(Father Basil Breen - the first Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish from 1983-2005.)
History of St. Thomas the Apostle Church
FROM THE BEGINNING
The Parish of St. Thomas the Apostle, Markham, was established by His Eminence, Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, Archbishop of Toronto, on January 6, 1982. Fr. Siro Lunardon, the founding Pastor, celebrated the first Mass on January 13 in the Chapel of the Sisters of St. Mary Leuca and the first Sunday Mass on January 17 in the gymnasium of Mother Teresa Catholic School.
There were many memorable events that first year. At Easter, many lectors, ushers, and musicians shared in the Liturgical celebration. In May, forty-seven students received Confirmation and one hundred made their First Holy Communion. In September, Fr. Siro began a Bible Study group for Italian parishioners and the "Word of Life" program for English-speaking members of the Parish. October saw Saturday Catechism classes begin with Sr. Addolorata helping the Pastor to instruct thirty families. Mrs. Teresa Kong taught the Chinese-speaking families.
The first Anniversary of the founding of the Parish was graced by Bishop Clune, Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, and Bishop in charge of the Eastern Region of the Archdiocese. His Excellency is remembered for the wonderful dialogue that he shared with the parishioners.
Each Spring has seen numerous newly-baptized Catholics become members of our worshiping community. May 25, 1983 saw the first group enter the Church on the Feast of Pentecost, and each successive Spring new classes of converts have entered the Church. In 1985, with the help of Srs. Vilma, Domitilla and Betty, a start was made to implement the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Program, and this continues on presently.
In the Fall of 1983, a number of the Toronto Archdiocesan priests were transferred. Rev. J. Basil Breen succeeded Fr. Lunardon on September 28.
A second "Midnight Mass" was scheduled in 1983 and called the "Christmas Family Mass". Under the leadership of Sr. Addolorata and assisted by the other Sisters, the children's choir prepared to present a Christmas Pageant and sing Carols at that Mass. These Carols were rendered in many languages, reflecting the many cultures that compose St. Thomas the Apostle Parish.
During its short history, the Parish has been grateful for the extra assistance of a number of clergy. The Basilians, the White Fathers, and individual priests have celebrated Holy Mass, preached, heard Confessions, and celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism. Fr. Pierangelo Paternieri of the Scalabrini Fathers, and Fr. Luigi Galanti, Associate Pastor of St. Mary Immaculate, Richmond Hill, have alternated in offering Mass each Monday evening in Italian, the "house language" of the Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca. Fr. Ray Hart assisted on weekends in the winter of 1984-85.
Due to the sacrificial support of many Parishioners, our worshiping community was able to make plans for a Parish Church. From February 1985 to the present, the Steering Committee met many times to plan and carry out this construction. Mr. Domenic Amato, the Architect, had originally been consulted as the feasibility of building on just one acre of land. Everyone is in accord that his vision of the property has been brought to most fruitful realization. Mr. Vince Citriniti, of A.M. Citriniti Co. Ltd., built a very solid edifice, beginning on July 17, 1985 so that priests and parishioners were able to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost on May 22/25, 1986.
The setting for the first Mass was austere, but joyful: Cement, not carpet for flooring; metal chairs, not pews for seating. But great happiness for all as we adored Almighty God in His and our new home. After the 12:00 Noon Mass that day, the happiness of the occasion was increased by the very first social event - a reception in the small hall (the large one was not as yet finished).
Finally, today, November 30, 1986. The Solemn Dedication and Official Opening of our Church by His Eminence Gerald Emmettt Cardinal Carter. An end is reached. Now let us begin. Our people and resources are enormous, and we are surely well-equipped to make ours a well-functioning, active community. Besides our Pastoral team and the Sisters of St. Mary of Leuca, we have in our Parish Community many people giving leadership, time, sacrifice, and enthusiastic service to the Parish. We cannot name them here, but they are the arteries of our Parish body. We can never thank them enough. We pray that the Lord may abundantly bless them.
List of Clergy Officially Appointed:
Present Permanent Deacon: Rev. Mr. Larry Oneson
(Note: The above article is copied as it originally appeared in the program of the "Dedication and Official Opening of St. Thomas the Apostle Church by His Eminence, Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, D.D., Ph.D., Archbishop of Toronto November 30, 1986.")