By Annette Mooney
for the Irish Loop Post
This year marks the 150th year anniversary of Holy Trinity Church in Ferryland.
When it was consecrated in September of 1865, it marked the last of the five stone churches built under Bishop John Thomas Mullock. The other four were constructed in Torbay, Kilbride, Blackhead and St. Kyran's.
The original name of the Ferryland Church was Holy Family, and it had taken two years to complete. The cornerstone was laid on May 31, 1863, and for the next two years, the people of Ferryland rowed back and forth from Stone Island in Calvert gathering the stone needed to build the church. This was no small undertaking for men who had families to support, let alone building a stone church. It was beautifully decorated with stained glass windows over the altar and statues on either side.
Fr. James Murphy, the parish priest at the time, who was instrumental in having the church built, was indeed a proud man on the day of the consecration.
What a day Sept. 10th, 1865 was! According to an account dated Sept. 14, 1865, in The Newfoundlander, a prominent newspaper of the period, a large group from the Catholic Institute in St. John's travelled up to Ferryland on The Diamond, a vessel similar to a steamboat.
Landing at Carter's wharf, they were given a rousing welcome with flags, streamers, volleys of gun shots and even a marching band. These Institute members were indeed on a mission, as the paper's account reads, "they were there to secure, as far as possible, a regular discharge of the duties of religion, and a strict observance of the laws of morality by the combined aid of religious practices, intellectual advancement, and social reunions."
Now, they had a job, didn't they? This account in The Newfoundlander is well worth the read, not only for historical documentation, but for its literary style which has long since fallen by the wayside. Other parts of the article talk about the large attendance by the people of Ferryland and neighbouring parishioners; many whom had given "handsome financial donations." These included two protestant gentlemen from Ferryland and the Messr. Cashin from Cape Broyle who gave 100 pounds; in addition to donating two of the three stained glass windows over the altar.
The decades following the consecration saw many other features added to Holy Trinity including a three-story tower which was not completed until 1898, and which was also built with stone from Stone Island.
According to an article in The Telegram dated Aug. 17, 1898, the tower could have been completed much earlier, but "Fr. Vereker, P.P. will have nothing done to any property, church or otherwise, unless he's got the money to plank down."
In 1927, the grand marble altar, purchased from Rome, Italy, had a tablet installed containing the names of the men from our area killed in World War 1. The inscription in Latin reads: Their bodies are buried in peace, but their names shall live from generation to generation (Eccl.XIV.14).
The Grotto, located next to the entrance of the church, holds statues from the wrecked vessel, the S.S. Torhamvan, which ran aground in Ferryland on Oct. 29, 1926. The people of Ferryland have always been cognizant of the role religion has played in their historic lineage. Lord Baltimore, who arrived in Ferryland on July 23, 1627, founded the first Catholic Colony in North America, and envisioned that Colony of Avalon as a great missionary outpost in the New World.
Over the past 70 years, Holy Trinity Church has seen numerous changes: some necessary; some mistakes. In 1995, a group of concerned residents founded the Holy Trinity Restoration Foundation with the hope of returning the church to its original state and preserving it for future generations. With funds from a weekly TV bingo, memoriam donations and government funding, the foundation has renovated the exterior, erected new stained glass windows, and completed landscape work on the grotto. The tower will be the last part to be restored.
On Sunday, August 16 at 11 o'clock, Fr. Ken Walsh, the present Parish Priest, will celebrate a special Mass to mark this milestone of 150 years. This will be followed by a social at the Southern Shore Folk Arts building. All are welcome.