History of St Isidore Church Kanata

Catholic church kanata

The beautiful church standing at 1135 March Road, Kanata, has a long and richly interesting history.
March Township (present day Kanata North in the City of Ottawa, Ontario) was first settled in 1820
and became a thriving and active community of rural settlers – filled with optimism.
Within the Township, the Catholic community erected a log chapel (38′ x 23′) for the Mission of March
in 1839. The chapel (enlarged in 1850), still very remote from fledgling Ottawa, served the community
with neighbouring and travelling clergy until close to the turn of the century.
In 1887, four years after being renamed St. Isidore (Patron Saint of Farmers), the old log chapel was
removed at a cost of $55. and replaced by a new stone church which cost almost $6,000, designed by
Canon M. Bouillon.
The new church was built of plough stone, approximately double the size of the log chapel, with 30-
foot high side walls. The 30’ x 20’ sacristy was also made of stone. It was blessed by Archbishop
Joseph Thomas Duhamel of Ottawa on October 9, 1887. A 740-pound bell, named St. Anne, was
added to the steeple of the church in 1891 and blessed by Archbishop Duhamel.
The following years saw St. Isidore Parish and surrounding community grow steadily. The original 2-
acre parcel of donated land was expanded with the purchase of 6 additional acres (1 acre circa 1887
and 5 more in 1898). Plans were underway to construct a rectory beside the church and establish a
cemetery on this land. In 1899, the rectory was completed and the original debt to build the stone
church was fully paid off.
Rev. Thomas Brownrigg was appointed the first residing pastor of St. Isidore Church in 1900.
The third and longest serving pastor of St. Isidore, Rev. John Cunningham, was appointed in 1915.
St. Isidore’s fourth pastor, Rev. Philip C. Harris, oversaw significant enhancements starting in 1934.
Memorial stained-glass windows were donated to the church and indoor plumbing was added in the
The next round of major renovations came in 1966 when the church interior was changed to conform
to the new liturgy and language changes were made under Vatican II. No longer would the priest face
away from the congregation, chanting in Latin toward an ornate high altar. Now the Mass would be
said in the local language and the people would be expected to participate audibly in the liturgy by
responding and singing where appropriate. The high altar and communion rail were removed. New
platforms were built, confessionals were removed from the sacristy and added to the back of the
church. Total cost of renovations amounted to $65,000. Sunday masses were held in St. Isidore School
until renovations were complete in 1967.
The present-day church hall was built and opened in 1979 behind the church to service the
Fr. Raymond Burke donated 2 acres of additional land behind the hall around the time of his death in
1990. The hall underwent major renovations and upgrades in the late 1980’s and again in 2004.
Rev. C. Ross Finlan, the only pastor to serve two separate, non-continuous terms, was appointed in
1982. Fr. Finlan would again return to St. Isidore Church in 2003. Fr. Finlan returned to St. Isidore
Church in 2003 and retired in 2009.
The church hall underwent major renovations and upgrades in the late 1980’s and again in 2004.
In the mid 1990’s, discussions began on meeting the parallel requirements of aging facilities and the
dramatic population expansion in the immediate area. Kanata North and surrounding areas continued
to grow at a record pace. Local architect Ralph Vandenburg, with expertise in places of worship, was
appointed to develop a long-range plan for redevelopment in stages of the St. Isidore Church campus.
The church, now over 120 years old, was incurring very high maintenance costs and no longer met
modern-day amenity requirements. After major malfunctions, new furnaces were installed in the
church and the hall in 1995.
In 1997 the first stage of the long-range plan was undertaken with major renovations to the rectory to
modernize living areas, offices and meeting rooms and turn the 1889 building into a more functional
Pastoral Centre.
An Expansion Task Force, led by Deacon Desmond Adam, was created and an extensive planning
process resulted, with emphasis on parishioner communication and involvement. In 2006, the parish
continued the process of redeveloping the church by once again engaging Ralph Vandenberg to begin
working on a new church building.
In 2008, the City of Ottawa received an application to deem St. Isidore Church a “heritage” building.
After a year-long process, this application was turned down by Ottawa City Council on June 10, 2009,
by a vote of 18 to 5 against, paving the way for completion of plans for a new building.
Rev. Virgil Amirthakumar became pastor in 2009 and with the Task Force, guided the parish through
the final design and construction of the new church.
For safety reasons, the steeple of St. Isidore Church was removed on May 19, 2009. The church bell
was also removed and later refurbished. But, the old plough stone church stood on March Road until
After much analysis and discussion, the parish community voted to remove the existing building and
build a ‘new’ church on the site. The final cost was $5.8 million. During the construction period,
masses were held in the parish hall. The new church incorporated the stained-glass windows
(restored by Northern Art Glass), the original 740-pound bell, some of the original stone and a replica
steeple of the 123-year-old church. Modern plumbing, seismic requirements, gas heating, audio visual
equipment and electrical systems, a fireside room, family room and welcoming foyer were all
A commemorative mass was celebrated on June 25, 2010 with many former pastors in attendance.
The final mass in the old church was on July 25, 2010.
The new, and fourth edition, of St. Isidore Church, was ready for the parish community for Christmas,
2011. The first mass was at 5 pm on December 17, 2011. The church was dedicated by Archbishop
Terence Prendergast at a ceremonial mass on January 14, 2012. One of the highlights was the lighting
of four special candles in each corner of the church by four former pastors.
Since the dedication of the new church, there has been an increase in attendance with many new
parish members due to population growth in the area. Visitors and parishioners alike appreciate the
welcoming ambience which contributes to their worship experience.
The expanded worship space has contributed to liturgical celebrations and allowed for special exhibits
such as the Man of the Shroud in 2017, highlighting the Shroud of Turin.
Continuing the long range development plan, the parish hall had a major renovation in 2014-15,
replacing the furnaces, adding air conditioning and upgrading the kitchen, washrooms and storage
St. Isidore Parish is a vibrant Christian community with flourishing organizations and committees. .
The Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women’s League contribute to social and spiritual
development. Strong Financial and Pastoral Councils work to maintain equilibrium. The Pastoral Care
Team, Children’s Liturgy and Music Ministry are very active and dedicated. Greeters and Mass
Coordinators welcome parishioners. Eucharistic Ministers and Mass Readers are trained and prescheduled.
Inspiring Bible Study Groups are led by Deacon Des Adam.
The parish reacts to world circumstances – a parish Refugee Committee, with the help of other
community members, sponsored and welcomed two Syrian families in 2016 and 2017.
St. Isidore Parish is founded in the past, remembers it with respect and looks to the future with