January 26, 2015

GUELPH, ONT. – The Church of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, the childhood parish of Cardinal Thomas Collins, has been named a basilica.

The landmark church perched on a hill overlooking the city was designated a basilica last month by Pope Francis, catching parishioners by surprise.

Parishioners heard the news Dec. 8 during a special Mass celebrating the church's new altar when Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby announced at the end of his homily that Pope Francis had approved the designation.

Hamilton Vicar General Msgr. Murray Kroetsch said the news left those in the pews speechless.

"People were shocked because the bishop wanted it to be a surprise, which it was," said Kroetsch, who attended the Mass. "After a brief second of silence there was a very hearty applause that was given to the news. The people I think are very, very proud."

Being designated a basilica means a greater emphasis will be added to the celebrations of special feast days.

"It also indicates a special kind of relationship that exists between the Holy Father and this particular church," added Kroetsch.

Designated a national historic site in 1990, the church played an important role in the development of the Hamilton Diocese's northern region.

"Most of the parishes in the north of our diocese were missions of the Church of Our Lady," said Kroetsch.

In 1877 the cornerstone of the church, which had been established as a parish a number of years earlier, was laid.

It took six more years before architect Joseph Connolly would see the Gothic church, consecrated in 1883, completed to stand above the city in all its glory.