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History of St. Ann's Parish,
Codroy Valley, Nfld.
The earliest records of St. Ann's Parish date to 1867. Father Alexis Belanger arrived at Sandy Point from the Magdelan Islands on Sept. 7, 1850. His first recorded visit to an area known as " Grand River " ( Codroy Valley ) was in 1867. He traveled by fishing boat, or on foot and snowshoes over the mountains and through the trees, as there were no roads connecting the areas. The people of Grand River had built a log structure to be used as a chapel on the shore of the Codroy River possibly at the request of a visiting priest or a French Navy Chaplain.
At the request of Father Belanger a Cape Breton Priest who spoke Gaelic traveled to the West Coast to give the parishioners who spoke Gaelic the opportunity to go to confession in their own language. Rev. Joseph Chisholem arrived in Grand River and records of baptism and marriages show he was here May through August of 1867.
On April 15, 1869, Rev. Thomas Sears of Ireland, ordained in Antigonish, arrived in Grand River. He was the first resident priest in the area. Rev. Sears was a very hard working man, he built the first roads a joining the communities, encouraged the people to engage in farming, introduced reading circles, introduces order and system into the baptized lives of his parishioners, and wrote articles in the St. John's Press to publicize the West Coast. Schools were built and teachers introduced to the area.
He erected his first church with a modest Glebe house on the bank of the present day site of the Chapel Green Cemetery in Great Codroy. This was destroyed by fire in 1878 and many church records and histories written by Rev. Sears were lost.
Over the years Msgr. Sears was accompanied by various missionary priests, only staying a few weeks or months at a time.
Msgr. Sears visited Channel-Port aux Basques on April 28, 1869 and said mass in the home of John Keating. He encouraged the little group at Channel to set about the work of a building. Rev. MH Howley celebrated the first mass in the new church of St. Michaels on Sept. 29, 1869. The blessing and christening of the bell of St. Michael's took place in 1886. St. Michael's was discontinued and taken down by Msgr. Andrew Sears in 1932. The materials and anything of value was given to Rev. John F Curran, Parish priest of St. Jacques Parish, Fortune Bay.
Page Revised: July 2002 (Don Tate)
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