The Catholic Church at Placentia

Scared Heart Church
The history of the Catholic Church in Placentia may be traced back to predate the establishmnet of a settlement at Placentia by France in 1662. There is some historical evidence to support the theory that the Portuguese constructed a church on the Jersey Side of Placentia during the 1500's. However church records show very little about this early church and clergy. An archaeological dig on the site in 1972 unearthed a body from a grave in this area.

The European fishermen who fished the waters of Placentia Bay were served by clergy from their native lands but little is known about them. References in historical documents indicate that priests were sent out to serve these fisherman.

There was a chaplain at the fort in Placentia for at least a year before the arrival of the Recollets. In 1687, according to church records, there were four churches in the area. One at the Fort of Plaisance; a second in the same town of Plaisance; a third at Pointe-Verde; and a fourth at Petit- Plaisance (Argentia). On the 21st of June 1689 Bishop de Saint-Vallier of Quebec with Fathers Sixte le Tac, Joseph Denis and Brother Didace Pelletier arrived in Placentia to establish a parish. The Recollets served at Placentia until 1701 when they were replaced by the Recollets of Brittany.

When the French established a colony at Placentia in 1662 they brought priests with them to minister the Catholic population. At first these priests were assigned to the garrison.

In 1662 when Nicholas Gargot left Placentia he left Thalour de Perron an unnamed RC Priest to serve as Chaplain . This man was attacked and killed by rebels.

In 1689 came Bishop Sainte-Vallier who was accompanied by Father Georgieu Guardian of the French Franciscan Foundation. Before this date there was at least one resident priest, even during the winter. The Bishop on his first visit arranged for the Franciscans to come and work here. A church was built on the site of the French graveyard on the beach and a monastery, part of which is said to have served as the old court house.

There was then a well ordered Ecclesiastical system and Devine worship was carried out with all due decorum according to the rites of the Catholic Church.

The Franciscans continued to dominate in serving the Newfoundland people faithfully. At the end of the eighteenth century when, after a long period of prohibition during the penal era, the Church was able to send missionaries to Newfoundland, they chose the monks of St. Francis as well. These missionaries came from Ireland.

For fifty-one years after the English took over the colony Catholics were not permitted to practice their religion. In 1784 freedom of Religion was granted and the Catholic Church was officially established in Placentia.


Sources:
Flynn, Right Rev. Monsignor, B.A. 1940, "Placentia"