The Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate

Cover - Programme Designation MassProgramme from the Designation Mass (download the full text)

On December 8, 2014, Our Lady Immaculate was given the designation of Minor Basilica. This honour was bestowed by Pope Francis. Bishop Douglas Crosby celebrated the Mass commemorating the granting of this title on June 29th, 2015, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Churches that have particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life are given the title of Minor Basilica, signifying their link with the Roman Church and the Pope.  The ceremony celebrating this designation involves the reception of the Ombrellino (umbrella) and Tintinnabulum (bell), and a new Coat-of-Arms.

Aerial Photograph - Our Lady Immaculate
Credit:  The Canadian Register
Aerial Photograph of Our Lady Immaculate and the surrounding area.

The Basilica of Our Lady is located in Guelph, Ontario.  It sits prominently on a central hilltop; the highest point in town.  When the founder of Guelph, John Galt, established the city in 1827, he reserved this position with the expectation that a magnificent Catholic church would be constructed.  The Catholic community at this time, however, celebrated Mass in the barn of the town's blacksmith, John Owen Lynch.  In 1835, a wooden church dedicated to St. Patrick was built but was then destroyed by fire in 1844.  It was replaced in 1846 by a stone church named for St. Bartholomew.  In 1874, the architect Joseph Connolly was appointed to design the present church.  It took over ten years to complete the work.  Built in the Gothic Revival style, the church is considered his masterpiece.  Some 2,000 people attended the dedication in 1888.  The architecture, along with the stained glass, paintings, and shrines, highlight the rich Catholic history of the church.  In 1990, the Government of Canada designated Our Lady Immaculate as a National Historic Site.

 Church Attracts Visitors
100th Anniversary Booklet (download more info about the parish history)

Guelph Mission LedgerGuelph Mission Ledger, 1853 - 1858 (download the full letter)

Correspondence from Rev. John Holzer, S.J. to His Lordship the Bishop of Hamilton, Bishop John Farrell, Guelph, May 28, 1857

This letter from Fr. Holzer to Bishop Farrell outlines the activities of the parish.  The message begins with an explanation of Fr. Holzer’s recent visit to Montreal to see the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  He had gone to appeal to his Superior for more priests to meet the needs of the vast Guelph region.  The scarcity of priests was taking its toll, as Fr. Holzer states, “We are killed one by one, unless the Superiors help us at once.”  Fr. Holzer then outlines the Superior General’s plan to appoint new priests.  He also discusses financial matters and provides information about the Guelph convent run by the Sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loretto Sisters). 

Rev. John Holzer was the first Jesuit priest to serve the Guelph area.  His pastorate marked the beginning of 80 years of care for the parish by Jesuit priests.  In 1864, the strenuous work of a missionary priest led to a stroke and ended his tenure in Guelph.  He died in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 1888; just short of the opening of Our Lady Immaculate on October 10, 1888.