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The People of
"The Head of the Bay"

(A story about the people of Conception Hr.)

by Rev. C.S. Costello
Posted in the Monitor - July 1978



On my retirement as parish priest of Pasadena in January 1966, I spent the following four months in the United States. During that time I did part time work assisting busy parish priests in the great archdiocese of Philadelphia. Then I returned to Newfoundland in June for the summer and early fall months. I followed that course of action for the next two years. It was a rewarding experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. However, I finally offered my services on a temporary basis to do work in the parish "at the head of the bay" known as St. Anne's, Conception Hr. in the diocese of Grand Falls. Bishop Penney kindly accepted my offer. Seeing all my people originated and came from this grand old historic parish, it was like coming back home to a place that has held many sentimental, as many oft repeated stories and family memories.

The parish and town of Conception Hr. have has a grand and proud record. For many years Colliers formed part of this parish at "the head of the bay". The parish Colliers was canonically set up in the year 1948. It to can be proud of its people and their achievements. The late and saintly Fr. Patrick Hearn was born in Colliers and worked as a priest for some 18 or 19 years in the Diocese of Hr. Grace, dying in the year 1931, at the early age of 43. His priestly life was a source of edification to all who came in contact with him. To the Rt. Rev. Wm. Veitch goes the credit of building the lovely St. Anne's Church and the spacious and grand presbytery which were, indeed, noble achievements in those days around the turn of the century. Msgr. Veitch was P.P. of St. Anne's Parish from 1891 until his death in June, 1917.

The Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy opened a convent in this parish in the year 1869, the year my father was born in Kitchuses. The one hundredth anniversary of the Sisters foundation was fittingly commemorated at Conception Hr. on May 19, 1969, with a special Mass and a Centennial banquet. The Sisters of Mercy are still here after 109 years of faithful service.

St. Anne's Parish is proud of the fact it has given eleven wonderful sisters to the Mercy Order. Eight of them lived to celebrate their golden jubilees; three of them their diamond jubilees. Of the eight, three are dead: Sister Gertrude Kennedy, Sister Margaret Mary St. John and Sister Madeline Trahey. One family that of Mr. And Mrs. J.P. Wade gave three of their daughters to religious life. They are: Sister Liguori Wade; Sister Anthony Wade and Sister Barbara Wade, all living and all three have celebrated their golden jubilees as sisters. They have given over 160 years of service to the Mercy Order. Sister Scholastica Flynn has completed 54 years in religious life; Sister Kathleen Buck, 53 years; Sister Catherine Kenny entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1932 after receiving her R.N. in Baltimore, Sister Catherine spent most of her religious life at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital as Superintendent of Nurses. For the past few years she has been living at the Littledale Generalate as secretary general to the Superior General of the Mercy Order; Sister Mary Costello entered the Mercy Order in 1944 and was accidentally killed in a car accident in February 1977; Sister Denise Costello entered the convent in 1947 and celebrated her silver jubilee as a religious in 1972.

While in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, I had the please of meeting, at least, four priests whose parents came from the parish at 'the head of the bay'. They were Fr. Wm. Burke, Fr. Paul Kenny; Fr. Wm. Walsh and Fr. James Dalton. It is true Fr. Burke's parents came from Colliers but it was at a time when Colliers was part of the Conception parish, Fr. Burke has done faithful service in the diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas for about 40 years. Fr. Paul Kenny is an Obiate of St. Francis De Sales. He has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and has taught mathematics at the Oblate College in Pa. For a number of years. Fr. Wm. Walsh, also an Oblate, has just received his M.A. from the Catholic University in Washington. Fr. James Dalton another Oblate of St. Francis De Sales is Vice-Principal of a 1200 boys high school in Wilmington, Pa.

The urge for Newfoundlanders, particularly people of this area to seek employment in the USA, seems to have begun well over 150 years ago. The failure of the NF and Lab fishery and the great lack of employment at home, were perhaps the main causes for this migration abroad. In the larger U.S. cities such as New York, Brooklyn, Camden, NJ, Boston and Cleveland, we find large numbers of Newfoundlanders. It seems Conception Hr. is well represented in numbers; Avondale and Hr. Main are close seconds. At the annual Newfoundland dinner-dance in Philadelphia on February 12, over 400 people attended. It would seem 85 % attending were Conceptionites, or at least, their parents came from there. We can be proud of the fact that our people in the USA practice and are faithful to their holy faith. John Nugent who retired in June from Nativity Parish in Port Richmond, Phila., after a pastorate of 20 years often remarked how dependable and cooperative his Newfoundland parishioners were. He said they always came forward when called upon to help out in any parish undertaking. He had great respect for and was proud of them. Speaking of Msgr. Nugent it is of interest to note that he was the priest who prepared the saintly Mother Catherine Drexel for death. Her cause for canonization is now underway and is being processed both in Rome and Philadelphia.

Besides the subjects who entered the religious life from Conception Hr. many more subjects, whose parents left this parish years ago have become priests, sisters and brothers, particularly in the larger U.S. cities. I had the pleasure of meeting many of those fine religious. Many of our lay people too, have made their mark in their newly adopted homeland. Just to mention a few: Mr. Wm Kennedy, a native of this parish, an alumnus of St. Bonaventure's College, is a very enterprising and successful businessman. Mr. Kennedy has his own Metal Window business in New Jersey. He is still active at 70, and spends most of his summers here in Conception Hr. The late Charles Wade, another native of this parish, who became a successful industrialist and whose building enterprises were well known in the city of Philadelphia. His company comprised of Wade, Shilling and Tennipon, was known as the National Corporation. That same company built many of the larger stone buildings in that city, including the largest skyscraper known as the P.S.F.C. building on Market Street near City Hall in the heart of the city. Dr. Harold Curran is a specialist in radiology and is head of that Department in St. Clarie's Hospital, Schenectedy, N.Y. Dr. Harold is the son of the late Michael Curren of Conception Hr. Rev. Brother De Paul Costello became a Franciscan almost 30 years ago. He is presently teaching in a high school on Long Island. Brother De Paul is the son of Mrs. Alice Strapp Costello and the late Robert (Gull) Costello of Conception Hr. John Dalton son of Mrs. Jane Dalton and the late Fred Dalton, formerly of Conception Hr. is also in the building business. He has his own company and gives steady employment to a number of men, who work for him on construction jobs.

It is interesting to note and we have strong evidence on which to base our belief that more Newfoundland-Americans visit Conception Hr. each year than in any other Newfoundland out-port of its own size or even larger. Conceptionites retain a deep and lively interest in and love for the place of their birth. Some of them even retire here when they reach retirement age. Many others build and maintain summer homes so that they can return at will and stay anywhere from 3 to 4 months at a time. Last year Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy not only spent the entire summer here, but they came back again from New Jersey around the 20th of December and spent the whole of the Christmas season visiting relatives and friends. Mr. Kennedy maintains a home of his own in this community as well as a home in New Jersey.

The parish at 'the head of the bay' has had its good and bad days, but it is still vigorous and progressive. Its people are above all loyal to the traditions of their forefathers, their homelands and their parish church. It is, indeed, a privilege and a pleasure to be associated with this historic parish and community. It is also an honor to be numbered among those whose progenitors came out from the Emerald Isle well over a century ago to eke out a living in the peace and quiet of a new land. Many of them came to begin a new life and they settled in and around the rugged and picturesque shores of Conception Bay.



Page contributed by: Barbara Mcgrath, February 17th, 2000
Page revised: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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