St. Michael’s Cemetery – Connection with OLPH School and Church
The 150th Anniversary Mass of St. Michael’s Cemetery was celebrated by retired Bishop Pearse Lacey
on September 24, 2005 at 2 pm.
St. Michael’s Cemetery was opened in 1855 in the “north” part of Toronto. It is the oldest visible Catholic cemetery in Metropolitan Toronto. It was not the first cemetery, as it was preceded by the first one beside St. Paul’s Church (first parish in Toronto) in 1822 and St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1848. Since these older cemeteries were closed or moved, St. Michael’s Cemetery remains as the oldest visible cemetery. On this 10-acre property lies about 29,000 of Toronto’s Catholic pioneers from 1857 to the early 1900’s.
The rather hidden entrance is located on the west side of Yonge Street, just south of St. Clair Avenue. The cemetery is maintained by the Toronto Catholic Cemetery Association and open to the public. It contains beautiful sepulchral art to make it an interesting and historical place to visit.
The OLPH School and Church both started, as forerunners, on the grounds of St. Michael’s Cemetery. In 1860 a wood-frame schoolhouse, St. Charles School, was built there to educate children in the Deer Park area. In January 1923, a new St. Charles School was opened at the present site of the OLPH School.
With the new school opened, the older school on the cemetery grounds was converted into a one-room church. Even before the new parish was started, Mass was already being provided. The new parish was established in March 1923 with Fr. Frank Pennylegion as its first pastor. The church was called St. Catherine of Siena, later renamed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The cornerstone of the present church was laid in August 1929.
- “A Quiet Gentle Surprise (A History of St. Michael’s Cemetery)”, by Toronto Catholic Cemeteries Association, 1980 (published on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary in September 1980). Copies of this historical booklet can be obtained from Mount Hope Cemetery.
- “The Growth of Catholic Cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Toronto”, Fr. Edward Jackman, Toronto Archdiocesan Historian, in above Ref. 1.
- “Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Toronto – 60th Anniversary 1923-1983” OLPH Booklet, September 1983.