PAST HISTORY OF THE PARISH
Settlers began to coming to this area around 1832.The fIrst Mass was celebrated by Rev.Wm.McIntosh in 1848.Previous to that time the few catholics trekked to buffalo for their Easter duty and for Baptisms. The first catholics were said to be Thomas Carroll and Andrew Devine. Dunnville remained as a permanent mission of Caledonia under Father John McNulty, until 1866. Names of were :Barry,Kenney, ombleau ,Livingstone, Hartnett, Corcoran, Sullivan, Flanagan, Ryan,Cooley, Jewhurst, O'Keefe, Sasse and Dumas.
THE OLD CHURCH:After Father McNulty's arrival the families got together and planned a small church which sat on the lot of the present rectory, the property of Mr. Carroll.
THE PRESENT CHURCH:The plans for the present church began in 1885 by Father Kelley and corner stone was laid on September8,1886. Father James Crinion was appointed the first pastor in September 1886. The old church was taken apart and the lumber was used in the construction of the rectory which featured a semi-colonial verandah on the front. Mr.Clohency of Hamilton was the architect and Bob Bennettof Dunnville was the contractor.Fred and Jeremiah Hartnett drew stones by horse wagon from a quarry in Byng for the foundation of the church. In the church the high Altar was a gift from Bishop Barberry to Father Crinion. The beautiful painiting of the Crucifixion that hangs above the altar was also a gift from bishop Carb.. The sanctuary lamp was a gift of Helena Cleary in rememberance of mother, Ellen Sullivan Cleary. The beautiful stained glass windows were manufactured by the N.T.Lyon Co. Toronto. Many other gifts to adorn the church were donated by greatful parishioners. The entire cost of the church was about $9000.00. The church was heated by a gas stove and lighted by gas chandeliers. Following Father Crinion came Father G.J.Cleary, then Father P.J.Donovan. Under Father Englert, March 1906, the interior was painted, renovations were made, and the sanctuary was decorated. In 1907, Father Donovan was reappointed to Dunnville and remained here for twenty years. The silver jubilee was celebrated on September 17,1911. Father George Goodrow arrived here on 1930 and undertook the redecorating of the church.The cealing was painted a pale blew to represent the heavens, resplendent with stars and billowy clouds, with a painting of an illuminated dove, emblematic of the Holy Spirit. The cealing contained a huge painting of God the Father breaking through a celesital blue sky extending His hand in Benediction. Other sections adorned with angels, Peter and Paul as well as the four evangelists. The first midnight Mass was celebrated on December 25th,1931,and the first gas furnace was installed at this time. . On June 19th a chapel to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was built at Beckley Beach on the east side of the Grand River to accommodate the many catholic cottages. The chapel served for many years but was taken down in 1960's. The Golden Jubilee was celebrated on May 10, 1937, Archbishop John McNally D.D. presided at the celebration. During Father Goodrow's pastorate a new bell, weighing 2300 lb, was installed in the vestibule of the church and blessed on Sept 9, 1934.The next priest to serve us was Father Francis Keough in 1942. As Hon. Flight Lieutenant in the RCAF he did a splendid job as Padre for the local airforce base near Port Maitland. In 1946 Father Thomas Clancy assumed duties here. He quietly and faithfully served the parish for ten years. On May 12, 1948 he celebrated his Silver Jubilee . A rosary crusade took place while he was here, led by Father Peyton bringing the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Dunnville.
Rev. John O'Reilly became pastor of St. Michael's in 1956. During his pastorate much was accomplished with the co-operation of the parishioners. The parish centre was built and offically opened on March 16, 1958. Believing that a child should build his everyday life according to the truths of the faith, Monsignor O'Reilly decided to build a Catholic school. On Sept 15, 1963 the school was offically blessed and opened by Bishop T.J. McCarthy D.D. of the St. Catharine's diocese, of which St. Michael's was now part of since 1958.
Vatican 11 brought some changes to the church. The first Mass celebrated in the vernacular (English) was on Mother's Day in 1965. The priest now celebrated the mass facing the congretation. Fr. O'Reilly had the old altar removed to the side altar in the Blessed Virgin's chaple. Monsignor resided in Dunnville after his retirement, but later moved to Mt Carmel home in St. Catharines. He died on December 7, 1978 and is buried in St. Michael's cemetery on Robinson Rd. In 1974 Fr. Michael O'Reilly came to pastor. He was born in Ireland and came to Canada after his ordination in 1943. He was a friendly, outgoing pastor who took time for all and was very much loved by his church family. He enjoyed a good game of euchre and an Irish joke as well. In 1974 a new Conn organ was purchased with money bequeathed to the church from Mrs Mabel (Hartnett).
The newly ordained, Fr. D.J. Lizzotti came to assist Fr. O'Reilly. Young and dynamic, his charismatic personality and joyful spirit endeared him to many. Fr. Gregory Denes, a Barnabite priest, came as an assistant at St. Michael's. Fr. Michael O'Reilly died of cancer on May 29, 1977 at the age of 60. Fr. LeRoy Lee was appointed next to our church in July 1977.
In keeping with the mandate of Vatican 2 he organized the lay ministries of the Eucharist, readers, hospitality and altar girls. During Fr. Lee's time he encourged the parish to adopt three Vietnamese boat families. We are still fortunate to have the Doan family with us at St. Michael's. Father also introduced the COR program for youth, Marriage encounter, Faith and Sharing retreats and the beginning of the RENEW program for all parishioners. In 1983 he was transfered to Chippewa, ON. He later died at Hotel Dieu in St. Catharines and was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Port Colborne, the town he had been raised in.
In July 1983 Fr. Mitchell Kasa became the pastor. He faithfully carried on Renew. He initiated plans to re-decorate the church in preparation for the Centennial celebration in 1986. A high efficiency gas furnace was installed in Dec 1985, and new hanging chandeliers were hung throughout the church. Fr. Mitchell undertook the building of a new altar, a new pulpit, presidential chair and server benches. New carpeting was installed and in the autumn a Centennial celebration took place. Fr. Mitchell Kasa was later transferred. Fr. Donald Lizzotti was assigned back to St. Michael's for three years. Plans to refurbish the parish centre were drawn up and work began. Before completion he was assigned to St. Michael's in Fort Erie. Fr. Hubert Dopp came to us next. He was an outgoing friendly priest loved to hear and tell a good joke. He retired to Dunnville at the Grand River condominiums, but passed away shortly after retirement. He was a dedicated supporter of a children's school in Africa.
Monsignor Raymond Montague succeeded Fr. Dopp in 2001. His friendly, easy going style endeared his to many. Parishioners were saddened upon hearing of his transfer to Sacred Heart Parish in Chippewa. In August 2004, Fr Michael Andrysiak was assigned to our parish from Welland. Fr. Michael has had air-conditioning installed in the church . He was transferred to Port Colborne on July 31, 2012. Fr. Fernandes was here just for an year after Father Michael..
Father Sunny Sebastian was appointed as Pastor of our parish on August 1, 2013. He brought life to the parish by forming a youth ministry team of 14 young women. Children from the school and parish started active participation in the Mass. He started fourth Sunday of every month Children's mass followed by luncheon for all. After many many years he started Christmas eve pageant for children . Youth fundraising programs like "Souper Super" and "Pancake breakfast" etc were started. New years eve dinner and social, St.patrick's day dinner and social for the adults also were started. He built Our Lady of Fatima Grotto which was blessed by Most Reverend Anthony Tonnos, bishop Emeritus ofHamilton Diocese. After many many years St. Michael's has become one of the vibrant parishes in our diocese after Father Sunny's arrival .