St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish
Our Dearly Departed
“Pride in the Past and Faith in the Future”
A fire at the Rectory in Wards Creek in 1897 destroyed many of the earlier church records. However, it is reckoned that gatherings of the Roman Catholic faith community among the settlers that came to dwell among the ‘hills and valleys’ surrounding Sussex Vale have occurred since the early 1800’s. Long before any church building had been erected in Kings County by the Roman Catholic settlers, travelling missionaries held Masses where a few scattered families could be assembled.
The first Catholic Church in all of Kings County was named St. Stephen’s Church and erected on the location of what is now known as the Lower Norton cemetery. In 1845 recordkeeping was started for the Church in Kings County with a register of baptisms and marriages for Norton, Ward’s Creek, White’s Mountain, Dutch Valley, and Philamaroe.
Key milestones in the evolution of the Parish are:
With the replacement of the ‘horse and carriage’ with automobiles and development of better roads and modern communications, the Mission churches surrounding Sussex gradually closed during the 1950’s. Today, the only Mission church is St. Phillip’s at the Head of Millstream.
Over the years, the decisions to establish so many churches in the area speak to the strong faith, courage, determination, and commitment of the parish’s early founders. The cemeteries attached to many of these churches, hold the remains of many of these early settlers. Many descendants of many of these founders are still parishioners that can proudly trace their heritage back for several generations through family ties to these Mission churches.
One of the longest serving priests was Father James Veriker who was pastor from 1856 – 1886. “His ministry was during the day when the ravages of fever and the epidemics of diphtheria, which periodically struck the countryside, carried away countless numbers of children as well as the elders.” A stained glass window in the present church is dedicated in his name.
Another long servicing pastor was the Rt. Rev. Francis F. Walker, (from 1940 to his death in 1970). During the years Monsignor Walker served this Parish, the first Recreational Hall and Bowling Alleys were built. This property, a few years later, was destroyed by fire. In the debate about whether to rebuild the Hall, Monsignor Walker, who was greatly concerned about the youth of the Parish is reported to have told parishioners that they can discuss it ‘all they want’, but he was determined to rebuild it ‘bigger and better’. The new Hall and Bowling Alley was built in 1950.
In 1975 Saint Francis Xavier Church was refurbished to update the interior in accordance with the vision set forth by the Vatican II. It was necessary to close the church for a period of two months and St. Paul’s United Church congregation graciously offered the use of their church for the weekend Masses. “St. Paul’s United Church greeted us with open arms thus leading to the breaking down of the walls of religious indifference and intolerance toward other churches. A new age was upon us and since that time we have been growing in our respect for other church communities.”
In 1994, the interior of the church was further refurbished with new pews and the ‘Life- sized Cross’ which the main focal point was erected.
In 2000, parishioners on the occasion of the ‘100 year’ anniversary of the existing Saint Francis Xavier Church prepared a book entitled “100 Years Of Memories’ .This book provided a collection of stories providing an interesting ‘off the cuff’ sketches of the folk history contained in the memories of many who had longtime associations with the parish. As well, special acknowledgement goes to:
The Story of ‘Sussex and Vicinity’ New Brunswick authored by Grace Aiton and Published by Kings County Historical Society, 1967.
Several sentences have been quoted directly from these references
Official Historical Booklet – Diocese of Saint John published on the occasion of the Diocesan Rally of Catholic Men, September 19, 1948.
‘Pax Vobis’ – A History of the Diocese of Saint John, by Rev. Dr. Michael McGowan, published in 2004.