Mary’s Home – Moncton

Father Meahan in 1895 led a group from St Bernard’s parish to work with other citizens in the community to establish a hospital. The committee initially provided financial aid to the sick to be received at the Alms House at Leger Corner (Dieppe). The committee was incorporated and they purchased land from Michael Spurr Harris on King Street for $2,000. The Moncton Hospital opened on November 11, 1903.

Father Meahans next concern was the need for a home for the aged and needy.  The Peter McSweeney family arrived in Saint John from Ireland.  Upon their arrival they met John Wallace a merchant from Hillsborough and in conversation he offered Peter a job as school teacher in Hillsborough.  The family settled there and the family grew to fourteen children and in 1855 they moved to Moncton.  Peter (Sr.) built a wood structured dry goods and furniture store at the corner of Duke and Main Streets.  He also assembled a large tract of land on the outskirts of Moncton where he built his homestead.  It was in the vicinity of the Hotel Dieu Hospital (Dr Georges Dumont Hospital).  The land included up to the present Mountain Road.  His son Peter (Jr.) built Moncton’s first department store in 1901 prior to Eaton’s coming to Moncton.  The building still stands at the foot of Botsford Street at Main Street.  He also was appointed to the Senate.  Son George bought the King Hotel at Main and Highfield Streets in 1884. It’s now known as the Crown Plaza.  Edward another son was active in politics, was Mayor of Moncton 1879 and 1880.

The family as Irish Catholics was very active in the church and had great influence in the community. Father Meahan received the McSweeney’s homestead from the widow of Edward for $5,000. The property was 22 acres and that was where Rev. Meahan started to build Mary’s Home on Mountain Road in Moncton. The stone for the Home also came from the McSweeney quarry. 

Mary's Home, Moncton, NB

Father Edward Savage became the second pastor at St. Bernard’s.  He was born in Melrose, NB on January 25, 1859 and was the last of thirteen children, one sister and eleven brothers.  His appointment by Bishop Thomas Casey was made August 1, 1905.  When he arrived in Moncton he called the inherited project of Mary’s Home a “pile of rubble” on Mary’s Hill. The Home was completed in two years at a cost of $35,000.  The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, July 15, 1906 in front of 2000 – 3000 people.  Senator Peter McSweeney, one of the many speakers said the building would accommodate 700 – 800 pupils with magnificent grounds and is ideal for school programs.

In the fall of 1907 on October 6 Sister Loretto Quirk led her little group of nuns from the Mother of Jesus Convent on Botsford Street to the castle-like residence on Mountain Road called Mary’s Home.  The twelve classrooms accommodated English and French speaking students with four classrooms utilized for instruction in the French language.  Although it was planned as a home for the aged, it remained a school until 1932 when the Mountain Road School was built at the corner of Mountain Road and Archibald Street (now Universite Ave.).  This was also part of the Mary’s Home property.  Mountain Road School was demolished in 1990 to make way for a parking lot for the CBAF TV & Radio network and the Dr. Georges Dumont Hospital staff.

Bishop LeBlanc wrote Father Savage saying “Owing to difficulty between the two parishes in Moncton, I have made changes affecting the Mary’s Home property and the vacant church lands in and around Moncton.  From this date I will take direct charge of these properties and you will kindly refrain from all supervision in connection thereto.  All revenues will be paid to me directly or to an agent which I will appoint; this is not intended against you personally.”  Mr. R.  A. Frechet an accountant in Moncton was appointed and acted until a final settlement was reached with the sale of Mary’s home to the Sisters of Charity on December 31, 1922.  Prior to the sale Father Savage forwarded the deed to the property after agreeing that the sale price would be $33,000.  La Paroisse L’Assomption would receive $28,000 and St. Bernard’s would share $5,000 with the understanding that they would pay the debt of $2,400 on Mary’s Home.

Mother M. Alphonsus (Carney) wrote from the Motherhouse in Saint John on January 1, 1923 to Father Savage thanking him as their benefactor in receiving the property and in a second note later indicating that if a second English speaking Catholic church was needed that the Sisters of Charity might be willing to provide a location for one at Mary’s Home. Bishop LeBlanc on January 5 forwarded his cheque for $5,000 in payment for St. Bernard’s share of the sale of Mary’s Home. 

Mary's Home, Moncton, NB

The Moncton school population continued to increase and even with the addition of Mary’s Home for schooling on a temporary basis and Wesley Street School was a wooden structure it was determined there was a need for two new schools.  A new school was built on St. Bernard’s Church property by demolishing the wooden structure to make way for St. Bernard’s Institute, later called St. Bernard’s School or Queen Street School as it was built closed to Queen Street with the main entrance on Queen Street.  The building housed seven classrooms, combination gymnasium/auditorium on the second floor and swimming pool and bowling alley on the first level.  The school opened in 1923 and was phased out in 1973. During the same period of time Father Henry Cormier built a large school at the corner of Victoria and Church Streets called Sacred Heart Academy.  It also contained classrooms, gymnasium/auditorium and bowling alley.  It opened the same year.  Both schools have been demolished.  St. Bernard’s became a parking lot and the Academy when vacated served for a period as a site for the L’Evangeline newspaper, campus for St. Joseph’s prior to the building of the Universite de Moncton in 1963.  

The year 1923 saw permission being given by Rome to allow the French speaking sisters to leave the Sisters of Charity and establish the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart with the motherhouse in Memramcook.  Fifty-three sisters went with the new group while some remained at Mary’s Home. The separation took place on February 17, 1924.

Two years after the classrooms were vacated by the pupils, Mary’s home reopened to serve as a home for the aged as it was initially intended. Accommodations in the home would be for fifty persons and Sister Mercedes would be the supervisor. Sister Mercedes was also a teacher and principal at the Queen Street School and served in that role until 1960, a period of thirty-seven years.  She was from Melrose with the maiden name Margaret Sweeney.

Archbishop Donat Chaisson on June 18, 1973 gave official permission to close Mary’s Home. The Sisters of Charity whose numbers had been decreasing moved in September to a Bonaccord Street residence and given the name St. Bernard’s Convent.  They had been at Mary’s Home for over sixty-six years.

The Home was purchased by Robert Alcorn and was renamed Alcorn Manor and continued to operate as a home for the elderly.  Since it has been in private hands, different owners have taken possession and the Home has been called Alcorn Centre 1986 Ltd., The Baron’s Senior Centre and Castle Manor since October 15. 1998. 

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