history of the parish of Immaculée Conception, Pain
Court, is intrinsically linked to that of St. Peter’s
parish as, at first, it was a mission of St. Peter’s.
In 1851, Bishop de Charbonnel, Bishop of Toronto, asked the
parish priest, Father Claude-Antoine Ternet, to have a chapel
built in Pain Court, on the site across from the present cemetery.
Saint Joseph was chosen as its patron saint. According to
the 1851 census, there were over 1,100 Catholics, approximately
200 families, mostly French Canadian, in Dover Township, Kent
official foundation of Immaculée Conception parish
of Pain Court dates back to 1853 when Father Jean-Thomas Raynel
took charge of St. Peter’s parish and two of its annexed
missions, Pain Court and Grande Pointe. (It is interesting
to point out that, in 1834, St. Peter’s parish encompassed
a vast territory from which were later detached the parishes
of Belle-Rivière, Saint-Joachim, Pointe-aux-Roches,
Staples, Tilbury, Raleigh, Chatham, Wallaceburg, Lambton,
Dresden, Thamesville, Bothwell and Blenheim.) Father Raynel’s
first assignment was the construction of a church in Pain
Court on the site of the present cemetery, but facing the
ditch which is commonly known as “le creek”. As
His Holiness Pope Pius IX had set the date of December 8,
1854, for the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate
Conception, the choice of a patron saint for the new church
was clear; it would be Immaculée Conception, with Saint
Joseph as second patron saint.
entire Southwestern region of Ontario was separated from the
Diocese of Toronto when the Diocese of London was established
on February 21, 1856, under the jurisdiction of Bishop Alfred
The first church of Immaculée Conception that Father
Raynel had built with such difficulty was destroyed by fire
during the night of May 4, 1874. An article from the Glencoe
Transcript, dated May 7, 1874, did not exclude the possibility
Father J.-Calixte Duprat who was the pastor at the time courageously
began gathering funds for the construction of a new church,
clad with bricks. The first high mass was celebrated in the
church on Sunday, May 30, 1875. This church faced the Winterline
Road. The monument still standing in the cemetery marked the
entrance of this church. Unfortunately, the injuries of time
and the inclemencies of the seasons collaborated to ruin this
temple of prayer before its time.
Shortly after his elevation to the Episcopal See of London,
Bishop Michael F. Fallon assigned Father Alfred-David Emery
as pastor of Pain Court, for the specific purpose of having
a new church and rectory built. The cornerstone of this third
church was blessed on June 11, 1911 by Bishop Fallon and the
church, built on the site of the actual church, was blessed
and opened for worship on March 3rd of the following year. Construction
of the church cost $44,000 and the rectory, built the same year,
Construction of a convent was completed in 1923 and the Sisters
of Saint-Joseph accepted the invitation to send sisters. The
first two sisters, Sister Hilaire and Sister Anna-Marie began
teaching at the village school this same year although they
had to find lodging at St. Joseph’s hospital in Chatham
until December, when the land on which the convent was built,
which was church property, was purchased by the school board.
Father Emery celebrated the first mass in the chapel of the
convent on December 5th of that year.
The Sisters of Saint-Joseph remained in Pain Court and established
the foundation of quality French language education for the
children and young people of the area until 1950 when, due to
a lack of qualified sisters to teach French at the secondary
level, they left the area. The Grey Nuns (Soeurs Grises de la
Croix) took over their work in September of that year until
their departure in June 1972, due to a shortage of vocations.
These courageous and devoted women have played a determining
role in the development of the French language in this area.
Music has always held a place of honour in Pain Court, and for
many years, the parish enjoyed a wonderful choir. When the organist
Marie-Louise Faubert left in 1905, Mrs. Marie Emery (born Cheff)
accepted to take her place. The parishioners were blessed with
Mrs. Emery`s remarkable musical talents during 57 years (from
1905 to 1962). Her son, Amédée, generously continued
this tradition beginning the first Sunday of July 1962 until
his retirement the last Sunday of June 2002. The parishioners
of Pain Court have been very blessed indeed!
The final accomplishment of beloved Father Emery during his
eighteen years of ministry in Pain Court was the construction
of a new school inaugurated on October 15, 1928, under the patronage
of Saint Catherine. (Until then, students attended Dover #3
school, today the Benoit restaurant.) This generous and tireless
pastor who, like no other, marked the history of faith in this
area left Pain Court in 1928. He was replaced by Father Joseph
A. Loiselle who remained in Pain Court until 1932.
On Saturday, January 2nd, 1937, the community was stricken by
yet another tragedy. Upon entering the church to serve 8 o’clock
mass, young Alphé Emery noticed that the church was engulfed
in flames. In an ultimate attempt to save the Blessed Sacrament,
Father Zotique Mailloux, the parish administrator, and his altar-boy
covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs dipped in holy
water and made their way toward the front of the church. Unfortunately,
they were not able to reach the communion table. Alphé
was given the task of sounding the tocsin to call for help.
At first, the parishioners believed that the bell was announcing
the decease of Pope Pius XI who was on his deathbed. They rushed
to help put out the fire but the flames had quickly ravaged
the building. Only the angels holding the holy water fonts at
the entrance of the church were salvaged.
The parish immediately began rebuilding the temple of God on
the same foundation. Mr. Daoust from Windsor was responsible
for the construction of the new church which is the actual church.
Father Mailloux wanted to have the original walls completely
demolished, but the bishop believed that it would be sufficient
to remove only what was not solid, in order not to burden the
parishioners with an excessively heavy debt. On his own initiative,
however, Father Mailloux had a terrazzo floor installed, not
simply a cement floor. The new church was blessed by Bishop
John Thomas Kidd on December 8th of that same year, the feast
of its holy patron saint. It is interesting to note that only
two of the three altars were consecrated, due to the fact that
the church debt was not yet paid.
In an effort to gather the monies needed, Father Mailloux sent
a circular letter throughout the province asking for donations
from generous souls. The students of the Pain Court Continuation
School organized bazaars, draws and chocolate bar sales and
managed to raise the sum of $200 for the painting of Mary appearing
to Bernadette which graced the sanctuary of the church for many
years. This was the work of Roland Jobin, an artist from Saint-Joachim
(originally from Saint-Pierre, Montreal) as were also the stations
of the cross which are still found in the parish church today.
(It is interesting to note that these stations of the cross
have the distinction of beginning on the right side of the church.)
The bell, Marie-Thérèse, formerly mounted on
a framework, had survived the 1874 fire, but was cracked during
its fall in the 1937 fire. It was repaired and reinstalled
in the bell tower, but never again recovered the beautiful
tone for which it was known. This is the bell that we see
today in front of the church, a souvenir of years gone by.
the years that followed the death of Father Mailloux during
a trip to Ottawa, on June 29, 1945, the following priests
succeeded each other to serve the parishioners of Pain Court
who will always be deeply grateful to them: Father Charles
Laliberté (1945 - 1950); Father Isaac Ducharme (1950
- 1954); Mgr William Bourdeau (1954-1955); Father Euclide
Chevalier (1955 - 1964); Father Léo Charron (1964 -
1980); Father Charles Sylvestre (1980 - 1989); Father Gilbert
Simard (1989 - 1995); Father Alessandro Costa (1995 - 1997).
And who could forget devoted Father Ulysse Lefaive in the
days of Father Ducharme, and kind Father Pierre Boudreau in
the days of Father Chevalier.
Since the month of June 1997, it is Father Robert Champagne
who is in charge of the parish of Immaculée Conception
of Pain Court joined as one faith community with the neighbouring
parish of Saint-Philippe of Grande Pointe, through clustering
brought about by a major shortage of vocations to the priesthood
and religious life which marks our modern times.
Pain Court Continuation School, also known at the time under
the name of H. J. Payette School, officially became École
secondaire de Pain Court in 1972. In September 2002, it has
a student population of 300. Today, école Sainte-Catherine
has 270 students. Because of the efforts of all those who marked
our history, in spite of the passage of time, the French language
and culture are always very alive in Pain Court and, in 2004,
the parish will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its foundation.
A major church renovations project was undertaken in 1999. The
back wall of the church building which had been partially destroyed
during the 1937 fire had to be completely rebuilt. Thanks to
the artist Achim Klaas of Cambridge, Ontario, the mural of the
Immaculate Conception once again adorns the sanctuary of the
church. A new baptismal font and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament
were created using the marble from the former altars and mass
is now celebrated on a new solid oak main altar. The Pain Court
church is certainly not grandiose; however, the years have not
diminished the feeling of warmth and peace that characterizes
it and makes it a welcoming and comforting place of worship.
Rose-Marie Roy, parishioner and editor of the Page française
of the Diocesan Newsletter.
This article is a translation by the author
of the French article which was published in the Diocesan
Newsletter edition of September 2002.
for the article was taken from the 1851-1926 Souvenir Album
by Father Alfred-David Emery, and from the 1951 book written
by Father Vincent Caron, o.m.i. Special thanks to Mr. Amédée
Emery, our local historian and genealogist, who generously
shared his vast historical knowledge for the writing of this