as eight committees played an active role. One of their many accomplishments was the celebration of the 75th anniversary on May 2, 1976 and the writing of the 80-year history of Sainte-Famille, on which the historical portion of this article is based.
The winds of change associated with the sixties were deeply felt in the
Church and Sainte-Famille was no exception. Throughout the seventies and
eighties came a series of meaningful experiences and transformations.
Financial difficulties in the early 80s put at risk the very survival
of the Parish. This lead to a significant turning point. A group of parishioners
categorically rejected the thought of selling the building and organized
an ad hoc committee to address this urgent issue. Innovative solutions
reflecting the determination of the community were found. With the help
of Father Gratien Girod, with the Parish since 1981, came the birth of
a pastoral project which would ensure the survival of a francophone parish.
Looking back now, administrative and financial restructuring undertaken
at the time has contributed to the creation of a vibrant community life.
Since then, two outstanding themes have motivated us to grow - hospitality
or the French word, ACCUEIL, and sharing or PARTAGE. These have been and
remain our guiding principles. When one belongs to Sainte-Famille Parish,
one embraces respect for the other's differences. Above all, this is reflected
in the sharing of our church with a strong and growing Spanish speaking
community of people from nine or so different countries.
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