St. Simon and St. Jude Parish Church


Visit the St. Simon and St. Jude Parish Church website here.


A Little Taste of Lakeshore's History by Corey Savard, as seen in Simply Lakeshore Magazine.

Belle River is a town vibrant with French culture; a culture with deep Roman Catholic values. There is no better symbol of this than St. Simon and St. Jude Parish located in the heart of Belle River. The parish has existed since the early days of this quiet community and has grown along with its people through its 167 year history. The structure has witnessed both tragedy and mourning, but through the resilience of its dedicated pastors and the strength of the community, it has been able to overcome the obstacles of time and become a figure of this historic town.

St Simon and St Jude Parish Church Early Catholic History

In the late 18th to early 19th century, Belle River residents had no formal place of worship with the closest church being Assumption Church located in Sandwich (Windsor), which roughly took a day of travelling by carriage. The first mass in Belle River was in 1814 at the home of Antoine Goyeau on January 17, 1814 to honour the residents who perished in the War of 1812. From 1814 to 1833, it was common for wealthy Belle River residents to volunteer their large homes to the community for Sunday mass. Priests in 19th century Roman Catholic villages had great influence on everything in the community and his word was always final. The people of Belle River turned to their priest because they felt he had a higher level of education and was closer to God. For instance, if a dance was to be held in the town, permission from the priest was mandatory, the reason being was dances at this time were considered "immoral".

The Founding of the Parish

In 1833, the Bishop of Quebec decided that a regular mission should be established in Belle River. The following year an altar was constructed where the shrine on West Belle River Road now stands. In 1845, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto visited Belle River and instructed the Jesuit priests in charge of laying out plans to build missions in Essex County and to build a permanent church for the St. Jude Mission. The first permanent church in the town was established when the St. Jude Mission was relocated along present-day County Road 42 in 1849.

Vision and Change

In 1857, Reverend Eugene Jahan became the first resident pastor of the St. Jude Mission and with the construction of the Great Western Railway along Lake St. Clair, he felt the church should be located in the centre of town to make mass easily accessible to the flow of settlers coming to Belle River. The total cost for its construction was $12,000 and became known as the Parish of St. Simon and St. Jude. When Father Jahan was transferred, Rev. Joseph Girard took his place. In 1883, Father Girard had brought back stained by Corey Savard glass windows from France that adorn the church to this day. He was also responsible for the church's first renovations as well as bringing in the sisters of the St. Joseph Order to the parish whom founded the St. Jean Baptiste grammar school. When Father Girard passed away in 1891, his remains were laid to rest in a crypt below the altar of the church. When Rev. Pierre L'Heureux became resident pastor, he succeeded in enlarging the church and erected a steeple, but it fell on the convent in the tornado of 1919. Both the church and convent suffered severe damages, but wealthy philanthropist James Cooper offered to help cover the reconstruction costs. With Cooper's wealth and the guidance of Father L'Heureux, the first high school was built in Belle River and in 1922 was named St. James High School in honour of Cooper's generosity. The building still stands today, but is now known as the Belle River chapter of the Canadian Legion located on Notre Dame Street.

Legacy

The Parish of St. Simon and St. Jude celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1934 with a ceremony in the company of 4,000 people. The parish is now 167 years old and has become a fixture in the town peeking through the trees and buildings along Notre Dame Street. The large hall is a popular venue in the small town for family gatherings and celebrations and hosts monthly blood drives. St. Simon and St. Jude has withstood the test of time and will be a staple of the Belle River community for generations to come.

Weekend Mass
  • Saturday: 4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. (Bilingual)
Contact
  • St. Simon and St. Jude Parish
    488 St. Charles Street, P.O. Box 130,
    Belle River, Ontario N0R 1A0
  • Phone: 519-728-3381 | Fax: 519-728-1772
  • Email: click here