The Catholic faith’s presence in this region can be traced back over three centuries. During the 1600s, a community of Maliseet Indians resided just south of Woodstock, at a location known as Medoctec (Meductic). Various French missionaries, including Jesuits, Franciscans, and Recollects, journeyed up the Saint John River to spread Christianity in this part of the new world.
By 1717, a small chapel devoted to St. John the Baptist (St. Jean-Baptiste) was established. The Province of New Brunswick was formed in 1784, and Woodstock was established as a Loyalist settlement the following year, in 1785.
The arrival of Irish immigrants in the early 1800s signaled the need for a new church to be built closer to Woodstock’s burgeoning Catholic population, known then as “The Creek”.
From 1810 to 1830, Catholics occasionally congregated in homes for Eucharist celebrations. St. Malachy’s Chapel was built on the current site of St. Gertrude’s in 1832 under the guidance of Father William Dollard.
St. Gertrude’s Parish was incorporated on October 8, 1842, with Rev. Richard Veriker as its first resident priest. This was the same year the Diocese of Saint John was created, and the Maine-N.B. Border was established as it is known today. In 1849, the Parish of Woodstock covered a vast area from Nackawic to Grand Falls on both sides of the river and included Houlton, Maine. Father Veriker initiated plans for a larger church to accommodate the growing population. However, due to sectarian strife between Protestants and Catholics in the area, including a notable riot on July 12, 1847, between Orangemen and local Irish Catholics in Woodstock, it took a decade before the first mass could be celebrated.
The completion of the second church was not achieved until 1849 with the arrival of Father Thomas Connolly, a pioneering priest from Chatham, New Brunswick. Serving in Woodstock for three different terms across four decades, Father Connolly is considered one of the most distinguished priests in the church’s history.
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