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The History of St. Peter's Mission

by Rev. J. T. Hiscock, B.A.

(from The Fisherman's Advocate, October 10, 1947, page 5, and 7)

A Centenary, that is a hundred years, is something very rare in the life of an individual. In a Parish or Mission, especially in the Western Hemisphere, not very many can be counted or even in Christianity itself, we've only attained nineteen.

In the Mission of Catalina, of which St. Peter's is the Parish Church, we have attained our hundredth anniversary and are now rejoicing thereat. It is right and proper that we sholud (sp.) take a little glimpse backward over our past as a separate mission in the Church of England of Newfoundland.

Our records do not give us anything like a full account of the beginnings of the Churchh's (sp) work in this community. We know from the beginning of permanent settlement here, say well on for 22 years, that the Church's administrations were given chiefly by the clergy of Bonavista. Catalina and the neighbouring settlements formed a part of the large mission of Bonavista and, as frequently as possible, the clergy of Bonavista visited and gave the Church's administration, and the people used to go to Bonavista to receive such services as the Church provided when the clergy could not come to them. But a little over a hundred years ago, that is in 1843, a clergyman was found who could reside here in the person of Rev. William Netten, who was one of a number of schoolmasters whom Bishop Feild ordained to the Diaconate, and it was very nearly to the perpetual Diaconate, as Mr. Netten was ordained Priest not many years before his death.

Although we are labelling this year the Centenary Year, it is a little difficult fro the records to ascertain the exact date when Catalina became a separate Mission from Bonavista.

These are recorded dates of events leading to the Separation:

  • On October 1st, 1841, there is a list of sudscribers (sp.) promising continued yearly support if the Bishop would send a schoolmaster-clergyman.
  • Mr. Netten's first performance of the Baptism Service was October 13th, 1843. First marriage October 30th, 1844. First Burial December 16th, 1843.

So that places Mr. Netten living in Catalina as a clergyman October 30th, 1844, and very likely a clergyman October 13th 1843. Evidently it took from then to 1847 to properly constitute it as a separate mission.

Seperate (sp.) registers for marriages began October 30th, 1833. Baptisms begin November 30th, 1934 (1834?). Burials begin October 30th, 1829.

(One Baptism took place before October 30th, 1833, but the day and month are not specified.)

First Confirmation Service, July 12th, 1846, 6 males, 18 females, total 24.

Perhaps a list of the incumbents may not be uninteresting:

    Rev. W. Netten from the beginning till 1879; Rev. I. G. Cragg, 1879-1894; Rev. E. G. Greehman, 1897-1898; Rev. Theo. R. Nurse, 1898-1900; Rev. G. S. Chamberlain, 1900-1921; Rev. R. F. Mercer, 1921-1923; Rev. T. W. Upward, 1923-1926; Rev. J. T. Hiscock, 1926- 1929; Rev. R. F. Mercer (2nd period), 1929-1943; Rev. S. G. Spurrell 1943 till the present.

There are persons still living within the Mission who can remember them all. I personally knew them all from Mr. Cragg on, and even Mr. Netten died within my memory. Other Clergy who ministered here, either as Curates or on short supply were: Rev. F. Nichols, Curate, 1898-99; Rev. Herbert Bloomfield (from England) 1900; Rev. Allan Rowe as Curate, 1928-29.

The extent of the Mission was from the beginning, Little Catalina to Peaches Cove, Southern Head. The population of Peaches Cove migrated to what was then Ragged Harbour (now Melrose) and became absorbed in another community. Though Little Catalina has not migrated but has greatly increased, I'm afraid I must say; the bulk of what was once Church of England people have given allegiance to another Communion. But Port Union, which has grown up these last 30 years, or so, has added to the population, as well as to the work of the Church, quite as increase.

Now I think we ought to look back again to the past. Church and school in Newfoundland, thank God, have ever been closely allied and that is the position still. But the school activities reached beyond the bounds of the Mission to include Bird Island Cove (now Elliston) in what was known as the School Board of Trinity Bay East. The account books of the Board go back to 1862. Possibly this was the beginning of the inclusion of Bird Island Cove in catalina Mission, but it is quite possible that the connection might have existed before that time. Little Catalina was under this Board till 1878, if Mr. Chard was the teacher there and not at Bird Island Cove. The entry for salary does not specify the place but it looked very much like Little Catalina's salary. Peaches Cove never had a school.

Port Union had its own Board of Education since its founding but for a few years supported with its grant the United Church School, until about 20 years ago, when it supplied its own teacher, in its own school.

In 1875 what was the Board for Trinity Bay East became the Church of England Board of Catalina after what is generally known as the subdivision of the grant. Formerly what was then the Wesleyan Communion (now U. C. of Canada) was included in the common Board. They now received a separate grant and the Trinity Bay East Board paid over to the Wesleyan Board of Education of Trinity Bay East the balance of (pound sign)49 19G, the sum due to them from the Common Board.

Ever since then both have been separate Boards, and both receive their own grants from the Government; so Catalina Board became a separate entity, and has continued so ever since, except for the formation out of it of the Church of England Board of Education for Port Union. Those are now under the C. of E. Board of Catalina, one High School of two departments at Catalina with two teachers. Primary School at East Point with one teacher. Port Union Board has one High School with two teachers, one teacher in each department. The old school under the Trinity Bay East Board was situated near what is now named Schoolhouse Pond. The next Church of England Board school was built near the Church from 1876-1879. This building has now become the S.U.F. Hall. The third and present school was built in 1934. The East Point school was built in 1892-3. The new Port Union school in 1944.

The present Parish Church of St. Peter's is at least the second Church built by the community. It succeeded another Church dedicated to St. Peter and was built very close to the old one. The old account book which is still preserved states the total cost was say (pound sign)1500 that is $6,000. It could not be replaced today for three times that amount. In the same account book there is a note stating that the Parsonage and outohuses (sp) cost about $1500. There is a full list of subscribers and the total cost paid in cash was (pound sign)1324_18 of which 13 shillings and 10 pence was transferred to the General Church Account. The first subscription which was only a first instalment was paid by the Rev. Wm. Netten, the Incumbent, in 1860, (pound sign)5 and last December 29th, 1875, by Francis Brushett of (pound sign)2_0_0. The collection was kept open for about 15 years, and every year the Parishioners and other friends and benefactors made a substantial payment. The list reveals the splendid generosity of our fathers and fore-fathers, who gave abundantly and of their slender means. Though the liberality generally of present day Catalina Parishoners (sp) towards their Church is of a very good order, it would be a stimulant to them to read what their fathers (who did not see anything like the cash they handle now a days) did out of their very limited means. They certainly (sp) left us a good example of what ordinary folks can do. They put their wills and backs into a good work. Outside subscribers too showed the same generous disposition. Most of these have long ago entered into their rest and on this occasion when we are reviewing their work, the prayer will naturally arise from the lips of their children, "May that Rest be eternal and perpetual light be ever their portion".

This Church is the one we use today and is in good state of repair and can still be used for many a long year to come. The old Parsonage, a good house for its day, has been replaced by a new one with modern conveniences and was completed four years ago. There is a splendid Parish Hall and I note with pleasure it has been extensively repaired and painted this summer. The Church property has always been kept in a very good state of repair, and with the exception of some fences around the fairly extensive Parsonage grounds is not at all in a bad condition. Perhaps a little hint like this will set our congregation thinking - and then doing.

A review of Church activities during this past hundred years would be very incomplete without a few words about the Church of England Women's Association. A branch has been continuously at work here since its inception by Rev. G. Gardiner over 60 years ago. But I remember as a small boy my mother attending meetings then held in what we use to call the "old end" of Mr. Joseph Guy's old home. Mr. Mark Guy then occupied the other end.

(Concluded on page 7)

Year in and year out the faithful few of the women of the congregation have pursued their activities in forwarding every effort made for the upkeep of the Church premises and other good works of a Christian congregation.

The debt the Church owes to those women, some of whom are of the third generation, will never be assessed, and some of which never recorded. Like their husbands and husband's fathers before them, they have lived and worked faithfully for the particular congregation of the Church in which their lot was cast, as well as for the Church generally.

For those whose work in the Church Militant has ceased, may God grant progress in the Church at rest, and to those who still remain may be given strength and will and courage to carry on, knowing that the work they do is the Lord's work and that it is not vain, even in this world, much less in the world to come.

Transcribed by James Butler, 1999
Revised by Jim Butler, 2003

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