150th Anniversary, St. Peter’s, Catalina: A Historic Reflection and Commemorative Celebration

The Rev'd Eli Cross

On October 19th and 20th, 2023, the Anglican Church of St Peter in Catalina celebrated its 150th Anniversary. Since the records were not fully available, the following account will document the historic work of Anglicans in Catalina and the outlying communities.

The earliest mission in the region of the Bonavista Peninsula was located at Bonavista. Sometime around 1820, the Mission of Catalina became independent from its predecessor. In an article written by The Rev’d J. T. Hiscock for the Centenary of St Peter’s, we read, “Catalina and neighbouring settlements formed a part of the larger mission of Bonavista…and the clergy of Bonavista visited and gave the church’s administration.” (Fisherman’s Advocate: 10/10/1947 p. 5) The people of this region frequented Bonavista to receive such services as the church provided when the clergy were unable to attend in Catalina.

Around 1843, a Catalina schoolmaster was ordained (by Bishop Feild) to the Diaconate in the person of William Netten. The following dates are on record:

1. From 1841: a list of subscribers committing to annual support for a separate mission.

2. The first baptism service by Rev’d Netten on October 13th, 1843.

3. The first wedding on October 30th, 1844 actually placed him on record as residing in Catalina and presiding at St Peter’s.

4. The Rev’d Wm Netten presided over worship until 1879 at St Peter’s.

As you can see, not much was recorded about the first St Peter’s Church, but did lead to the construction of the current Anglican Church in Catalina, which is the community’s second church named for St. Peter. It was constructed near the site of the first church. Donations for the new church began in 1860 when the minister, The Rev’d William Netten, gave £5 for the project. By 1863, the parish had raised sufficient funds to begin construction. John Harvey supervised the project, which was finished in 1873. The substantial cost of the project was largely borne by the congregation, who contributed approximately £1,500 over the fifteen years of construction. 

The central nave represents a classic example of the Gothic revival style of Anglican churches built in rural Newfoundland throughout the nineteenth century. The 22-metre steeple has been a major landmark in the Catalina area since its construction. The decor reflects a Puritan temperament, with a preference for austerity rather than ornamentation. The church still contains the original pews and can seat 450 people. (Source -Registered Heritage Structures Bibliography) The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador declared St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Catalina a Heritage Structure in June 1987.

Fast forward to August 2023: a committee was struck to plan a celebration for the 150th Anniversary of St Peter’s. The original date of commemoration was not available on record, but indications were that it was an October event. The 100th Anniversary was celebrated on October 5th in 1973. 

From records of 1873, we observed that baptism records were interrupted for an extended period with three babies registered for October 19th of that year. It was possible the interruption signalled the change from St Peter’s I to St Peter’s II. With no guarantees the date was planned for October 19th and 20th, 2023. On October 19th, St Peter’s was the site of a Gospel Jamboree, with approximately 15 performers, for a congregation exceeding 200 patrons. This event was followed by a “Cup o’ Tea” at the hall, complete with a smorgasbord of treats and desserts.

The Commemorative Anniversary Worship was a Eucharist presided over by The Venerable Terry Caines, Archdeacon for The Anglican Diocese of Central Newfoundland, assisted by the current rector, The Rev’d Eli Cross (2020-present), with a homiletic message by former rector, The Rev’d Eric Squires (2005-2012), to over 250 people, seated in the pews. 

Harold Duffett: 70 Years of Vestry Leadership
Left to right: Rev’d Eli Cross, Glenn Freake, Rev’d Eric and Rev’d Judy Squires (former rector and parish deacon)

Other former clergy in attendance included The Rev’d Neal Buffett (2018-19), and Deacons The Rev’d Judith Squires (05-12) and The Rev’d Beverly Buffett (18–19). Other attendees at the celebration include The Rev’d John Sparkes, Regional Dean; The Rev’d Robert Oldford, retired; The Rev’d Amanda Barnes-Butt from the United Church  in Bonavista; and many active licensed lay ministers from the region.   

The worship was followed by a banquet and dance at the Port Union Lions’ Club with emcees The Rev’d Eli Cross and LLM Glenn Freake. Many happy stories were told and many were honoured with certificates for ministries of leadership, lay ministry, and musical ministry. The most notable were Harold Duffett and Melvin Freake for 70 and 60 years respectively served on vestry, and Penny Duffett and Doris Freake for over 70 years as organists. Marie Duffett was recognized for over 30 years as a Licensed Lay and Eucharistic Assistant ministry. Family members accepted for Melvin, Doris, and Marie, who were absent for health reasons.

The oldest congregational member in attendance, Clayton Cullimore, now in his 89th year, received the honour of cutting the celebration cake. We surrounded him with the children present, who proceeded to distribute the cake to everyone. 

Left to right: Rev’d Eli, Rev’d Beverly and Rev’d Neal Buffett (former rector and parish deacon), and Glenn Freake
Left to right: Rev’d Eli, Penny Duffett (70 years choir director/organist), and Glenn Freake

Despite a very successful event, the very next morning we were saddened and shocked at the passing of Doris Freake at her home at Port Union. Our thoughts were immediately with her family, and our grief buoyed by her pleasant demeanour and life-long ministry through her music. Spiritual commitments of people like Doris have truly made St. Peter’s a dynamic and enduring source of ministry. May she forever rest in peace. 

A pictorial banner was dedicated, and it now hangs at the church. Its inscription says:  “You are Peter—and on this rock I will build my church, I give you the keys to the kingdom … what is bound on earth shall be bound in heaven.” It was Peter’s revelation of Jesus as the “Christ” that prompted this statement. We still stand on that revelation of “the Rock”. Not much remains in historic documents of the first church of St Peter, but the latter, with its 30-metre white cross-topped spire has become a community icon recognized for strength of conviction and enduring revelation of the Word.

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