St. Patrick’s Church, Brampton
and Fr. Vito Marziliano

di Priscilla Pajdo del February 18, 2022

TORONTO - At the corner of Mayfield Rd and The Gore Rd in Brampton, west of Highway 50, stands one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Ontario. St. Patrick’s Church (Wildfield) was founded in 1830 by Father Edward Gordon, and formally registered in 1833.

St. Patrick’s Church (Glen Carter)

The area was known as the North District of Toronto Gore Township. The parish was intended to serve the increasing influx of immigrants who settled in the agricultural communities of Toronto Gore and the neighbouring townships.

Before the establishment of the Church, early Catholic settlers (mainly from Ireland), who started to arrive around 1818, had to travel more than 50 km southeast to celebrate Mass. Their only option was the newly founded, in 1822, St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto (then known as the Town of York), at the corner of Queen St and Power St., just east of Parliament Ave.

Fifty kilometers might not seem like a far distance today. The luxury of vehicles that can travel in excess of 100 km/h on multi-lane paved highways have made the commute rather convenient. However, travel in the 1800s was considerably more strenuous without any of our modern-day luxuries. The Irish congregation demanded a parish of their own.

They got their wish. The initial Church was the first to be placed under the patronage of St. Patrick in the Province of Ontario. It was the second parish, after St. Paul’s Basilica, to be established by the Archdiocese of Toronto. The community grew and established it own school board to solidify the triage of school - church – family in Ontario (Upper Canada, as it was called before the creation of the Canadian Confederation).

As Canada grew so did the congregation of St. Patrick Wildfield. It needed a more permanent structure. Guided by Father Francis McSpiritt, the community helped build the present Church in 1894, with some additions years later.

Credit: St. Patrick’s Church

As the Church welcomed members of the Wildfield community and beyond, the demographics of the congregation began to change. Increasingly, more of its parishioners were Italian-Canadian. In fact, in 1983, Reverend Michele Perrella, who originated from Italy, arrived at St. Patrick’s to preside over the celebration of its 150th anniversary.

Thirty years later, in 2014, Father Vito Marziliano was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s Church to guide the burgeoning population on their faith journey. He served his community faithfully until his unexpected passing on February 12, 2022, at the age of sixty-seven, from a heart attack.

Fr. Vito Marziliano, Credit: St. Patrick’s Church

The people who knew Fr. Vito recognized his ability to connect with others, sharing the message of Christ and the connection between Church, School and Home. He was dedicated to the service of helping others and guiding them. His connection to St. Patrick’s was made clear in his wishes that he be buried in the churchyard cemetery.

That cemetery (St. Patrick’s, Wildfield) is considered one of the oldest best-kept graveyards in the province. The earliest recorded burial (1836) was that of Wm. Harrison, a Yorkshireman. The cemetery is nearly full. Roughly 90% of the tombstones bear Irish names. Among the interments is Father McSpiritt, the builder of the current structure.

St. Patrick Cemetery Plaque, Credit: Glen Carter

In the 1960s, all upright monuments were removed as per the Cemetery Act of Ontario. The rules and regulations in the Act considered tilted headstones a hazard to visitors. The flat stones were preserved in concrete frames. The names of all those buried on the grounds, and the date of their death, were inscribed on a bronze plaque. That plaque was given a place of honour at the centre of the cemetery.

Shortly, it will bear Father Vito Marziliano’s name as well.

Public visitation will be held today from 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm at the St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Woodbridge (150 St. Francis Avenue). Visitors must register online to be able to enter the Church (www.vesciofuneralhome.com). The Funeral Mass will be livestreamed February 19, at 10am, by St. Clare of Assisi.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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