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. On the feast of Christ the King, 1991, the then Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic, dedicated the new Parish Church.
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 a young unknown artist named Timothy Schmalz. Timothy has created some remarkable works over the years with several of them being stationed in the Vatican. Our Parish was lucky enough to receive another of his works entitled “welcoming the Stranger” which adorns our foyer welcoming people as they enter the Worship Space.
St. Elizabeth Seton Parish
Inside the stained glass doors are the Baptismal font, the Rooms of Reconciliation and the Ambry containing 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. Our font contains running water which circulates constantly being recycled through an ultraviolet filter system which kills all the germs and bacteria. Architectural attention has been given to Baptism by its construction from rock and the natural light provided by a skylight overhead. There is a beam that runs from the baptismal font, ascending to the front of the Church as a direct axis that architectural reminds us that we baptise people so that they may come to the Table of the Eucharist.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel to the left of the main foyer is a lasting memorial of the previous Mission Church in Sharon. The bell from the Mission is in the Parish’s possession though it hasn’t found a permanent home on the grounds. The Chapel houses the Tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and is open for private prayer and adoration.
The stained glass windows were designed and executed by Gerald Mesterom Stained Glass Studios in Ottawa. Gerald was the grandson of a famous Dutch glazier and continued the family tradition of creating and restoring these beautiful works of art. 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 outside of Mass.
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.