St. Peter's Cathedral Timeline
In the early 1800s when the settlement of London was just beginning, Mass was celebrated in the homes of Catholic families by visiting priests. When Bishop Alexander MacDonnell of Kingston - Ontario's first Catholic bishop - visited London, Upper Canada in 1827, there were only a few Catholic families in the tiny settlement at the forks of the Thames. The first Catholic church was built in 1834 on the southwest corner of Dufferin Avenue and Richmond Street. It was a simple log structure with an earthen floor and was dedicated to St. Lawrence.
1827 August - the first Catholic service is held in London Township at the home of Michael Flood; Bishop Alexander MacDonnell and Fr. James Campion officiating. The first baptism is that of John and Mary Dignan, aged 1 and 3 years old The first Catholic wedding in the London vicinity takes place between James Flood and Catherine Keogh. The first Catholic burial is that of Catherine Flood. 1831 In September, St. Thomas is detached from Dundas (near Hamilton) and constituted as a separate parish, with London as a mission 1834 Fr. Daniel Downie builds the first Catholic church in London. St. Lawrence the Martyr Church opened on August 10, 1834 on the southwest corner of the present Richmond St. and Dufferin Avenue. 1843 June 6, Fr. Michael Robert Mills takes charge of St. Thomas and London is created a separate parish. 1850 December 11, Fr. Thadeus T. Kirwan is appointed the first Rural Dean of London. 1851 April 24, St. Lawrence Church was destroyed by a fire, started by arsonists. 1852 March 7, the new brick St. Lawrence the Martyr Church was opened on the northeast corner of the present Richmond St. and Dufferin Ave. The former Universalist Church which once stood on the north side of King St., east of Wellington Rd. was rented by the parish for church purposes during the construction of the new St. Lawrence Church. 1856 February 21, Pope Pius IX partitions nine counties from the Diocese of Toronto and establishes a new See at London. February 29, Pierre-Adolphe Pinsoneault is named first Bishop of London. June 29, Bishop Pinsoneault is installed in St. Peter's Cathedral (previously known as St. Lawrence's Church) on the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul. 1857 September 30, London's first Catholic school, St. Peter's, is established. Unfortunately, St. Peter's School is no longer in existence. Rather, the building serves as "St. Peter's Campus" - a facility to compensate for overcrowding at Catholic high schools. This is unfortunate because St. Peter's School was very historical and we would be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2007. December, Bishop Pinsoneault moves the episcopal residence to Sandwich (near Windsor). 1859 February 2, Rome authorizes the translation of the Episcopal See from London to Sandwich. 1866 July 8, James Vincent McLaughlin becomes the first Londoner to be ordained a priest. October 2, Henry Edward Dormer dies from typhoid fever. Word spreads quickly: "The saint is dead!" A memorial to Dormer is in the west transept of the Cathedral, near the Chapel of Christ the King. December 18 - as requested, Bishop Pinsoneault resigns, having left the diocese in considerable debt. 1867 John Walsh is named Bishop of London and moves the episcopal residence back to London. 1869 November 15, decree from Rome switching Episcopal See back to London, from Sandwich. 1871 Bishop's Palace (residence for the Bishop and clergy of the cathedral) is built to the east side of the Cathedral church. Prior to 1920 the rectory served as the first diocesan seminary. 1880 February 15, Bishop Walsh announces plans to build a new Cathedral. March 18, Joseph Connolly is named architect and, on August 10, the first sod is turned. 1881 On May 22, the cornerstone of the current Cathedral is blessed and laid. 1885 April 19, Bishop Walsh delivers a "farewell sermon" in the old St. Peter's before it is torn down. June 28, the new Cathedral is dedicated and opened on the vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul. 1888 February 13 - death of Monsignor Bruyere: missionary, rector, Vicar-General, diocesan administrator, and champion of Catholic education. His remains lie buried under the present Cathedral and there is a memorial to his honour in the East Transept. 1889 July 25, Bishop Walsh is named Archbishop of Toronto. October 6, dedication ceremonies in the Cathedral for the installation of stained glass windows, high altar, and stations of the cross.
1909 December 14th, Michael Francis Fallon, OMI, is named Bishop of London. 1912 St. Peter's Seminary is founded, 30 seminarians begin academic studies at the Bishop's Palace (now the rectory). 1914 Bishop Fallon moves to Blackfriars (90 Central Avenue) and this continues to serve as the Bishop's Palace. St. Peter's Parish Hall is erected. The Hall was later given by the Cathedral to its School, which is no longer in existence. Today, the area once occupied by the parish hall is now where the school gym is. 1926 - Jubilee Year for the Cathedral From John Farrell's History of the Roman Catholic Church in London, 1826 - 1931: "1926 was Centennial Year for the historic city of London, Ontario. Exactly a hundred years ago, the first primitive beginnings of London showed themselves at the Forks of the River Thames. Catholics had double reason to celebrate since .... 1926 was the three hundredth anniversary of the first Mass ever to have been said in the peninsula of Southwestern Ontario. From the makeshift altar of Father de la Roche Dallion, the Church had risen tothesplendour of St. Peter's Cathedral, of St. Peter's Seminary, Brescia Hall, and of the numerous parishes and schools throughout the Diocese." September 26 to October 3 - Catholic Centennial Week in London. In addition to commemorating the aforementioned Jubilee, this celebrated the construction of St. Peter's Seminary and Brescia Hall (today called Brescia College). Also, this was an extremely special week for the Cathedral since it celebrated the beautiful decoration of the Cathedral's interior and the new Cassavant organ. 1931 February 22, Bishop Fallon dies. He remains a controversial figure in the history of the Diocese of London. Those curious readers who wish to read his memorial should simply walk into his Cathedral Church and appreciate its beauty: "If you are looking for his monument, just look around you." 1934 June 9, London welcomes the first visit by a Prince of the Church, John Cardinal Villeneuve, Archbishop of Quebec. December 22, Ralph Humbert Dignan is named Bishop of Sault Ste Marie, the first native son of London to be elevated to the episcopacy. Bishop Dignan wrote a wonderful History of the Diocese of London that traces the origins of the Church in this area well back into the 17th century. 1944 April 7, Fr. Philip Francis Pocock becomes the second native Londoner to be appointed bishop; consecrated Bishop of Saskatoon on June 29 in St. Peter's Cathedral. 1949 December 8, the Shrine to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is dedicated, it is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. Visitors may find this shrine in the East Transept. 1950 June 2,death of Bishop Kidd. John Cody becomes the seventh Bishop of London. 1952 September 1, Bishop Cody dedicates the new baptistry, donated to the Cathedral by the Sansone family. Designed by Philip Aziz, the baptistry is to be found at the east end of the narthex (in the entrance to the Cathedral). It is placed at the entrance to the Cathedral because baptism marks an entrance into God's family - the Church. 1957 In April, stone from an old post office in St. Thomas is stockpiled beside the Cathedral in readiness for the completion of the towers and the new sacristy. Work on the towers starts in October. 1958 May 19 - bells are installed in the new towers. December 8, Bishop Cody blesses the new Lady Chapel and Sacristy. The side altar that is west of the High Altar (previously the Chapel of Sacred Heart of Jesus) became the Chapel of Christ the King. The side altar that is east of the High Altar (previously the Lady Chapel) became the Chapel of St. Joseph. The old Sacristy became the new Lady Chapel and the new Sacristy is in a totally new room that goes around the Chancel in a semicircle. 1961 December 13, Pope John XXIII raises St. Peter's to the rank of Minor Basilicainhonour of Bishop Cody's 25th anniversary of his episcopal consecration. 1963 December 5,death of Bishop Cody. Visitors to the Cathedral may be curious to notice that, with the Gothic gargoyles along the facade, are images of two bishops: Bishop Walsh and Bishop Cody. Bishop Walsh's face is carved into the Cathedral facade to the right of the main door. Bishop Cody's face is on the other side of the doorway. Why these two Bishops? It was under Walsh that the building itself was constructed, the Diocese grew rapidly, and St. Peter's returned to being a Cathedral Church. Under Cody, the Cathedral was completed and became a Minor Basilica. 1962 Martin Boundy received the Bene Mereti Medal for distinguished service to the Catholic community of London. Boundy was a music teacher at Catholic Central High School and founded their band in 1954. For over 20 years, Boundywasconductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (which now goes by the term "Orchestra London"). Boundy went on to lead the music program at Fanshawe College, where he founded the London Fanshawe Symphonic Chorus. For a number of years, Boundy served as choirmaster of St. Peter's Cathedral. Boundy died in the autumn of 1998. 1964 February 22. The Most Rev. Gerald Emmett Carter succeeds as eighth Bishop of London. 1966 St. Peter's received its official Grant of Arms from the United Kingdom, legal recognition to our Coat of Arms. 1968 Major renovations to the chancel/sanctuary. The old High Altar was removed and a new marble altar placed at the crossing along with a beautiful marble floor throughout the sanctuary. Much of the woodwork was removed, such as the communion rails and most of the choir stalls for the old chancel choir. The Bishop's Throne, which used to be in the choir stalls (hence the term "inchoir") was moved to where the old High Altar was. When completed, the renovations doubled the size of the main sanctuary and the beautiful High Altar still remains the focus of worship. 1978 April 28, Bishop Carter is named Archbishop of Toronto. August 21, Bishop Sherlock is installed as the ninth Bishop of London. 1979 June 30, Archbishop Carter is created Canada's fourth Cardinal. September 11, Cardinal Carter visits St. Peter's. St. Peter's School closes and becomes extra class space. 1980 June 11, Fr. Marcel Gervais (previously a professor at the Seminary) is consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of London; the first priest of this diocese to also serve as one of its bishops. Today, Gervais is the Cardinal-Archbishop of Ottawa. 1981 April 7,death of Monsignor Feeney: "If you are looking for his monument, just look around you." During the 50s, when Feeney was rector, the Cathedral was finished. 1984 Monsignor O'Donnell becomes rector of St. Peter's. 1996 Monsignor O'Donnell retires and Fr. Clare Coleman becomes rector. 1999 Christmas Day, 11 o'clock Mass - Bishop Sherlock opened the Jubilee Door to officially begin our Diocese's celebrations for the Holy Year of 2000 before a large congregation. The occasion was marked with a solemn outdoor procession. Prayers were said in front of the door, which was blessed with holy water and incense. Once blessed, Bishop Sherlock opened the door and everyone followed to celebrate this triumphant occasion. The west door on the facade was used as the Jubilee Door and the logo of the Holy Year was painted on that door earlier that year.
2000 The Holy Year June, "Celebrate 2000" was held on the first weekend of June in downtown's Victoria Park, to commemorate 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ - "Jesus Christ, Present for All". This outdoor festival was hosted by the downtown churches, including St. Peter's. On Saturday, June 3, a Hymn Festival was held at Metropolitan United Church, in which our Cathedral Choir took part. 2001 January 7 - Epiphany Sunday - the Holy Year officially came to a close. Bishop Sherlock, the Ordinary, and Bishop Grecco, the Auxiliary, were in Rome on this occasion to commemorate the Holy Year with the Holy Father. This year marked 75 years since our Diocese's Jubilee Year. Therefore, it was the 75th anniversary of the Cathedral's decoration. In a particular way, this involved celebrating the construction of the organ with a number of organ recitals and concerts. 2004 After structural studies and consultation within the parish and the Diocesan administration the rectory, once known as the Bishop's Palace, was demolished.
Our magnificent Casavant organ turned 90 on September 26, 2016. The process for building this organ began in 1923, when the Right Reverend J. F. Stanley was supervising the decoration of the interior of the cathedral. St. Peter’s organist, Dr. Louis Balogh, proposed a large three manual instrument from the Casavant organ company in Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, to replace the two-manual instrument built in 1886. The contract was signed in September 1925, at a cost of $22,320 ($300,783 in 2016 dollars). The new Casavant organ was played at its first Mass to open Catholic Centennial Week on September 26, 1926. A Jubilee Souvenir program was printed for this event, containing the music for “Missa S. Michaelis Archangeli” composed by Dr. Balogh, photographs of the cathedral choirs, of the organ console, and a list of its specifications. It was the finest organ in Western Ontario at that time. Today, its replacement value would be close to $1,000,000. In 2016, the organ sounds much as it did in 1926, even though its mechanical parts have been modernized. Major repairs were done in 1971-73 including a new $10,833 console within the original wood case. Again, in 1981-83, major cleaning of pipes and some repairs were carried out for $17,509. A new solid state switching system was installed in 1995, for $24,000. In 2005, $25,000 was spent for a solid state combination system. During the 1970’s, the Knoch organ company advised the parish that the instrument needed new pipework to improve the sound for 17th century baroque music. Thankfully, this was not done, as such a change would have completely altered the sound of the instrument. Our Cathedral organ is a unique work of art, and has been allowed to remain a statement of its time period. Particularly, the Vox humana stop and the Cor anglais stop are unique to this organ. The former is a reed stop with a half-length pipe, and imitates the human voice. The latter has the haunting voice of an oboe, except lower in register and colour. Our organ has a full rich sound because of the many 8’ pipes that reinforce the melody line of our liturgical music. There are over 3000 pipes behind the façade pipes. It still remains one of the finest organs in Western Ontario, ably suited to both liturgical celebrations and concert performances. We are always tuning and making small repairs to the organ.Currently we are replacing leather used in the valves that allow air into the pipes. Over time, leather dries and cracks causing dead notes. Donations for maintaining the organ are always welcome, and put to good use. As we celebrate this anniversary, we can be proud of how our cathedral rectors, organists, choir directors, and parishioners have lovingly cared for our Casavant organ. It has contributed to so many Masses, diocesan celebrations like ordinations, and public concerts. I am blessed to have played it for the last 16 years. With your support this organ will last as long as St. Peter’s is standing. Dr. Ronald Fox, Organist, St. Peter’s Cathedral September 25, 2016
Henry Edward Dormer: A London "Saint"?
On the north wall of the west transept of our Cathedral is a marble plaque dedicated to Henry Edward Dormer. Its inscription from Wisdom, chapter 4, reads; “He was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding or deceit beguile his soul. Being made perfect, in a short space he fulfilled a long life” It is intriguing that this unusual tribute was erected by his brother officers in the 60th Regiment of Foot stationed in London, Canada West, in 1866.