The Possible Dream
....A Spiritual Home of Our Own
Elizabeth II was the queen of the United Kingdom, Louis St. Laurent was Prime Minister of Canada Leslie Frost - the Premier of Ontario, Nathan Phillip - the Mayor of Toronto and Augustus Harris was the Reeve for Scarborough Township.
The year was 1956. Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) was the 260th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and James Charles Cardinal McGuigan was the Archbishop of Metropolitan Toronto. Responding to the need and hopes of Catholic residents for a spiritual home of their own, Cardinal McGuigan founded a new parish in Agincourt on September 19th and appointed the Rev. Thomas Robert Harding on September 29th of that year to minister to about 400 Catholic families in Agincourt and the surrounding areas of Milliken, Todmorden, Malvern and O'Sullivan.
It was a momentous year. The first commercial computer using magnetic disk storage was introduced by IBM, the first transatlantic telephone cable went into operation, the movie "The Ten Commandments" opened in the United States, Dr. Albert Sabin developed the oral polio vaccine and Elvis Presley hit the airwaves.
For the parish, Fr. Harding's challenge was to find a place to say Mass. He was able to celebrate the first Mass in October 1956 at the Clubhouse of Tom O'Shanter Golf Club through the generosity of its owner, W.C. Sparkhall. As the number of visitors grew and three Masses were required to meet the parish needs on Sundays, Fr. Harding enlisted the assistance of the Rev. Bernard Mahoney, an old friend and a professor at St. Augustine's Seminary. To accommodate the growing numbers, the parish home was later moved to the larger Agincourt Community Hall where some parishioners appreciated the warmth and began to feel a sense of "belonging", but the chairs - with steel legs - were really hard on the concrete floor making loud noises every time someone moved resulting in a distracting experience for the attendees.
A real church for the parishioners was the goal, and Fr. Harding started a fundraising campaign in March 1957 with an initial target of $75, 000. The final building's cost was projected to be $200,000. Thanks to the more than 100 volunteers who came forward to help, and supported by an elaborate telephone fundraising campaign, the first financial target was met within weeks. The volunteers began by working tirelessly to obtain the names of parishioners through door-to-door canvassing. This was then followed by travelling from house in the catchment area to collect money and pledges. An architect Jean M. Petrucci, was appointed forthwith to execute the design and proceed with structural planning. The church was a modern Gothic and seat approximately 600 parishioners.
Construction on Sheppard Ave. began on July 4. In December 1957, through the Grace of our Lord and the dedicated efforts of numerous people, work on the edifice to be named Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church was completed-proving that the parishioners' wish for a spiritual home of their own was not an impossible dream. The first Mass at the Church was Celebrated before Christmas.