Fonds - St. Michael's Parish (Bell Island, Newfoundland) fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

St. Michael's Parish (Bell Island, Newfoundland) fonds

General material designation

  • Architectural drawing
  • Graphic material
  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on letterhead found in the fonds

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1906-1984, predominant 1916-1978 (Creation)
    St. Michael's Parish (Bell Island, N.L. : Catholic)

Physical description area

Physical description

12 cm of textual records
12 photographs
6 architectural drawings

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Administrative history

Initially, Bell Island fell within the expansive territorial boundaries of Holy Rosary Parish (Portugal Cove) and was served by visiting clergymen. In 1875, Thomas J. Power, Bishop of St. John's, erected St. Michael's Parish on the Island, although it was not until August 1903 that the foundation stone of the first parish church was laid. St. Michael's Church was opened and blessed in June 1907 by Bishop Michael F. Howley (prior to this, services were held in a small chapel). The development of the parish's infrastructure following the completion of St. Michael's Church is somewhat unique in that several other churches were built to serve a relatively small territory, leading to a common misconception that more than one parish existed on Bell Island. St. Peter's Church was built on "the Green" around 1912 to serve the growing population at Wabana. It was replaced by St. James's Church on Town Square in 1938. Sacred Heart Church was built at Lance Cove in the mid-1940s and Immaculate Conception Church was built over St. James's Church in 1954. Immaculate Conception was destroyed by fire in 1969, but it was replaced with a new structure, also dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, in 1972. The original St. Michael's Church was torn down in the mid-1980s because of structural weakness. Immaculate Conception was renamed St. Michael's and became the titular parish church; the other structures closed due to Bell Island's declining population after the closure of the iron ore mines in 1966.

Schools also formed an important part of St. Michael's parochial organization. A Catholic school was in operation on Bell Island as early as 1878, although the first Roman Catholic school board was not appointed until 1898. In 1901, Superior School, the first local Catholic high school, was opened. In 1917, the Sisters of Mercy arrived on Bell Island, establishing St. Edward's Convent and assuming teaching responsibilities. A second community of Mercy Sisters, incorporated as Immaculate Conception Convent, was established in 1927 at Wabana to serve the growing population of the Island. At its height, the parish supported seven schools: St. Edward's and St. Michael's Boys' Schools at "the Front", Immaculate Conception on Town Square, St. Kevin's Boys' School at "the Mines", Sacred Heart at Lance Cove, St. Cecilia's at "the West Mines", and St. Theresa's at "the East End". In June 1969, the Immaculate Conception Convent closed in response to the Island's declining population, and its residents amalgamated with St. Edward's Convent. Eventually, as a result of fire and consolidation, only two Roman Catholic schools remained on Bell Island - Immaculate Conception for primary and elementary students and St. Michael's High School. These schools are no longer under church control as a result of denominational education reforms passed by the Provincial Government in 1997.

St. Michael's established an appointed Parish Council some time after the reforms of Vatican II to help administer parish affairs (elected 1984 and onwards). The parish also maintains close relations with numerous lay societies and organizations that are active within parish life. Such past and present bodies include the Star of the Sea Society, the St. Francis Guild, the St. Anne's Sodality, the Children of Mary, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women's League, the St. Kevin's Cadet Corps, the Altar Society, and the Youth Ministry Organization (this list is not exhaustive).

Pastors who have served St. Michael's Parish since its establishment in 1875 include: Richard Dunphy (1875-1880); Lawrence Vereker (1880-1884); Francis McCullow (1884-1892); Patrick O'Brien (1892-1896); James J. McGrath (1896-1938); George F. Bartlett (1938-1956); John W. McGettigan (1956-[1960?]); Michael T. Connolly ([1960?]-1962); Eric R. Lawlor (1962-1969); Valentine Power (1969); Richard D. McHugh (1969-1980); Daniel McGettigan (1980-1982); Joseph Barton (1980-[1986?]); David Butler ([1986?]-1998); and Fred Brown (1998- ).

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of correspondence relating to parish property, building projects, finances, appointments, and general affairs (1916-1978); records relating to parish property, including mortgages, assignments, leases, and property sketches (1917-1931); architectural drawings of parish buildings (1953-1971); financial statements (1915-1927); addresses to Archbishops Roche and Skinner (1938, 1952); church record book containing notes and clippings on parish history (1982); newspaper clippings (originals and photocopies) relating to parish history (1938-1984); parish bulletins (1957, 1975); and 12 photographs. Fonds includes some photocopies.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Restrictions on access may apply. Consult the archivist.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Box list available.

Associated materials

See the Holy Rosary Parish fonds for records created prior to the establishment of St. Michael's Parish.

Related materials


Fonds is open. Further accruals expected.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created - May 21, 2013

Language of description

  • English

Script of description


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