St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish



"As for the temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father”
(Acts 2:42)


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“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:
  • About 1832, St. Stephen’s church was determined to be the first Catholic Church consecrated in the Kennebecasis Valley. This church was later closed after the Sacred Heart Church at Norton Station was blessed in 1899.

  • About 1845, Saint Patrick’s church at Philamaroe (25 kilometers east of Sussex) was erected. Sometime after 1905 when many initial settlers had moved away from that settlement, the congregation relocated to Waterford. At the time this document was prepared, Mrs. Bernie Yerxa, the church’s oldest parishioner (at the age of 99) explained that the land in Waterford was donated by her father, Hugh Doherty (Senior) and the church was situated at the foot of the present day Poley Mountain ski hill.

  • In 1846, through collecting money in Saint John for a ‘building fund’ the first St. Francis Xavier Church at Ward’s Creek was commenced. This church was located near the site of the present day cemetery. The church reminded in Ward’s Creek until the present Saint Francis Xavier Church on Church Avenue in Sussex was blessed in 1900. The rectory in Ward’s Creek burnt in 1897, and along with it, all the earlier church records. The present Rectory on Church Avenue was obtained in 1898.
  • “In the mid-19th century a church was built along the South Branch Road and was under the care of a Priest from Elgin. At this time there was a church at Lynch Settlement along with another Catholic Church at the fork in the road leading from Hillsdale to Saddleback.” These churches are no longer in existence, although their cemeteries may be found.

  • In 1888, St. Phillip’s church in Millstream was blessed. The original congregation from Millstream and Dingley Couch previously crossed the mountains to attend St. Michael’s Church at White’s Mountain. It is uncertain when the White’s Mountain church was first erected, but it is believed to be in the mid-1800 when a flourishing settlement existed there.

  • In 1917, the Church of St. Michael, White’s Mountain was destroyed by fire and a new church was built at Newtown and blessed in 1921.

  • In 1919, the Mission Church of Our Lady of Ranson, Fredericton Road was transferred to Saint Francis Xavier Parish. In the 1950’s, this Mission was transferred to and included as part of the Dioceses of Moncton.

  • In 1921, another church, St. Gabriel’s at Anagance Ridge was blessed.

  • In 1955, a mission was opened in Havelock for a few years.


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.

Acknowledgements

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.