The Father behind the church and parkette

Leaside, by Jane Pitfield“About 100 Catholic families were living in the mostly Protestant Town of Leaside at the time. Many had long cherished the idea of establishing their own Catholic community.” (St. Anselm’s Parish Celebrates 50 Years of Faith, 1938-1988, Toronto, Golla Graphics Ltd.)

Father Francis Michael Caulfield, arriving in an old jalopy, pulled up on Donegall Drive in 1938. His mission was to create a new parish, build a church and a school. Initially he settled into a rented home on Donegall Drive and began his work.

Father Caulfield spotted a bankrupt meat market and groceteria, located then at 609 Bayview Avenue (now… 1609 Bayview). He promptly leased it. The first Mass was celebrated here on July 31, 1938, and the site was named after St. Anselm of Canterbury, a saint born of noble parents in Piedmont in 1033 or 1034.

Father Caulfield had a dog named “Tinker” who would accompany him to church. Once when Tinker was trotting down the aisle to the altar, a parishioner tried to restrain the animal. It is said that Father Caulfield gruffly told the parishioner to leave his pet alone because “he comes to church more often than you do.”

Some twelve years earlier, the York Land Company had sold a choice piece of land for $8,645.00 to the diocese. The property was located on Millwood Road between MacNaughton Road and Bessborough Drive.

Father Caulfield promptly began raising the $50,000.00 for his building program. The Episcopal granted him $30,000.00 and he personally advanced $20,000.00! In the meantime, since the temporary church on Bayview Avenue was satisfactory, the funds went towards the building of a two-room school. The rectory at 1 MacNaughton Road was then built with Father Caulfield’s money.

In September 1941, the cornerstone of the new church was laid by the Guiane Construction Company. The new church, designed to seat 400 people, was completed by December 1941. Inside the altar were the relics of the martyred Saints: St. Lucidianus, St. Auxilius and St. Desideria. The wooden steeple was covered by copperized metal.

By 1951, the parish had grown to more than four times the seating capacity of the church, to the degree that it became necessary to hold Mass in the church basement as weIl. Father Caulfield served this growing parish for twenty-three years until his health began to fail. Father Merrit T. Griffin moved into the rectory in 1959. It was clear that St. Anselm’s needed a much bigger church.

Father Caulfield died in I961, at the age of 70. To honour his dedication to his parish, the Borough of East York declared that a tract of land at MacNaughton and Cameron be called the Francis M. Caulfield Parkette.

In July 27, 1964, the new church design was approved, with the architect being Arthur Taylor of Lenz. The old church was disassembled and, while construction occurred, Mass was held at Leaside High School.

The first Mass to be celebrated in the new church was held on June 26, 1966. This new church could seat 957 and had an auditorium capacity of 750 people.

When Father Griffin moved to Pickering in 1969, Father Carlo J. Cerrone was appointed to replace him, beginning October 23, 1969. He erected a large cross on the sanctuary wall. In 1978, after Father Cerrone left for Barrie, Father John O’Neill replaced him, appointed from 1979 to 1992. Monseignor Edward Boehler… followed in 1992.

From Leaside, edited by Jane Pitfield.