St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
On September 14, 1975, Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized, becoming the first American born person so honoured. An Episcopalian at birth in 1774, she converted to Catholicism while mourning her husband’s death in Italy. Known as the mother of the U.S. parochial school system, she devoted much of her ministry to education until her death in 1821. for further details, please refer to a detailed entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia or visit the St. Elizabeth Seton Shrine website.
In the 1980s, with only one Catholic parish serving a rapidly expanding population in the Newmarket-East Gwillimbury area, the need for a sister parish to St. John Chrysostom was clear. Thus it was that St. Elizabeth Seton Parish came into being in the fall of 1986 with the appointment of Father Matthew Robbertz as Pastor. Father Steve Coates joined the parish as Associate Pastor while Larry Rogers served as Deacon. For the first few years, Masses were held at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Newmarket and at Our Lady of Good Counsel Mission Church in Sharon.
A Parish Steering Committee was formed in October, 1986 and from this initial group, a Building Committee was established in February, 1987. Eventually, the Steering Committee evolved into a Parish Council with formal elections taking place in the spring of 1988.
During the first part of 1987, the Building Committee concerned itself with examining various site options, eventually settling on the current Leslie Street location. A number of demographic studies were developed in order to convince the Chancery office of the need for a complete Parish Complex comprised of church, assembly hall and rectory. At the same time, various fund raising activities in support of the building project were launched by other newly established groups.
The newly opened St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School became our second temporary home in November, 1988, with Father Rick McKnight assisting Fr. Matt with weekend Masses.
The planning momentum picked up again in 1989 when the Chancery office accepted the generous offer one of our parishioners, John Bloye, to donate his services as Architect for the project. Thus began the task of developing conceptual plans for the church complex.
By the summer of 1990, the Chancery office agreed that the project could proceed provided that the parish raise $750,000 and that the total project cost not exceed $2.2 million. On July 30, 1990, Bishop Wall approved the project, with Ryan Construction Co. as the general contractor. The building opened in 1991.
The Parish Centre
The Foyer provides access to all the major areas and invites people to enter the main body of the Church. It also houses the statue of St. Elizabeth Seton, sculpted by Timothy Schmalz.
Inside the stained glass doors are the Baptismal font, the Rooms of Reconciliation and the oils for the Anointing of the Sick. The Ambry contains the holy oils: the Sacred Chrism, the Oil of Catechumens, and oil for the anointing of the sick.
The faithful recall their Baptism by blessing themselves with the water from the font. Architectural attention has been given to Baptism by the shape of the walls and the skylight. The overhead beam is like an axle, linking the Baptismal Font with the Eucharistic Table.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel to the left of the main foyer is a lasting memorial of the previous Mission Church in Sharon, and the bell from the Mission is in the Parish’s possession. The Chapel houses the Tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and is open for private prayer and adoration.
The Shrine area serves as a devotional place with statues of Mary and Joseph.
The stained glass windows were designed and executed by Gerald Mesterom Stained Glass Studios in Ottawa. The six windows in the Nave symbolize the six sacraments culminating in a Eucharistic theme in the steeple.
The Church proper has a ceiling height of 15 feet at the main entrance, and 28 feet above the Altar. The steeple over the altar rises 70 feet above ground level. The maximum number of rows and pews in the church is sixteen, with four rows being reversible, to face the rear of the Church for celebrations of Baptism.
The church complex sits on approximately 2.5 acres of land with a parking capacity of over 190 cars. All facilities are designed for convenient wheelchair access, including meeting rooms, washrooms, Seton Hall and parking.
In 2016, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish celebrated a trifecta of anniversaries – the 40th anniversary of the canonization of St. Elizabeth Seton, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Parish, and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the physical building.
To mark this special year, the CWG spearheaded an anniversary project – a life-size statue of Christ as an interactive installation complete with a meditative landscape path and seats for anyone who cares to meditate, reflect or participate in this art work entitled “When I was a Stranger”. This sculpture was also created by Timothy Schmalz.
The installation is located in the Gathering Space of the church building as a public statement to every person who enters about what we believe – that we are a community of faith who welcomes the stranger.