To learn more about St. Columbkillle’s Cathedral Parish, please visit their website.
Work on the new church began in 1872. Father Jouvent of St. Columbkille Parish had a building erected, the interior unfinished in 1874, and then he was replaced by Father Remi Fauré in 1875. No rectory was erected at this point; the pastor would live in rented rooms. By 1878, the parish had two hundred and fifty families. The first General Hospital was opened in the old Convent in Lower Town.
On July 11, 1882, the Vicariate Apostolic of Pontiac was established. It was an immense territory stretching from James Bay on the north to the northern limits of the Diocese of Kingston and the Diocese of Peterborough on the south. Because Pembroke was centrally located on the main missionary route, and because St. Columbkille’s was the largest parish, Bishop Narcisse Zéphirin Lorrain, the new Bishop, chose this parish for his temporary parish church and base for this apostolic labours.
In 1885, construction was begun on the Bishop’s House beside the church, with its eventual completion in 1887. Shortly after its completion, the Cathedral sanctuary was enlarged and rebuilt, two new side altars, to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, were added, a spacious sacristy was erected. While the basement of the church was made into a parish hall, the sacristy basement was to accommodate the altar servers. All the interior decorations were completed by December 31, 1890.
With the Cathedral being a hub for the community in 1914, Rector Father Patrick S. Dowdall made one of his first projects to modernize the basement of the Cathedral into a parish centre. New installations for lighting, heating, and boardrooms and offices for various parish organizations came into being. The year 1915 recorded the death of the beloved Bishop Lorrain whose remains were laid to rest in the crypt of the Cathedral.
During the Second World War in 1940, Rector Father Clarke had also a building plan prepared to renovate the Bishop’s House. Once the Bishop’s House was completed, Fr Clarke completed research with Mr. Alphonse Martineau to plan renovations for the Cathedral. Construction began in May 1951. With the side walls partly taken down and transepts added, the new annex gives entrance to the upper and lower sacristies, passage into the church for processions and entry into the parish hall. The altars, Communion rail, episcopal throne, and the shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help were all renewed, blending in well with the architecture. The main entrance was somewhat changed to give more vestibule space. The retaining walls of the tower and gallery were pierced through to form cross alleys. A baptistery was located off the vestibule. The pulpit and stairway built by Messmer had an efficient sound system placed therein during 1950. The organ was also rebuilt and refurbished.
During the year 1965, a new diocesan administration building was added to the present Cathedral rectory and chancery. The new building connected to the old on two floors. This was built to house the offices needed for the implementation of the decrees of Vatican Council II. On the first floor were the Bishop’s Office, Chancery Office, Office of Lay Apostolate, Office of Religious Education, a meeting room for Diocesan Consultors, the Senate of Priests, and for special occasions. The second floor contained a private chapel, the living quarters for Bishop Smith and Bishop Windle and a guest room. The building was erected by M. Sullivan Construction Company, Arnprior.
After Vatican II, the Cathedral was also renovated by Gerry Barink Construction to have a wider sanctuary area. The bishop’s throne was moved from the left side to the place where the main altar had been. A new altar was placed in the sanctuary for the celebrant to face the people. The old pulpit and stairway were removed, as was the Communion railing. An altar of reservation over which was suspended a lighted canopy was located on the left side of the sanctuary. The area in front of the other side altar was converted into a baptistery. New lighting was installed in the main body of the church and in the sanctuary, and the entire church was carpeted. The pews were refinished. The colour scheme of the walls was off-white. This work was executed by Guy Perrier and Associates of Vanier, Ontario. The Cathedral was rededicated by Bishop Smith at a special liturgy.
In 1981, the Cathedral was interiorly redecorated and repainted. The appointments and furnishings were not changed as the renovation has already taken place.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee of Year 2000, Bishop Brendan O’Brien and the Rector of the Cathedral, Father Patrick Tait, ordered a redecoration of the cathedral. New carpet was installed and places of honour, like the altar of celebration, were finished with marble tiles. Repainting was done and with the new technologies developing, special tapestry were printed and installed to give it back its Irish heritage decoration.
A few years later, at the inspiration and guidance of Bishop Richard Smith, a new and more honourable baptismal fount was installed at the entrance of the nave. At the same time, a five foot statue of St. Columbkille, the patron saint, was custom made and installed in a prominent place at the front of the church.
In 2019, the final main stained glass window was reinstalled into the Cathedral walls after many years of tireless work of painstaking restoration. That same year, the Cathedral’s signature organ was refurbished and updated with modern electronics. In addition, the entire parking lot was repaved.