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St. Vincent de Paul Parish

Oromocto, NB
Sunbury County

Located at the junction of the St. John and Oromocto rivers, the community of Oromocto had, for centuries, been a meeting place for the Indian tribes from a wide ranging area. It was a convenient location, being situated on the portage route between the St. John River and the rivers and lakes of the New England states. 

Settlers were established in the Maugerville and Sheffield area as early as 1762-63 as a result of a survey of the left bank of the Oromocto River completed by Isaac Perley in 1761. Because of the major flood plain on which these communities were located, many of the early settlers would eventually choose to move to higher ground on the other side of the river at Oromocto.

In the early to mid-1800s, four churches were erected to serve the needs of the community: St. John’s Anglican Church, Methodist and Baptist churches, and, in 1860, as a mission of St. Ignatius Parish, Petersville, and serving a large proportion of the Irish settlers (with surnames such as Kenney, Dean, Shaw, Knox, Ives) – St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. Fr. Luke O’Reagan was the first resident pastor for the parish.

At this period, the primary industry in the area was shipbuilding, and the River Valley Lumber Company sawmill at Oromocto. An unfortunate consequence of the sawmill industry was to be a major fire in 1918, in which the small St. Vincent de Paul church was destroyed. It was immediately rebuilt, only to be destroyed again in another fire that started at the sawmill in 1919.

“On Sept. 30, 1919 the village was partially destroyed by fire. The outbreak occurred shortly before noon in the sawmill and, as a brisk northwest wind was blowing, the fire soon spread to the lumber yard and from there sparks and embers carried to the adjacent homes. No fire-fighting equipment was available and the fire spread rapidly. Before nightfall over thirty homes, one large and two smaller stores, barns and outbuildings, and the four churches were destroyed.”1

The current St. Vincent de Paul Church in Oromocto, NB  Photo: Pax Vobis
The current St. Vincent de Paul Church in Oromocto, NB  Photo: Pax Vobis

In 1921 a much larger St. Vincent de Paul Church once more welcomed its congregation through its door. The reconstruction was under the direction of Father W.P. Hannigan.

“Many of the families made homeless by the 1919 fire began to rebuild, and within the next two years many of the buildings were replaced. Following the fire the four churches held services in the school building which had escaped the fire. Gradually, over a period, all of the churches were replaced.”2


St. Vincent de Paul continued as a mission of St. Ignatius Parish until 1956 when Fr. Joseph Daly was appointed resident pastor and the centre of the parish was moved to Oromocto, still part of the Diocese of Saint John.

In 1964, under the direction of Fr. J. Paul Mitchell, the church was enlarged and renovated and a large parish hall was built. The hall continues to serve the needs of the parishioners for catechism classes, church dinners, wedding and funeral receptions, Knights of Columbus meetings and activities, and is available for hire for community activities. 

One needs only to take a look at the roll call of pastors who have served at St. Vincent de Paul over the years to witness the Irish connection with this church. Indeed, from its inception in 1860 until 1996, every resident pastor, to a person, has been of Irish descent:

1860 – 1865    Fr. Luke O’Reagan
1866 – 1901    Fr. Patrick Farrell
1901 – 1905    Fr. J.J. McDermott
1905 – 1918    Fr. C.P. Carleton
1918 – 1922    Fr. W.P. Hannagan
1922 – 1932    Fr. Arthur Allen
1932 – 1942    Fr. Charles T. Boyd
1942 – 1953    Fr. William Moore
1953 – 1962    Fr. Joseph Daley
1962 – 1973    Fr. J. Paul Mitchell
1973 – 1981    Fr. Bernard Stack
1981 – 1989    Fr. Arthur Alexander
1989 – 1996    Fr. Paul Riley
1996 – 2002    Fr. Donald Savoie
2002 –              Fr. Ken Weir

A walk through the large cemetery next to the church reveals a co-mingling of Irish and French names as both groups were instrumental in the ongoing development of the parish.

Today the Catholic parish of St. Vincent de Paul continues to minister to the needs of many Irish descendents such as Nowlans and Murrays, Gilberts and Gallaghers, McMonagles and McDonoughs, Dunns and Ryans, and many more, and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.
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[1] History of Oromocto, Harold G. Kimball, Unipress, Fredericton, NB 1966, pg. 18
[2] Ibid, pg. 19

Bibliography

History of Oromocto, Harold G. Kimball, Unipress, Fredericton, NB 1966

Pax Vobis: The History of the Diocese of Saint John its Bishops and Parishes, Rev. Dr. Michael McGowan, Editions du Signe, B.P. 94 – 67038 Strasbourg – France, 2004