By C.A.O. Morris
A handful of Catholic parents in September 1953 assembled at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Horton to explore means of knitting together the Catholic families in the communities of Riverview, Gunningsville, Bridgedale and other parts of the Coverdale Parish of Albert County.
As a result, at the first meeting the Catholic Family Club was formed with the late Mr. R.W. Murphy as president and C.A.O. Morris as Secretary-Treasurer.
This group met monthly at various homes. The initial project was assistance to the Sunday School which up to this time was taught in the basement of the Riverview School by the late Rev. J.P. Butler, then pastor of St. Bernard's. At the outset, arrangements were made to bring the Sisters of Charity from Mary's Home in Moncton to Riverview each Sundy to teach in the program. This arrangement lasted for many years.
Many funds raising projects were successfully carried out, and surplus money was set aside for the church of the future to which everyone looked forward.
On Sunday, November 27, 1955, Mass was celebrated in the library of the present Riverview Junior High School. As the number of parishioners grew it was necessary to move to the auditorium where later two Masses were celebrated each Sunday. These Masses were said through the courtesy of Father Butler. His assistant, the beloved Father Eugene Lafitte tended to the needs of the congregation.
In the late 1950s the Catholic Family Club decided to approach the Archbishop of Moncton with the view to establish Riverview as a parish. Bannon O'Hearn and Charles Morris were appointed as delegates to approach the Archbishop. The delegates were received graciously and sympathetically by the Archbishop, who indicated he was well aware of the situation in Riverview and would respond to the request as soon as feasible.
Shortly thereafter Riverview was constituted as a Parish being a Mission of Holy Ghost Parish in Riverside. In 1959 the first Mass was celebrated in the new church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The church was built on a high plot of ground overlooking the entire Riverview area. Father Hynes eventually moved to Riverview purchasing a residence on Fatima Drive.
On February 14, 1960, Most Reverend Norbert Robichaud, D.D., Archbishop of Moncton, blessed the new church located on Fatima Drive.
The following Sunday some 1,200 people assembled and were shown through the church with its attractive exterior of light brick and interior of light oak furnishings, liturgical altar and statuary from Northern Italy. The church had the capability of seating 250 people.
In April 1960 an organization meeting was held in the meeting room of the church and the Catholic Women's League was formed. Mrs. C.A.O. Morris was elected president. Other officers were Mrs. G. Duquette and Mrs. Leo Lapine, Vice Presidents, Mrs. Frank Keiver, Secretary and Mrs. Donald Day, Treasurer. Conveners were named and the newly organized CWL Council took over parish projects formerly carried out by the Riverview Catholic Family Club. It had many years of very successful work in the life of the church and the community. It is interesting to note that thirty-two active members still reside in the area.
The CWL ceased to exist after 12 years. The Ladies Society was formed to continue the work on the parish level.
Construction of the rectory took place in 1965.
In 1976 it became apparent that the present church was inadequate to serve the needs of the congregation. A committee was formed to study the situation. A meeting was held with the Archbishop at which time a comprehensive study was presented. The Archbishop expressed keen interest in the study and in June 1976 gave his approval of a plan to expand the present facilities. Tenders were called and a contract for the expansion was entered into with Newcast Construction Ltd.
Construction took place between April 15 and August 15, 1977. During the period of construction, services were held in the Anglican Church in Riverview. The parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish will ever remain indebted to the generosity of the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Parish.
The renovations doubled the capacity of the church to seat approximately 500 persons. In his expression of approval of the expansion in 1976, the Archbishop, Most Rev. Donat Chaisson, indicated his desire to have the parish acquire land for future expansion. In compliance with this desire, the parish acquired property on the south side of Callowhill Drive west of the intersection with Trites Road.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish has experienced effective leadership under its pastor, Father H.F. Grattan, and his assistant, Rev. J. Emery Doucet. Together they have melded the parish into a thriving unit of the People of God.