St. Lawrence, Canning, Nova Scotia
(Published in the " DIALOGUE ", March 2, 1969)
The St. Lawrence Church in Canning, built in 1965 under the supervision of Rev. Fr. Donald P. Amirault, pastor of Wolfville, is to most of its parishioners the realization of a dream. Our ancestors shared this same dream, bought building lots, bequeathed sums of money towards this building, but never lived to see their dream fulfilled.
It is difficult to find accurate records of where and when Mass was offered in the days of our ancestors. We were at that time a mission of St. Joseph's Parish, Kentville. We know that Fr. Holden offered Mass in the late l800's on the Worth Mountain at the home of Matt Tully and Michael Kervin's, and in Blomidon at Thomas Doyle's house. The more recent memories are of Mass at the Brady farm in Woodside. Annie Dalton, a resident of Canning, 91 at the time of this article but now deceased, could remember Fr. Holden driving his own horse to Woodside for Mass. At that time, the priest from Kentville did not live where his present rectory is situated, but rather in North Alton, and drove his horse from there. In William Brady's day (the latter part of the l800's), Mass was offered at his house once a month, but in the early 1900's when Isadore Brady owned the farm, Mass was offered there twice a year; the Easter Season and the Christmas Season. How vivid is the memory of Dr. Donahue arriving Saturday afternoon at the Canning Railway Station via the "Blueberry Special", being met by horse and sleigh in the winter and horse and wagon in the muddy roads of spring. Up the hill to Jim Brady's for supper, then back to Isadore's where he would stay until Monday.
On Sunday, Mass was supposed to be at 11 a.m., but after Confessions were heard, it usually was 12 before Mass began. Those were the days when we fasted from midnight. Who can forget the white sugar cookies, tea and doughnuts served after Mass to one and all. On Monday, Mass was at 9 a. m. and after breakfast the priest was driven to the station to catch the noon train to Kentville.
As times changed, customs changed. Roads were kept open and cars travelled all winter. The priest was able to bring his car and the weekends became a thing of the past. Soon Woodside seemed as far away from the majority of the congregation as Kentville, so in the spring of 1945 the home-made wooden altar was moved from Woodside to Canning and Mass was offered at Sarsfield's once a month until 1956. There were times during these years when it was more convenient for Mass to be offered at Peter Chaisson's and some First Communion Masses were offered through the mission at Ogilvies in Delhaven and at Lombard's in Medford. The Children's Catechism classes were held at private homes in several districts, with Father Durney being "Bus Man" picking up the children and delivering them back home after classes were over. Canning, under Fr. Durney's supervision, had their own May procession. To those who took part in it, and to those who watched, this May Procession, though small, was an activity of which we were very proud.
Canning, like many other districts enjoyed the facilities of St. Joseph's Camp, Medford Beach. In addition to offering a place where vacationers and local parishioners could attend Mass during the summer months, it was the headquarters for camps for children; retreats for men and women; and social gatherings by many local organizations. This camp was completely destroyed by fire in September, 1966, and had served the parish for approximately 20 years.
In the early winter months of 1949, the Canning St. Joseph's Council a branch of the Kentville St. Joseph’s Council, with Mrs. J. I. Brady, Sr., as president, was formed. This group is still active, and is now known as the Canning Catholic Council. Its members meet once a month, and raise money by various functions to add "extras" to the new church, and give a helping hand to some needy families in the parish.
Until 1959, Canning had been a Mission of St. Joseph's Parish, Kentville, but 1959 brought many changes, and we became a mission of the newly formed parish of Wolfville, with Fr. Donald P. Amirault as our Pastor.
It wasn’t long before Fr. Amirault had started talking and planning the Canning Church. Meetings were held, the Bishop was contacted and possible building sites discussed. The church was constructed in the early months of 1965 and at 7:30 P.M. on May 23 of that year, the new church was solemnly blessed by His Excellency, Bishop Lemanager, Following this ceremony, Rev. Robert Theriault newly-ordained priest, offered the first Mass. The sermon was preached by Monsignor J. Harry Durney of Kentville. A reception at the Canning Fire Hall followed the service.
The Stations of the Cross, a gift from a local parishioner, were erected by Fr.D.Amirault, assisted by Ralph Foley and Ron Kelly on April 8, 1966.
The first wedding August 21, 1965, when Julia Reta Sarsfield and John William Murphy of Halifax, solemnly said "I do". The first funeral was on May l6, 1966, when Carl George was buried. On May 22, 1966 seven children of our mission made their First Communion. On June 23, 1968, the members of the Scotia Lodge #28, A.F. & A.M., attended Mass in a body at our church. This is not only a first in our church, but a first in our area. The Canning Firemen, on September 22, attended 10:30 Mass in a body. On November 11, 1968, the Canning Remembrance Day Service was held at 10 a.m. During November, I960 we attended our first Mission in Canning. Our priest was Fr. Paul Murphy, a Redemporist Father from Saint John, N.B. We enjoyed his talks and our friendly discussion and we hope lie will visit us again. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered to 17 children and 1 adult at 11 a.m. on November 17, 1968 by His Excellency Bishop Austin Burke, of Yarmouth.
In the fall of 1966, Fr. Amirault was transferred to Digby, He was succeeded by Fr. Leo Maillet. Fr. Maillet came as no stranger to many of us, as he had served as a curate at St. Joseph's Parish, Kentville a few years before.
We are proud of our church in Canning, but there is still much to be done. A new organ is badly needed. In time we hope our basement will be finished to serve as a hall for social functions, and who knows, our piece of land just outside the village may someday be out own St. Lawrence Cemetery.
Mrs. Catherine Sarsfield