In focus

A flourishing church

Joseph-Bruno Guigues’s successor, Joseph-Thomas Duhamel, leads the Diocese of Ottawa for 35 years. An excellent administrator, he doubles the number of parishes and triples the number of clerics in the diocese. With the Ottawa Valley developing rapidly, many rural parishes are established. But growth also occurs in Ottawa, where new churches are built.

In the episcopal city, the new Saint Patrick Church is blessed in 1875. The cathedral is elevated to the status of basilica in 1879. The Sacré-Cœur Parish is founded in 1889 for French-speaking Catholics in the parish of St. Joseph’s, which will become unilingual English. Barely ten years later, each of the two parishes welcomes over 300 families.

The turn of the century sees the Church grow so rapidly in Ottawa that Msgr Duhamel does not have enough priests to respond to all requests. He must therefore appeal to religious communities to manage new parishes, including some from Europe. Saint-Jean-Baptiste Parish is entrusted to the Dominicans in 1884, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes to the Company of Mary (Montfortains) in 1887. Four years later, the Daughters of Wisdom come to work alongside in health care and education, establishing a novitiate in 1904. The Capuchins take charge of the Saint-François d’Assise Parish in 1891. The first church is converted into a college.

The Redemptorists move into Ottawa in 1907, twenty years after the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood. The work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who arrive in the last years of Bishop Guigues’s episcopate, does not, however, fare very well after the construction of their Lowertown convent, which places them in a precarious financial situation. The Grey Nuns of the Cross, the first to arrive in the region, have established themselves as one of the main pillars of French life in the capital.

Under Msgr Duhamel, the Church becomes a thriving structure that provides the Ottawa region with a wide range of institutions. It soon forms the backbone of the community, becoming a valuable ally to Francophones in their social and cultural endeavours.