In undertaking to write a history of Corpus Christi Parish, we are indebted to Father Stanislaus McGrath, its founding pastor, for the notes and records which he left concerning its early days, notes which you will find directly quoted in these opening paragraphs, and which describe the birth of our parish.
THE STORY OF A PEOPLE`S CHURCH
by Fr. T. H. Fournier
Early in 1919 a number of Catholics from the "Beach District" of East Toronto called to see the late Archbishop Neil McNeil. They told him of the rapid growth of the district and that both St. Joseph's and St. John's churches were overcrowded. They suggested that they be allowed a chapel or perhaps a parish nearer home, at the Beach. His Grace gave the matter due consideration and consulted with a number of people before making the decision.
"At the luncheon on March 28th, 1919, he quietly said to his Chancellor Rev. S. McGrath: `The people at the Eastern Beaches want a parish. They have no idea how many Catholics there are. You may have that parish if you care to assume the burden, for while we have some land already purchased, it would be very up-hill piece of work. It is always the case in establishing a new parish.' Father McGrath thanked him and said he would be glad to do his best in the organization and building of a new parish."
"The Archbishop asked a couple of the older priests to visit the district and mark out a new parish from St. Joseph's and St. John's, taking in particularly the fast growing Beach District."
If the people of the new parish were pleased at this news, Father George Williams, then pastor of St. John's Parish, was not, as these words of his diary, now in the archives of St. John's indicate:
"March 13, 1920 – was notified today that Most Reverend N. McNeil has divided St. John's parish, giving the major portion (!! sic) to Rev. S. McGrath. We find today the parish is worse off now than when I came here as far as population and support is concerned."
In October, a temporary church was ordered.
It was planned to seat 300 people and, as the panel construction idea was used with panels 3'3" wide, it could be made any required length. It was hoped to have the first Mass on Christmas.
The temporary church was erected on the site of the present tennis courts. The church could hold 300 people and it was blessed and two Masses were said on Sunday, March 21, 1920.
The parish grew rapidly and in less than six months, four Masses each Sunday became necessary.
A cursory census revealed that there were about 150 families within the boundaries of the new parish.
Work began on the permanent church with a contract from John Gibb Morton, Architect in the mount on March 24, 1926.
The first priest ordained from the parish was Father Cecil Moreau, brother of Teresa Moreau, who offered his first Mass in our church in 1935.
Father Edwin Platt celebrated his first Mass at his home parish of Corpus Christi in 1948
Tragedy struck the parish. It was a TTC driver who reported our church on fire on Sunday morning April 4, 1943. It took five hours to put out the flames. It appears that thieves who rifled three Lenten poor boxes were believed to have set the fire. The vestibule of the church, the three-console Cassavant organ, the choir gallery and the ceiling were destroyed.
Twenty rows of pews at the rear of the church were burned or scorched. Damage was estimated at $40,000. Unknowing parishioners arriving for early Sunday Mass ended up assisting at the Eucharist with their backs turned to the fallen timbers, smoke and water damage everywhere.
Tragedy struck the church again in the form of another fire on May 30, 1975. Sometime after midnight, the window of the hall was smashed and the main altar was set on fire. The altar was reduced to a heap of white ash with the altar stone lying in the middle. A great circle of the surrounding carpet was reduced to black char. The guilty party or parties were never apprehended.
In 1977, Corpus Christi celebrated its 50th Anniversary with the installation of William Kurelek’s tabernacle mural blessed by Archbishop Philip Pocock. Mr. Kurelek, a famous painter from the Ukraine, painted the first parish picnic, commissioned by Father Fourneir.
In 2020, Corpus Christi completed 100 years. Preparations and grand celebrations for this occasion had to be put off as the Church remained closed Since May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.