A Brief History of Our Parish
Origins as a Mission
The history of Saint Thomas More Parish began in early 1950 with the establishment of a mission under the charge of Saint Peter’s Parish, Maple St., Dartmouth, to serve Catholics residing in five areas of East Dartmouth. Fr. William Smith, pastor of St. Peter’s, purchased property at Grahams Corner, near the approaches of Waverley Road and the Eastern Shore highway, in order to build the mission’s church. Whebby Construction laid the foundation, erected the steel frame, shingled the roof and roughed in the walls; interior finishing work was done on a volunteer basis by members of the new mission. The simple, functional building, which consisted of a chapel and church hall, was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1951.
The mission’s members wasted no time in organizing themselves into a Men’s Council and a women’s group which became a council of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada on March 5, 1952. To raise the funds needed to build and furnish the church, the two groups collaborated in 1950 on staging an Old-Time Fiddling Contest – the first of many the parish’s Council of Catholic Men would sponsor over the years – in the still unfinished church.
Building a Home for Worship
In the spring of 1954, the mission became Saint Thomas More Parish, with Fr. George Hooper appointed as its first parish priest. An addition was built onto the church to serve as his office and living quarters. It wasn’t long before Fr. Hooper began making plans for construction of a school, convent and rectory to serve the needs of his growing parish. These plans, however, had to be scrapped when the Province of Nova Scotia informed the diocese in 1959 that the perimeter of the parish property would be expropriated for construction of a roadway interchange that became known as the MicMac Rotary.
Although the church building was not to be directly affected by the expropriation, the parish would have been left without sufficient land for future expansion. Seeking to accommodate the parish’s growth and the needs of its parishioners, the parish purchased from Saint Peter’s a parcel of land on the corner of Main Street and Caledonia Road and signed a contract with Harbour Construction of Dartmouth for construction of a new church and rectory. These two buildings, according to the original design by architect Graham Hooper, brother of Fr. Hooper, were to be part of a larger complex that would eventually include an attached school and convent. As a result of a change in diocesan policy in regard to schools, the second phase of construction was never undertaken.
Work on the church began in August 1960 and was completed in late January, 1961. The exact date of the first Mass celebrated in the church is unknown, but it is likely that parishioners were worshiping there by February, 1961. On July 9, 1962, then the feast of St. Thomas More, Archbishop Berry consecrated the church and blessed the cornerstone, which is located at the front of the church, to the left of the sanctuary. Following tradition, several items, including a list of parishioners and a copy of the first parish bulletin, were deposited behind the stone before it was sealed.
The documents of the Second Vatican Council, which began on October 11, 1962, just four months after the dedication ceremony, called for changes to church interiors that necessitated making alterations to the newly built St. Thomas More Church. In 1985, the church underwent a major renovation of the sanctuary that considerably changed its appearance, while remaining true to the original architectural vision expressed by Graham Hooper in his design for the church. In 2006, further renovation was undertaken to create a chapel for the reserved Blessed Sacrament by connecting the original baptistery with the nave of the church.
Our Catechetical Legacy
From the establishment of the parish until 1966, catechetical instruction of the parish’s children was handled by postulants of the Sisters of Charity. From their departure until 1970, the program was coordinated by Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, who were assisted by many lay volunteers. For the next ten years, volunteers coordinated the large and complex religious education program, which required the parish to rent space in three area schools and depended upon the services of up to 125 volunteers. In 1980, the first paid Director of Religious Education was added to the parish staff. Today, the religious education program can be housed within the church, but the parish still depends on volunteers to help educate its children in their faith.
Spurred on by the documents of the Second Vatican Council and with the encouragement of their parish priests, the laity of St. Thomas More Parish became keenly involved in other areas of parish life as well. Today, the parish of Saint Thomas More continues to be a growing spiritual family with a diversity of ages and ethnicities represented.
Our Mission Today
At Saint Thomas More, we invite all members of our community to Come Encounter Christ, Joyfully Share His Love, and Go Make Disciples. These missionary principles govern everything we do.
We are grateful for the heritage of priests who have served this parish faithfully since our founding in 1954. May God rest the souls of those who have passed on and bless the ministry of those who still serve.
Reverend George Hooper, 1954-1966
Reverend Lloyd Robertson, 1966-1968
Reverend Henry Kline, 1968-1974
Reverend Robert McDougall, 1974-1981
Reverend Donald Boudreau, 1981-1989
Reverend Paul Williams, 1989-1997
Reverend Joseph MacKinnon, 1997-2003
Reverend Ireneusz (Irek) Bem, S.D.S., 2003 – 2008
Reverend Ronald Cairns, 2008-2011
Reverend Randall Doucette, 2011-2014
Reverend Toochukwu Okafor, 2014-Present