IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
— A Brief History —
In 1914 Immaculate Conception Parish became the third parish to be formed in the City of Peterborough. Recognizing the rapidly growing population in the eastern area of the city, Most Rev. M. J. O’Brien, fourth bishop of the Peterborough diocese, established the parish dedicated to the Mother of God under her title of Immaculate Conception. A section of land fronting on Rogers Street which already included St. Joseph’s Hospital and the House of Providence was chosen as the site for the new church and Rev. W. J. McColl was appointed first pastor of the new parish.
Following Bishop O’Brien’s advice, it was decided that the parish would construct only the basement for the proposed church and a parish rectory for the clergy. On December 6th, 1914 the new basement church was solemnly blessed by Bishop O’Brien.
In 1930 Bishop Denis O’Connor, the fifth Bishop of Peterborough, on his first visit to Immaculate Conception, expressed a desire that the building of the superstructure be undertaken as quickly as possible. Under the direction of the second pastor, Very Rev. Dean F. J. O’Sullivan, work began early in 1933 and on December 8th of that year the completed church, built in the Byzantine style of gray Credit Valley stone, was solemnly blessed by Bishop O’Connor. In 1934 the visiting Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, complimented the pastor and parishioners on the erection of such a beautiful church during the depression years.
Over the following decades various renovations and renewals have been undertaken to update the church liturgically and to maintain the beauty of the building. The last major restoration occurred in 1998 under the direction of the eighth pastor, Father Gerard McMahon. Since then, the Immaculate Conception Church has been selected three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2009, to be part of the Ontario Doors Open program, where the general public is welcome to visit buildings of significant beauty and interest.
Always a very busy parish, the clergy of Immaculate Conception at various times have also taken on pastoral responsibilities at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Marycrest Senior Citizens’ Home. Two elementary schools have been a feature of the parish over the past few decades: the original Immaculate Conception School which opened in 1913 and later, St. Francis de Sales on Parkhill Road East. In 2009 the parish was served by the modern Immaculate Conception School and Monsignor O’Donoghue School. St. Joseph’s at Fleming Nursing Home on Brealey Drive, replaced Marycrest and was served by Immaculate’s clergy.
Realizing that a parish is much more than buildings the parishioners, under the sure guidance and dedication of all their pastors and associate priests, who have been their shepherds, sanctifiers and teachers, have sought through Christ and the Holy Spirit to do the will of God the Father. Through faithful participation in the sacramental life of the Church, by extending a helping hand to the less fortunate and through the spirit of co-operation with their sister churches in East City, the parishioners have worked hard to follow their Lord.
Perhaps the greatest proof of the wonderful pastoral care shown by the priests of Immaculate Conception is the fact that, since its founding, ten young men of the parish have been ordained, two have joined the brotherhood and several young women have joined religious orders.
From 1984 to 1986 with Father Raymond Heffernan’s encouragement, the parish took part in the in the diocesan-wide Renew program. This program focused on faith development through the study of scripture and prayer.
In 1986, when Father Heffernan was transferred, Father Joseph Collins was appointed pastor. Father Collins worked diligently to increase spirituality in the parish by continuing the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the First Friday of each month, by introducing Our Lady Queen of Peace devotions in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the first Saturday of each month, and by introducing the weekly Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
When Father Collins was transferred in 1996, Father Gerard McMahon became the eighth pastor of Immaculate Conception Church. In 1998 a major restoration of the church was undertaken. The interior was repainted, new carpeting was installed, the Crucifixion tableau was re-assembled in the transept and the Repository of the Blessed Sacrament was transferred to the center of the sanctuary. A new furnace was installed at this time. During these major renovations Sunday Mass was held in the church hall. Christmas 1998 was celebrated in the beautifully restored church.
During Father McMahon’s pastorate, Council 12418 of the Knights of Columbus was formed in the parish. The members of the council held fund raisers and assumed responsibility for various repairs to the building, for erecting a cross and a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the church lawn and for developing wheelchair accessibility to the parish hall.
On Father McMahon’s transfer in 2001, Father Joseph Machaj became the ninth pastor of Immaculate Conception remaining in this post until the autumn of 2001.
Father Asisclo (Ace) Podelino became the tenth pastor of Immaculate Conception in January 2002. Father Ace worked to develop greater participation of the parishioners in the life of the parish.
In 2005 with the transfer of Father Asisclo (Ace) Podelino to St. Joseph’s Parish, Powassan, the care of Immaculate Conception Parish was entrusted to the Franciscan Fathers under the leadership of Father Jerzy (George) Żebrowski OFM Conv. At that time, Immaculate welcomed the area’s Polish community and became an English/Polish parish with services in both languages.
Under Father Zebrowski’s leadership, the parish brought the Catholic faith into the community at large with an annual Eucharistic Procession through parish streets and by supporting the parishioners (for two years) in cooperation with the Wayside Academy, to enter a float in the city’s Santa Claus Parade. The float, using students from the parish’s two schools and Wayside Academy, presented a Nativity scene with the motto Keep Christ in Christmas.
Father Zebrowski also emphasized the universality of the Catholic faith by holding the International Rosary in which the 15 decades of the Rosary were recited in the various languages spoken by our parishioners. A beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin, previously owned by parishioner Mary McCabe, was erected on the north side of the Church.
In 2014 Immaculate joyfully celebrated its 100th anniversary as a parish. Special events marked the occasion with congratulatory greetings from religious and political figures. A calendar was produced by parishioner Paul O’Brien showing the beautiful stained-glass windows in the church.
In September of 2014, the Franciscan Order, undertaking a reassessment of the Order’s various parish commitments, decided to withdraw from Peterborough Diocese to focus on their work in the United States.
With the transfer of Father George Zebrowski OFM Conv. and Father Krzysztof Cybulski OFM Conv. a new pastor, Rev. William Moloney, began his pastorate at Immaculate Conception.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PASTORS
1914-1928 Monsignor W.J. McCall
1928-1955 Monsignor Francis J. O’Sullivan
1956-1969 Rev. W. Christopher McCarney
1969-1979 Rev. John F. Coughlan
1979-1981 Rev. Leo Coughlin
1980-1986 Rev. Raymond Heffernan
1986-1996 Rev. Joseph Collins
1996-2001 Rev. Gerard McMahon
2001-2001 Rev. Joseph Machaj
2001-2005 Rev. Asisclo (Ace) Podelino
2005-2014 Rev. Jerzy (George) Zebrowski OFM Conv.
2014 Rev. William Moloney
In the foreground is Father Jerzy (George) Zebrowski, OFM Conv. Pastor 2005-2014. In the background is Father Jerzy Naglewski, OFM Conv. retired priest, resident at Immaculate 2005-2014. (OFM Conv. refers to the Franciscan order of priests: Order of Friars Minor Conventual.)