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Parish of Saint Mary: A History
The Catholic Church in the Canton area has a long, rich and varied history. In a wood frame building, formerly used as a school, the Catholic community organized in 1860. The members purchased the building and moved it to Fifth Avenue and Anderson Place. Before this, priests traveled on horseback to serve Catholic pioneers. It is thought that the first Catholic to come to the area was Patrick Neville. During the early years a number of priests were assigned to minister to the area Catholics when time permitted. Mass was celebrated in various homes.
The Catholic community named its church St. Mary's when it was dedicated in 1862. In 1864 Father John F. Ryan was assigned as resident pastor. Throughout the ensuing years a number of pastors served including Father Patrick Lyons who in 1880 began the erection of a new church and rectory. This new church was dedicated July 9, 1881, by Bishop Spalding. However, as were many buildings of that era, both were destroyed by fire. The rectory burned February 22, 1899, and the church was struck by lighting and burned September 9, 1903.
Father Julian Libert was assigned to St. Mary's in 1899 and directed the erection of the present St. Mary's Church which was dedicated September 3, 1905.
When Father James A Dollard was assigned to St. Mary's in 1914, he rented an abandoned cigar factory at the corner of Spruce and Main for St. Mary's Parochial School, which also opened in 1914. A nearby house was leased as a convent for the Franciscan teaching sisters.
Father Dollard then engaged a Canton business man, Daniel Galvin, to gift a bell for St. Mary's church. The 4,020 pound bell was blessed on December 17, 1916. In anticipation for its first ringing for the Midnight Mass Christmas Eve 1916, a special railroad car was sent from Canton to Brereton enabling parishioners to attend Mass and hear the ringing of the bell. (There was at that time an inter-urban railroad line from Canton to Fairview passing through Brereton and Norris which provided transportation for Catholics to attend Mass at St. Mary's.) This bell now hangs in a stanchion located on the west side of the church.
In 1919 Father Dollard purchased the Orendorff mansion on North Third Avenue and an adjacent tract of land. The mansion became the rectory and in 1921, St. Mary's built a two story brick school building and convent at North Third Avenue and Ash Street. Building projects in 1951 added a four room addition to the school and in 1958 a gymnasium was completed next door to the school. In 1933 members of the Holy Name Society decided to provide a parish hall by constructing a basement under the church building. Much of the work was completed by Parish members and the hall was dedicated November 12, 1933.
St. Mary's School offered a holistic education to youth in grades one through eight for 56 years but closed at the end of the 1970 school year. Religious Education Classes were then offered to public school students through a CCD program.
In 1996, a long range planning committee conducted several parish surveys and determined that the Third Avenue properties would be sold and that a new Parish Center would be built. The rectory was relocated to a building adjacent to the church; the St. Mary's Food Pantry was relocated to the basement of the rectory building.
The Parish Center was built and dedicated by Bishop John Myers July 1, 2001. Currently Religious Education classes are offered to all parish students on Sunday morning in the Parish Center.
Father Daniel Ebker was assigned to St. Mary's June 16, 2009. Due to structural problems the rectory/Food Pantry building was razed. As of this date, the Parish Center is a thriving faith-centered building, the Food Pantry is housed in a garage adjacent to the Church.