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Dates of existence
Holy Rosary Parish (Portugal Cove) was established in 1833 by Michael A. Fleming, vicar Apostolic of Newfoundland. As a vicariate Apostolic, the ordinary hierarchy of the church in Newfoundland was not yet considered to be fully evolved and since, technically, a parish is a portion of a diocese, no parishes can be said to have existed prior to the erection of Newfoundland as a diocese in 1847. However, the term "parish" appears to have been used informally to refer to a geographic territory possessing a church and resident priest (the term "district" was sometimes used). Regardless of the terminology, 1833 marks the establishment of Holy Rosary as a distinct organizational entity. Prior to this date, Portugal Cove formed part of the District of St. John's which then included the communities of Torbay, Pouch Cove, Topsail, and Petty Harbour.
The first Catholic church in Portugal Cove was built in 1833. The cornerstone of the present-day church was laid by Edward P. Roche, Archbishop of St. John's, in 1915. Extensive renovations were undertaken in 1981 and the church was dedicated and reopened by Archbishop A. L. Penney on 9 March 1982.
The territorial boundaries of Holy Rosary Parish have evolved since its erection in 1833. Originally, clergy stationed at Holy Rosary were responsible for making periodic visits to most of the settlements on the south shore of Conception Bay. However, much of this territory (roughly from Seal Cove to Topsail) was dismembered from Holy Rosary Parish with the erection of St. Edward's Parish (Topsail) in 1877. In 1907, Archbishop Howley detached the territory of Twenty Mile Pond and Major's Path from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Parish and annexed it to Holy Rosary, expanding its boundaries. In 1982, Holy Rosary was again dismembered when the community of St. Thomas was transferred to the newly erected Holy Family Parish (Paradise). Currently, the parish boundaries encompass the communities of Portugal Cove, St. Philip's, and the Airport Heights-Major's Path areas of St. John's.
Under the denominational education system, the activities of Holy Rosary Parish were intimately intertwined with Catholic schools operating within its boundaries, as the parish priest was responsible for their construction and upkeep. The first parochial school was built shortly after the establishment of the parish. By the 1960s, there were three schools in operation within the parish: Sacred Heart School and Roncalli School-Chapel in Portugal Cove, and St. Joseph's School at Windsor Lake. In 1968, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's were closed and their students incorporated into Roncalli. Today, Roncalli operates as an elementary school and is no longer under church control due to denominational education reforms passed by the Provincial Government in 1997.
Pastors who have served Holy Rosary Parish since its establishment in 1833 include: Edward Troy (1883-1844?); Thomas O'Connor (1844?-1884); John Walsh (1884-1899); John T. Ashley (1900?-1911); Thomas Gough (1912-1934); Peter Sheehan (1935-1949); James T. Fennessey, Administrator (1950); James Loyola Lacey (1951-1979); James Hickey (1979-1986); Kevin J. Molloy, Administrator (1986-1989); Robert J. Ryan (1989-1996); and John McGettigan (1996- ).
In 2002, parochial affairs are directed by the Holy Rosary Parish Council and several committees and church societies, including the Finance Committee, two Service Committees, and two presidia of the Legion of Mary (this list is not exhaustive).