St. Mary's Basilica (Halifax, N.S.: Catholic)

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St. Mary's Basilica (Halifax, N.S.: Catholic)

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St. Mary's Basilica is the main church of the Archdiocese of Halifax, NS, Canada. It is part of the Roman Catholic Church, a world-wide religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, whose leader is the Pope in Rome. It was founded in 1784 and given the name St. Peter's Church shortly after the repeal of Catholic penal laws allowed Catholics freedom of worship in Nova Scotia. In 1829 this wooden church was replaced by a stone cathedral and the name was changed to St. Mary's Cathedral. In 1950, St. Mary's Cathedral was elevated to the status of a minor basilica. In 1997, it was recognized as a national historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. In addition to being the parish for a community of Irish Catholic immigrants, St. Mary's Basilica also functioned as the headquarters for the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia in its early history. The first resident priest was Rev. Edmund Burke, sent to Halifax in 1801 by the Archbishop of Quebec to lead the faithful Catholics of Nova Scotia. Rev. Burke began to keep records of the activities of this Church, including its finances, minutes of meetings, and who received the sacraments of baptism, marriage and burial.

Financial support for the priests' living and working expenses was provided through contributions made upon the receipt of a sacrament or service such as baptism, or sick call visits (stole fees). These contributions were carefully recorded. In 1843, the parish formed a committee, raised funds, and built a new cemetery and chapel called the Cemetery of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel, under the leadership of Bishop William Walsh. To promote holiness among the people, the priests of St. Mary's Cathedral encouraged Catholics to join a parish club or society. Some societies were social or spiritual in nature such as the Holy Name Society and the St. Mary's and St. Patrick's Temperance Society, while others helped to carry out the work of the Church, like the St. Peter's Singing Society (which became the St. Mary's Cathedral Choir), or the St. Mary's Catechistical Society.


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