Type of entity
Authorized form of name
St. Patrick's Parish (Witless Bay, N.L. : Catholic)
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
St. Patrick's Parish was established in 1831 and included the communities of Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, Mobile, Tors Cove, Burnt Cove, St. Michael's, Bauline and La Manche. Prior to this, these communities were part of the much larger St. John's Parish which stretched from La Manche on the Southern Shore to Holyrood, Conception Bay.
In 1893, St. Patrick's Parish was divided. Bay Bulls and Witless Bay remained in St. Patrick's Parish. The remaining communities were transferred to the the jurisdiction of the newly established Sacred Heart Parish, with Mobile as its centre. In 1921, Mobile was removed from Sacred Heart Parish and transferred back to St. Patrick's Parish.
Additional jurisdictional changes to St. Patrick's Parish occurred in 1921 when Archbishop Edward P. Roche separated Bay Bulls from St. Patrick's Parish and created the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul, with its parish centre at Bay Bulls. This left the communities of Witless Bay and Mobile under St. Patrick's Parish.
In 1965, Sacred Heart Parish was dismembered and the parish came under the jurisdiction of St. Patrick's Parish. In 1996 St. Patrick's Parish and Sacred Heart Parish were canonically suppressed. The successor parish was the newly created parish Our Lady, Star of the Sea.
Freedom of religion had been granted to Roman Catholics in Newfoundland in 1784 and Rev. James O'Donel, vicar apostolic, was selected to organize the Catholic Church in Newfoundland. Sometime before 1796, O'Donel built the first Catholic Church in Bay Bulls, then part of St. John's Parish. The first priest appointed to St. Patrick's Parish was Rev. (later Dean) Patrick Cleary. He chose Witless Bay as the centre of the parish where he built a presbytery and started the construction of a church in the 1830s. This church, the current church in Witless Bay, was completed by Dean Roche ca. 1877. In 1989, when renovations were being made to the presbytery at Witless Bay, newspapers dating from 1840 were discovered in the walls of the house, suggesting that this was the original house that built by Cleary built and the oldest surviving Roman Catholic Parish presbytery in the Archdiocese of St. John's.
Education in St. Patrick's Parish was organized by Dean Cleary. Shortly after the Education Act of 1836, a school was established at Witless Bay and staffed with lay people. By 1844, there were Catholic schools in other communities in the parish, including Bay Bulls and St. Michael's. In 1860 the Presentation Sisters established a convent and school in Witless Bay. They educated the girls while the boys were educated in a separate school by a lay teacher. In 1915, Rev. Patrick J. O'Brien added two new rooms to the convent and school which allowed the boys and girls to be taught by the Presentation Sisters. In 1948 the Convent school at Witless Bay was renovated and called St. Bernard's School after its foundress Mother M. Bernard O'Donnel.
In 1920, Rev. O'Brien also built a new three-room school at Bay Bulls. In 1921 the Sisters of Mercy were invited to St. Patrick's Parish. They established a convent in Bay Bulls and directed the operation of the schools in the community; In the 1970s Rev. William Lawton, who had established the first parish council in Tors Cove-St. Michael's, organized the St. Patrick's Parish Council. By 1975, the men of St. Patrick's Parish had formed a District Council of the Knights of Columbus and called it the Dean Cleary Council in memory of the early pastor. Other community organizations which have been active in the parish include the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus, the Legion of Mary, the Columbian Squires and the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.
Some of the priests who served the people of St. Patrick's Parish (est. in 1831) are as follows: Dean Patrick Cleary (1831-1882); Dean Roche (1882-1916); Patrick O'Brien (1916-1922); J. J. Greene (1923-1934); T. J. Gough (1934-1954); Richard McGrath (1954-1968); Francis Coady (1968-1970); William Lawton as administrator (1970-1973); E. J. Purcell (1973-1986); Tony Bennett (1986-1987); Francis Puddister (1987-1990); William Pomroy (1990-1995); and Robert Ryan (1995-1996).