History of the Diocese of Hamilton: Early 20th Century
Rectory at Sacred Heart, Kitchener
In 1912 the Polish community in Kitchener was given blessing to form a parish
By the final decades of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the nature of the diocese had begun to change. Industrialization had taken place, led by the City of Hamilton itself which became the leader of steel production in Canada. The cities in the southern and central parts of the diocese began to expand rapidly. Huge numbers of new workers arrived with their families and their needs had to be taken into account. New churches, schools and a host of charitable institutions were needed. Many of the new immigrants were of a different ethnic background from the original Irish and German peoples, who were the most numerous in the diocese during so much of the 19th century. Other Catholic peoples began to arrive from Europe in large numbers. The first to arrive were the Italians, the Polish, and the Ukrainian peoples. They often built their own churches, served by their own clergy.
Sister of St. Joseph demonstrating x-ray equipment at St Joseph’s Hospital, Brantford
The Sisters of St. Joseph specialized in the realms of health care and education
The early 20th century was also a time of increasing specialization in the work of the Church. Religious orders came to do specific tasks. Examples are the Jesuits and Resurrectionists, who worked in education and parishes, and the Basilians, who served many missions in the northern part of the diocese from their parish church in Owen Sound. The Sisters of St. Joseph taught in separate schools and were hospital administrators and nurses. The School Sisters of Notre Dame also taught at all three levels of education and established Notre Dame College Residence at what was later to become part of St. Jerome’s University.
Above all, the period before the First World War was a time of consolidation, stabilization, and proud triumphalism as exemplified by the church worldwide at that time. Many of the oldest churches and institutions, which we see today, date from this period and are still standing strong.