In early 1923, the parish of St Charles was established for the Moore Park area by Great Archbishop Neil McNeil. Its first pastor, Fr Francis Pennylegion, soon renamed the parish St Catherine of Siena. The congregation held its first Mass at St Charles School, a two-room structure once located at 1416 Yonge St, between Balmoral Ave and St Clair Ave W.
By the summer of that year, the old schoolhouse officially became the chapel as the new St Charles School on Garfield Ave had been completed.
In 1925, Fr Francis Morrissey became the church’s second pastor and renamed the parish Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The congregation was growing quickly, and Fr Morrissey played a significant part in building a permanent location. In 1926, the Archdiocese purchased the northwest corner of St Clair Ave E and Clifton Rd.
Architect J Gibb Morton was commissioned to design the church. Construction began in 1929, with Archbishop Neil McNeil laying the cornerstone. That same year, the stock market crash significantly reduced the parish’s invested funds, and in March 1930, while the church was still under construction, Fr William Egan was appointed the new pastor. Fr Egan inherited a large debt which took about two decades to pay off.
The Picturesque Church
Our Lady of Perpetual Help features Neo-Romanesque style architecture with Byzantine elements. The cruciform-shaped Roman Catholic church is clad with a course, variegated Credit Valley stone. A few exterior architectural highlights include stone trim, a semi-circular entrance supported by six columns with richly carved capitals, a 40 m or 130 ft tall campanile (an Italian bell tower) and a terra cotta clay tiled roof.
Interior features include terrazzo floors, dark oak woodwork, arches carrying the vaulted ceiling, and staircases leading to the organ and choir gallery. The sanctuary mirrors the entrance in its half-circle shape and the columns.
The first service was held on June 15, 1930, with the church’s nearly 1,000 seats being filled. Solemn High Mass was sung and was accompanied by St Michael’s Cathedral choir.
The cost to construct the church was nearly $155,000.
Throughout the years, colourful stained glass windows were installed, and the church has undergone a few renovations and restorations.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Today
Along with offering in-person worship services, the church supports the needs of the community. Their website also features a 360° virtual tour.
Did You Know?
The “cornerwise” positioning of the church only adds to its beauty. The term cornerwise means to be situated diagonally or at a 45° angle to the corner.
In 1937, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church bought a 1905-built organ for $5,000 from the People’s Church once on Bloor St E and Park Rd.
In 1953, the Rectory at 78 Clifton Rd was replaced with a new structure designed by architect Robert A Servos. The Rectory underwent restoration from 2006/07.
The Moore Park neighbourhood is named after John Thomas Moore, a chartered accountant, politician, developer, explorer and businessman who planned the subdivision in the late 1880s. The area did not start being developed until the 1920s.
One of Ontario’s ecclesiastical design leaders, J Gibb Morton, was the architect of several churches in Toronto and rebuilt Metropolitan United Church after a fire in 1928.