Historical Photo of Church



This beautiful stone church of Our Lady of the Visitation with its towering steeple, reaching as it were for the skies, stands as a monumental memorial to our forefathers. High above the main entrance of the church in a niche in the facade is a statue of the Virgin Mary faded and worn with the mist of time, like a sentinel she stands overlooking all those who enter and leave and all those who have been carried to their last resting place.

As one reads the inscriptions on the weather-beaten tombstones, Native of County Armagh, Ireland Co., Cork County Carlow, Down, Kilkenny, Tyrone, Wexford, etc., one realizes these early immigrants from Ireland were a hardy folk, and hardy they had to be. They knew the reality of suffering, hunger, illness and even death. Along with other pioneers, they helped open this country and gave us a safe, happy environment in which we live. Our own descendants can live in peace and freedom because people of strength and courage took a chance on a new land, followed their dream, and in so doing helped to make our dreams come true.




Page from the 1910 Offering Booklet – with interesting milestones for the church

Historical Sketch of Our Lady of the Visitation

On September 27, 1843 Father Patrick Phelan, Bishop of Carrhoe, Co-adjudicator and Administrator of the Diocese of Kingston, gave the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Church of Gloucester, called the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A list of church members of both sexes was printed at that time.

South Gloucester was established as a mission by the Bishop of Kingston, Mgr. Remi Goulin, in 1845. The first appointed priest in 1845 was Rev. F.J. Ryan, missionary priest from Bytown. First resident parish priest, appointed by Bishop Guigues of Bytown, was Father Francis Clement, O.M.I.

The Church of Our Lady of the Visitation is situated on Lot 28, Concession 4, Rideau Front, in what is now the City of Ottawa. As a note of interest, the Ontario Land Records state June 23, 1819 by Order in Council, Free Grant of Land, Lot 28, Concession 4 to Philip Empy, residence Williamsburg, son of United Empire Loyalist.

An indenture of Bargain and Sale (in part only) made the twenty-first day of February in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and forty-six by and between Patrick O’Dougherty, his wife Charlotte Sparrow, and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Kingston, in the province of Canada and whereby, the said party of the first part in consideration of the sum of five pounds of lawful money, convey that certain parcel or tract of land, contains by measurement four acres, the same more or less, situated on part of Lot 28, Concession 4 in Gloucester Township to the Episcopal Corporation of Kingston, for religious purpose.

This indenture was signed by Father Dandurand, O.M.I. and Father Francis Clement, O.M.I. – Patrick Phelan, Bishop of Carrhol.

There are various reports as to when the first Chapel was built. A report by Father Dandurand registered in the Cathedral Registry (Archives) that a Chapel existed in Gloucester, built in 1830. This is most logical and coincides with a statement written September 19, 1851 by Bishop Guigues relating to his visit to Gloucester three years ago (1848) and I quote: “I was shocked to see such a miserable Chapel, shakey wooden building, open to all winds and a very sad wooden altar the only piece of furniture in the place. Now the Oblates have a new rectory and are ministering in a beautiful spacious Church built of stone and when finished will be one of the most beautiful Churches of Upper Canada.”

In 1855, the Bishop writes again, due to the efforts of an extremely zealous Father Deleage this church built of stone – 100 feet long – 45 feet wide was formally blessed in July 1852. The steeple was put up in the latter part of 1854 under the guidance of Father Coopman. The inscription on the Bell read: Meneely, West Troy, N.Y. 1852.

A Preview to the Founding of the Mission

The Algonquin First Nations were in the Bytown area when Champlain arrived in 1613. He had a Missionary Priest with him. The Jesuit Fathers came to Canada in 1625. Peace with the local Indigenous Peoples in 1701 …[helped with bringing the Gospel message to the area].

Bishop Alexander MacDonnell was born in Scotland in 1762, was ordained in 1787 and arrived in Canada in 1803. He was made Vicar General for Upper Canada in 1817, which belonged then to the Diocese of Quebec. After 1759, many missionaries were succeeded to Upper Canada and the first priest for this part of the Ottawa Diocese should be mentioned, a French priest Father Jacques De La Mothe. Father Patrick Sweeney, who had a Chapel at Perth and administered along the Ottawa River, succeeded Father De La Mothe in 1820. Other noted missionaries were Father Dolan and Father Brady, travelling missionaries for the Ottawa Valley. Their only means of travel were foot, horseback or canoe. Father Brady merited to be called the Pioneer of the Secular Missionaries and Pastor of Ottawa since he spent his whole life in our Valley.

In 1820, Father Sweeny asked for the aid of Bishop MacDonnell after consultation with Bishop Plasses of Quebec. Bishop MacDonnell asked Father Sweeney to include the Mission of Richmond in his parish. Thus, in 1822 Father Heron was installed to live among the Catholic of Richmond.

In 1826, the Diocese of Kingston was established with Bishop Alexander MacDonnell appointed as the first Bishop.

In 1827, Father Heron took up residence in Bytown as the first resident priest but continued to serve Richmond until 1829. Father Angus MacDonnell, nephew of Bishop MacDonnell, took over in June 1829 and was charged with the building of a new Church in Bytown.

In 1824, Bishop MacDonnell visited the Ottawa Valley. He met numerous difficulties and found with sadness that there were few priests and people were dying without receiving the Sacraments.

In 1840, Bishop Bourget of Montreal made a Pastoral visit to Upper Canada. This visit was prepared for some time, all the Missions even the most remote were visited, some other parishes and missions were canonically erected. The fruits of this pastoral visit were numerous. In a pastoral letter dated the 25th of November 1840, Bishop Bourget congratulated himself for his superior trip to Ottawa.

On October 26, 1842, Father Patrick Phelan was sent to Bytown by Bishop Bourget of Montreal. He had the title of Vicar General and had two temporary assistants with him. On February 20, 1843, Father Phelan was named co-adjucator of Kingston. He was consecrated August 20, 1843 in his Parish Church in Montreal by Bishop Bourget. Father Phelan regretted very much leaving his parish of Bytown; not being able to find a successor, he consulted Bishop Bourget. The Bishop of Montreal persuaded him to call in the Oblate Fathers, recently arrived in the country.

On February 26, 1844, Father Adrian Telmon, O.M.I., Superior of the New Foundation, arrived in Bytown as Pastor. The Mission extended throughout a boundless territory roughly from Onslow, Fitzroy, to the Eastern Boundary of Ontario. On September 16, 1845, Fathers Malloy and Dandurand, O.M.I., arrived in Bytown.

On the 3rd of December 1845, in one of his reports to his Superior General, Father Dandurand writes, “Gloucester, Osgoode, and March each had a very simple poor wooden Chapel. Gloucester and Osgoode combined could probably support a resident priest. Their constant demand for a resident priest reached the Bishop’s heart, but he could not grant their demand because of the poor and unsatisfactory comfort they could provide for their priest. Father Ryan, ministering at Gloucester at that time, sensed the need for a Church and was encouraging the people.

In the spring of 1846, Bishop Bourget went to Europe to visit the Holy Father, Pope Pius IX, to ask for a Bishop for Bytown. He then visited the founder of the Oblate Order, Bishop DeMazenod of Marseilles, France and asked for a member of his Order to become Bishop of Bytown. By a brief dated July 9, 1847, Father Guigues, O.M.I. was named the first Bishop of Ottawa. The most Reverend Joseph Eugene Guigues, born in Gap, France August 27, 1805, novice of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1826, ordained Deacon in 1827, Professor in Marseilles, France in 1827, ordained to the priesthood May 13, 1828, arrived in Canada in 1844, appointed the first Bishop of Bytown July 9, 1847 and served in this capacity for 26 years. He died February 8, 1874.

In 1848, when Bishop Guigues made his tour of the country, he counselled his people on how to proceed to upgrade the Chapel and build a Rectory, modest but comfortable to accommodate a Pastor. After long consideration and realization that it would be advantageous for the Diocese on the whole, the promise of a new church, it was decided to establish a residence for priests in Gloucester. Thus it was, September 1st 1848; Father Thomas H. Clement was appointed the first resident priest with a Mission of St. Catherine’s, situated on Lot 20, Concession 6, in Osgoode Township. The residence would also provide the missionaries a resting place, as well as providing the Oblate Fathers the opportunity to study English, the language spoken by the majority of the Gloucester and Osgoode residents.

Father Clement’s signature appeared for the first time in the Parish Registry on September 24, 1848. However, in the Diocesan Registre des Lettres, it is noted that Father Clement blessed a wedding in South Gloucester dated 19 September 1848.

Soon after establishing residence in Gloucester, the Oblates were faced with the task of building a new church. Rev. Father Ryan, prior to the coming of Father Clement, had induced the people to form a committee in view of building a new church. Bishop Guigues requested a blueprint from Father Clement for a church measuring no less than 100 feet long, 45 feet wide and at least 35 feet high. If finishing the interior presented a problem at the time, it could be planned for 3 or 4 years later. Bishop Guigues also insisted on a provision of 7 acres of land surrounding the existing Chapel, providing land for the new Church, Rectory and Cemetery.

The parishioners would have 15 days to think about such plans and if they could not see their way clear (the committee members), Fathers Clement and Deleage would return to Bytown and the parishioners would have to work something out on their own. The energetic Father Clement knew how to reach out to his people. Mostly of Irish nationality, real prodigals, really set all possibility into reality.

With the help of his untiring enthusiastic young Vicar Father Deleage and his parishioners, a superb Church of Gothic Architecture was built. It resembles the Monumental Church of France; it was to cost no less than 28,800 Francs.

Building of the church was begun in 1849. The stone was quarried on the McGee properties. The pillars, made of square timber, were according to stories told, hauled from the farm of Thomas Daley and his wife, Mary McGee, on the old Prescott Road and were an occasion for a contest. There was quite a controversy as to who should have won the prize; Mr. Jimmy Smith or Mr. Michael Power, because of their expertise with a broad axe. The high altar was carved by Mr. Flavion Rochon in 1861. The pews, in the old box type, were built in 1874 by Terry Fagan, Michael Power and Jimmy Smith.

In 1861, Census for Gloucester Township reads: Rev. Father O’Boyle, born Ireland – age 34: Rev. Father John O’Brien, born Ireland – age 28. Both of the above names are by the following remarks. There is erected on this section of the County on Lot 28, Concession 4, a large Roman Catholic Church very nearly completed. The estimated cost up to the present is $3,500. There is a Gallery in it; a Burial Ground attached to it and a shed and yard for horses and will take $500.00 to finish. It will accommodate 1000 people. The church was formally blessed in July 1852; the steeple was put up in the latter part of 1854 under the guidance of Father Coopman.

Father Clement was transferred to Maniwaki, but before leaving he secured the acreage of land needed for the new church.

Father Deleage served the parish from 1848 to 1853. He was also transferred to Maniwaki. Shortly after establishing a residence in Maniwaki, he returned to South Gloucester and unscrupulously interested 17 families in moving to his new parish to populate a new land.

August 13, 1855, the O.M.I. Provincial Superior expressed his wish to Bishop Guigues that he thought it was time the Oblates were replaced in South Gloucester.

Father Thomas O’Boyle former Oblate was appointed the first secular priest of Our Lady of the Visitation and also in charge of the Mission of St. Catherine’s, St. John’s and St. Brigid’s. He remained there until his appointment as first resident priest to St. John’s of Osgoode and the Mission of St. Brigid’s.

The Pastors and Priests of Our Lady of the Visitation 1845 - 2022

Father J. Ryan was the first missionary priest appointed by the Bishop of Kingston in 1845 to South Gloucester. Prior to the advent of his successor, Father Clement, he had induced the people to form a committee with the view of building a new church. Father Ryan drew the plans for the present church but it was built later by Father Clement.

Father Francis Clement, O.M.I., was appointed the first resident priest at Our Lady of the Visitation on September 1, 1848, where he stayed until he was sent to Maniwaki in 1850. He was born on May 26, 1820, at Cuthvert, Quebec. He was ordained on February 9, 1845, by Bishop Jean Charles Prince, Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal. He left the Oblates to become a secular priest in Quebec. He was killed in a locomotive accident in Gabrael de Brand on January 18, 1851, and was buried at Cuthvert, Quebec.

Father John Regis Deleage, O.M.I., was born on December 15, 1821, in Sant Sigolene, France. He was ordained in Canada by Bishop Guigues of Bytown on October 29, 1848, and appointed to South Gloucester from 1848 to 1853. He died on August 1, 1884, in Ottawa and was buried at the Notre Dame Cemetery in Hull, Quebec.

Father Antoin Paillier, O.M.I., was born on December 9, 1827, in Palm Bay, France. He was ordained in Oxen Province, Southern France, by Charles Eugene DeMazenod, Bishop of Marseilles and founder of the Oblates order. Father Paillier came to Our Lady of the Visitation for 1854-55. He died in Ottawa on January 26, 1916, and was buried in the Notre Dame Cemetery in Hull, Quebec.

Father Francis Coopman, O.M.I., was born on March 26, 1826 at Zuvevegem, Belgium. He studied in Belgium and Maryville, England and came to Canada in 1851. He was ordained in Ottawa in 1852 by Bishop Guigues and came to South Gloucester for the remainder of 1852, 1853 and 1854. He was then transferred to LorNel and several other places. In 1865, he returned to Liverpool, England, where he left the Oblates in 1871, returning in 1879. He retired to Beveren, Belgium, in 1890, where he died on January 15, 1898, and was buried in Beveren, Belgium.

Father Thomas O’Boyle, O.M.I., was born on May 29, 1820, in County Mayo, Ireland. He, too, was ordained by Bishop DeMazenod, founder of the Oblate order, in 1847. He came to Our Lady of the Visitation where he was pastor from 1855 to 1860. In 1860, he was appointed the first resident priest to St. John the Evangelist parish, Osgoode and to the mission of St. Brigid’s, an Irish settlement. He remained there till his death on January 7, 1866. A stately stone, ravished by the mist of time, marks the spot where his earthly remains were laid to rest, amidst those of his countrymen and women far from the land of their birth, in St. John’s Cemetery at Enniskerry.

Father John O’Brien succeeded Father O’Boyle in 1861. He was born in Ireland in 1830 and ordained in Ottawa on June 17, 1860. From 1861 to 1869 he was pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation, ministering also to Metcalfe. The fire that destroyed the presbytery in 1869 also claimed Father O’Brien’s life. He was buried at the Cathedral.

Father Patrick Killoran was born in 1829 in Ireland and appointed pastor of South Gloucester on March 20, 1870. After two years of arduous work, he was compelled to relinquish his charge. He went to a monastery at Latrole, Pennsylvania and died in 1925.

Father Joseph Francoeur was born on January 3, 1839, at St. Rock des Aykmaies, County of L’Islet. He studied at St. Anne de la Pocatière in Ottawa. He was ordained on October 19, 1863, in the Chapel of the Grey Nuns of the Cross, at Bytown, by Bishop Guigues of Bytown. He was appointed pastor at South Gloucester on September 3, 1871, where he remained until 1875. He died on April 30, 1923, at Casselman, Ontario.

Father Duserre-Telmon was born on March 22, 1832, in the Hautes-Alpes province of France. He was ordained on December 22, 1856, at Gap, France, and arrived in Ottawa in 1866. On October 9, 1875, he began serving as pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation. In 1892, he moved to Vankleek Hill, Ontario, where he died on July 10, 1912.

Father John E. Maguire was born on March 26, 1839, in Quebec and ordained on January 28, 1866, in Quebec. In 1893, he was appointed to Our Lady of the Visitation. He died there in 1896 at the age of 56.

Father James Charles Dunn was one of the few priests who came from the area. He was born on December 28, 1860, at Hawkesbury, Ontario and was ordained on April 20, 1890, by Bishop Duhamel. On May 4, 1896, he arrived at Our Lady of the Visitation to serve as pastor and to minister the area of Metcalfe. He stayed until 1907 and retired to the Retreat House at St. Benoit, Montreal where he passed away on September 5, 1920.

Monsignor George David Prud’homme, P.D. was born on October 13, 1871 at St. Elizabeth, Cantley. He was ordained in 1901 by Bishop Duhamel. He was appointed to South Gloucester on October 21 1907, where he remained until August 1923. He retired at St. Patrick’s on June 25, 1951, and died on November 27, 1958, at 87 years of age.

Father Francis Corkery was born in 1885 at Almonte, Ontario. He was ordained in December 1914 by Archbishop Gauthier. In 1923, he was appointed to South Gloucester where he remained until 1945 when he was named parish priest of St. Brigid’s. He remained there until he died suddenly in 1956.

Canon John Patrick Tompkins was born in 1896. In July 1945, he arrived at Our Lady of the Visitation. It was with surprise and regret that many people said goodbye to him in October 1966, when he was transferred to St. Jude’s Parish in Hawkesbury, Ontario. He died in the General Hospital on September 8, 1969, at the age of 73, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Joseph’s in Orleans, Ontario.

Father Michael Hurtubise was the next successor to Our Lady’s parish. He was born on August 18, 1930, in Hull, Quebec. He was ordained on June 10, 1957, at St. Patrick’s by the Archbishop of Ottawa, the Most Reverend Marie-Joseph Lemieux. He was pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation from June 19, 1968, until September 1973.

Father Joseph Francis Andrew Fortin was born on June 5, 1932, in Cobalt, Ontario. Archbishop Lemieux ordained him on June 17, 1960. He came to Our Lady of the Visitation from October to December 1973.

Father Michael Alphonse Minvielle was born in Winnipeg on July 4, 1910. He was ordained on June 11, 1938, in Winnipeg by Bishop A.H. Sinnott, D.D. On January 4, 1973, he arrived at Our Lady of the Visitation in South Gloucester, where he remained until 1974.

Father Victor Chateauvert, M.S.F. was born in Quebec and ordained on September 25, 1973, in Hills Corners, Wisconsin. He came to Our Lady of the Visitation from 1974 to 1978 and also in 1982 for a short while.

Father Joseph Audet, M.S.F. came to Our Lady of the Visitation Parish from 1978 to 1980.

Father Arthur Ockwood, M.S.F. came here in 1980 for a short stay.

Father Patrick Lorand, O.M.I. was with us from 1980 to 1981.

Father Thomas Allen Riopelle was born on May 29, 1946, in Ottawa. He was ordained on September 15, 1978, in St. Maurice’s Church by Archbishop Plourde of Ottawa. In May 1981, he was assigned as administrator-pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation, South Gloucester.

Father Joseph Thomas Edward Muldoon was born on January 7, 1950, in Dunrobin, Ontario. His ordination to the priesthood took place at Holy Name of Mary Church, Almonte, Ontario, on June 11, 1976, by Archbishop Plourde. In September 1982 he began his ministry at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish, South Gloucester, where he remained until 1987.

Rev. Mr Deacon Gjet Bajraktari was ordained here on June 24, 1979. He served as a Deacon at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish from 1979 to 1984.

Father Gerald Charles McCormick was ordained on June 21, 1964, by Cardinal Carter, Windsor, Ontario. He served at Our Lady of the Visitation from 1987 to 1991 and is now retired.

Father James William Joseph Whalen was ordained on June 24, 1972, by Archbishop Plourde and was part of the parish from 1991 to 1992. He then served at St. Margarite-Marie in Cumberland.

Father William (Bill) Lunney was born on October 8, 1928. He studied philosophy at Holy Apostle Seminary in Connecticut, and theology at St. Paul’s Seminary in Ottawa. He was ordained on May 25, 1968, by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Windle of Ottawa. He served in our parish from 1992 to 2002 and passed away on Dec.8, 2009, at the age of 81.

Father Brian Hennessey came to serve God and his people later in life. He studied at St. Paul’s University and the University of Toronto’s School of Theology. He was ordained in June 1998 by Archbishop Marcel Gervais and was pastor at Our Lady of the Visitation from July 2002 until 2015. Father Brian passed away on April 19, 2019, at the age of 63.

Father William (Bill) Penney was ordained in 1987, having been actively involved in parishes both within the city of Ottawa and the Valley. Father Bill was appointed pastor at Our Lady of the Visitation in August 2015 and served in that role until 2022.

Father Geoffrey Kerslake was ordained in 2003 and served in a variety of parishes and as Episcopal Vicar (English Sector). He served as Executive Assistant to Archbishop Damphousse before being  appointed administrator of the parish from July 2022 until July 2023.

Father Matthew Brunet was appointed pastor for a six-year term beginning August 1, 2023.


The foregoing is a partial reproduction of the 140th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet 1845-1985 Our Lady of the Visitation Parish prepared by Michael Daley. The 160th Committee thanks Mr Daley for his permission and also acknowledges the following people who contributed their time, material and effort to the 1985 project: Grace Johnson, David Nolan, Edna Downey, Jim Downey, Jeannine Carter and Claudette Bachhuber.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any errors or omissions. This publication has been compiled to serve as a link between the past and continuity with the future.

For more interesting information about our church, you can also visit: Our Lady of the Visitation – Celebrating the Past