Memories of our Church

Memories from the History of St. Francis Church and Her Buildings

Bishop Joseph F. Ryan established St. Francis of Assisi Parish in 1959, and appointed Father Anthony Mayer, C.R., as it’s first pastor. Father “Tony”, as he was affectionately known, had been pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Kitchener, prior to being named pastor of St. Francis.

The pastor of the newly established parish actually starts from scratch so to speak. Father Mayer had no church, no rectory, and very little funding, and had to make arrangements with Father C.M. Straus, his successor as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, to stay at St. Mary’s Rectory, until suitable accommodation within St. Francis Parish could be found. Father Mayer also made arrangements with the Kitchener Separate School Board, for use of St. Francis School for Sunday Masses, and thus the Parish was in motion. Two Sunday Masses were held at 9:00 A.M. and 11:00.A.M.

Some time later a house at 30 Blueridge Avenue was purchased as a rectory. Built by Frank Voisin in 1956, it was a small red brick, three bedroom bungalow with a blue roof, and was located across the street from the future church. Miss Lorraine Busch, one of Father’s housekeepers at St. Mary’s, came to take a similar position in the new St. Francis Rectory.

In 1960 a Parish Building Committee was formed for construction of a church as follows:
Father Mayer
Gerald Corlett
Dr. Vincent Corrigan
J. Joseph Kelly
John Norris
Ted Nowak
Ted Pawlowski
Robert Pugsley
Vincent Scherer
Frank Voisin

In those days a Building Committee was formed, more for public relations than for actually getting involved in the church design. By the time the Building Committee had been named, the Bishop had already commissioned an architect and laid down guidelines as to the cost and design. The Building Committee did get involved in some details, but it was a far cry from present procedures where the committee would actually choose the architect, and become involved in the design of the church.

Richard Pagani of Guelph was the architect, but the work of designing the church was done by Bruce Hoch, a Kitchener draftsman/designer, under the direction of Mr. Pagani.

Tenders were called, and a number of local builders submitted bids, the lowest tender being that of Dunker Construction, which built the church.

The corner stone was placed in 1960. Monsignor Haller, represented Bishop Ryan and Very Rev. Hubert Gehl, Provincial Superior of the Congregation, also participated.

When the church was completed, the Building Committee was disbanded.

Because St. Francis Parish was located in a rapidly growing area of the city, the number of parishioners mushroomed. The new Church, completed in 1961, seated 580 people, and accommodated at least twice as many people as the school.

By 1963, two years after the church was completed, there were three Sunday Masses, at 8:00 A.M., 9:30 A.M., 10:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M.

By 1964 there were four Masses at 7:00 A.M., 8:30 A.M., 10:00 A.M., and 11:00 A.M. There were no Saturday evening Masses in those days.

The work of running the parish soon became too much for one priest, so in 1963 Father Mayer was assigned an assistant, Father Walter Bildstein, C.R. The small Rectory at 30 Blueridge was now bursting at the seams.

It was obvious that a Rectory adjoining the church was an absolute necessity, but Father Mayer simply refused to ask the Bishop for a new Rectory. He did, however, allow Frank Voisin, a parishioner and member of the church Building Committee to discuss the situation with Bishop Ryan, but was adamant that it be made clear to the Bishop, that there was no agitation on the part of the priests for better accommodation.

When Frank went to see Bishop Ryan, he agreed to construction of a new Rectory, provided costs were within certain limits. The Rectory was based on Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory in Waterloo, which had been built by Frank Voisin some years earlier, and on St. Joseph’s Rectory, which had been designed and built by Harold Ball. Father Mayer was satisfied with the plans, and they were approved by the Bishop subject to a number of minor changes, which were incorporated.

Ted Pawlowski, a local builder who was a parishioner and former member of the Church Building Committee, was asked to submit a price. His quote of $43,500.00, was within the designated price range, and the Bishop therefore authorized construction. The Rectory was built in 1973/74. The price was very reasonable, and it is doubtful that it covered all of Mr. Pawlowski’s costs.

One incident recalled was that when the roof was installed, it was found that there were different shades of light grey. Mr. Pawlowski insisted that the manufacturer foot the bill of placing another roof on the Rectory, so that it started its life with two roofs. Also of interest is the fact that the original roof on the church was defective in manufacturing design, and by the time the church was about ten years old, it also had two layers of roofing.

The latest construction project was the addition to the rear of the church. When Father John Miles was pastor, and before Blessed Sacrament Parish was established, there were close to 2,500 families in St. Francis Parish, and the church was short of meeting rooms for various functions.

During the discussion of the possibility of an addition to the rear of the church, it was agreed that Frank Voisin should approach Bishop Reding for approval. The Bishop was found to be quite agreeable, and after the design of the addition, and obtaining a quote from Ball Brothers, via our parishioner Don Pfeffer, Bishop Reding authorized the project to proceed. Construction of the addition was completed in 1977.

Submitted by Frank Voisin