St. Mary's and the Missions
Roman Catholic Parish in Owen Sound
St. Thomas Aquinas
Confessions: 30 minutes before all Masses
Address: 552 Gould St., Wiarton, ON N0H 2T0
The first Masses were held in 1880 in the “Kidd House”, now 666 Berford St. Wiarton. St. Thomas Aquinas RC Church was established as a mission of Owen Sound in 1888 as there were about 20 Catholic families in the Wiarton vicinity, just enough to support the small church.
In 1878, the Methodists purchased land from the Crown—Lot 12 West side of Gould St. A Methodist church was built on this land and was used by the Methodists until 1884 when they relocated. The Salvation Army then used the building until 1890, when the Methodist congregation sold it to the Roman Catholics for $425.00. This church also served the Catholics from Hepworth up to 1906.
Many changes occurred over the years including:
- a layer of insul-brick, mainly to cover up cracks in the walls through which one could see daylight
- a new roof
- new pews in 1949 to increase the seating capacity
- from the mid 1940’s to 1960, Masses increased from 1-2 per month to 4 masses on Sunday during the summer to accommodate the many visitors.
- by 1960, summer schools for religious instruction taught by the nuns in the Presbyterian church hall
- More changes occurred after the 1960’s, including a reduction in the number of priests available, but the building continued to fall into disrepair.
In the winter time, the church was very difficult to heat because of the state of the structure, so the Catholic congregation rented space in the Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s, from 1980.
In April 1982, the congregation of St. Thomas Aquinas voted to raise funds to save their small church. They began with renovations to the original structure, new roof, new windows, insulation and a major redecoration, but still used St. Paul’ s from May until October so they could accommodate the many visitors during the holiday season.
From 1982 to 1987, the congregation raised money from collection at masses, garage sales, raffles etc. to rebuild (incorporating the old structure) into a more modern, larger facility costing $130,000.00. There is room for 250 worshippers, double the capacity of the former building. Also included were new sidewalks, gardens, railings, a handicap accessible ramp and an expanded parking lot. A significant landmark, the large boulder on the front lawn, was excavated during the renovation and building. The building has been beautified with the gradual donated additions of stained glass for the windows. The altar, the ambo, and the candlestick holders were designed by the Sisters of the Divine Master from Weston, Ontario. The new structure also includes a lower level, which houses washrooms, a meeting room,and a fully equipped kitchen.
In 2003, a chair lift was added to facilitate movement on the stairs.The congregation has continued to grow, averaging 100 people to celebrate mass during the fall and winter period and up to 250 during the summer time.
The community is blessed with many ministries, including hospitality, ushers, music, sacristans, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, ministers of the word, art and environment, Catholic Women’s League, and parish council.