TORONTO, Jan. 30 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the
Sacré-Coeur Roman Catholic Church unveiled a provincial plaque commemorating
the Sacré-Coeur Parish.
Toronto saw a surge in its francophone population in the mid- to
late-19th century as French-Canadians began arriving due to the large number
of jobs available in the manufacturing sector. The city's early francophones
attended religious services at English-speaking parishes, where
French-speaking priests were occasionally invited to conduct services.
However, they were dissatisfied with this arrangement owing to significant
differences in the culture and religious traditions of the French and English
branches of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1887, Father Philippe Lamarche
arrived from Montreal to found Sacré-Coeur Parish, the first Roman Catholic
parish to serve the francophone community in Toronto.
"The Parish of Sacré-Coeur is widely considered to be the first
established institution dedicated to serving Toronto's French-speaking
community," said The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman of the Ontario
Heritage Trust. "We are proud to commemorate the important spiritual and
cultural role of this parish for so many francophones residing in the city of
Toronto to this day."
At its inception, Sacré-Coeur Parish included 130 families. They came
primarily from Quebec, with some from Acadia and Europe. The parish's first
building, a former Presbyterian church, was located on King Street East, near
Sackville Street. It was dedicated as a Roman Catholic place of worship in
1888 and that same year, the first classes of l'Ecole Sacré-Coeur were taught
in the church basement by Father Lamarche. In 1896, a school was constructed,
followed by the addition of a rectory in 1900.
By the 1930s, new downtown church facilities were required to accommodate
the growing congregation. A new church was constructed in 1937 at the corner
of Sherbourne and Carlton streets. In addition to operating as a religious
institution, Sacré-Coeur also functioned as a centre for social and cultural
pursuits. Numerous associations and clubs formed in the 1940s and 1950s,
providing an opportunity for parishioners to socialize in their own language.
Popular activities included sports, music and theatre.
"We are delighted to celebrate the contributions of Toronto's early
francophones in shaping the city's cultural landscape," said Culture Minister
Aileen Carroll. "As a result of their spirit and determination, Sacré-Coeur
Parish will continue to play an important role in the French-speaking
community for generations to come."
In the 1960s, Sacré-Coeur's congregation decreased in size as families
moved to the suburbs, where French schooling had become available. Despite
this trend, the parish demonstrated vitality with the creation of new clubs
and activities throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The return of families to the
downtown core at the turn of the 20th century, coupled with the arrival of new
French-speaking immigrants, particularly from African countries, contributed
to a significant growth in congregation numbers by 2001.
"More than ever, the French church community finds its spiritual and
social value in being a welcoming arm of the city of Toronto and more than
ever, the city of Toronto extends its welcoming hand to a greater number of
French-speaking people," said Rev. Justin Desroches, Pastor of Sacré-Coeur
Parish. "We need to be a community of faith made up of what is new and what is
rooted in history in order to survive and prosper."
Since its inception, the Parish of Sacré-Coeur has been both a spiritual
and cultural centre for francophones across the city. To this day, Sacré-Coeur
continues to serve as a cultural beacon for the French-speaking community in
the Toronto area.
The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario,
dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's
The Trust gratefully acknowledges the Ontario Office of Francophone
Affairs for its assistance and the Department of Canadian Heritage for its
financial contribution to this provincial plaque through the Canada-Ontario
Agreement on French-Language Services.
- The Ontario Heritage Trust's Provincial Plaque Program commemorates
significant people, places and events in Ontario's history.
- Since 1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.
- 41 provincial plaques across the province commemorate Franco-Ontarian
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For further information:
For further information: Liane Nowosielski, Assistant Marketing and
Communications Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5032,