Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Howard celebrated its 175th anniversary at a special outdoor mass on Sunday, July 22. The Annual Shrine Mass (Healing Mass) was celebrated by Bishop Robert Harris and well attended by other clergy, parishioners and visitors.
On July 19, 1987 Most Reverand J. Edward Troy, Bishop of Saint John, dedicated the church at “The Forks”, as a Diocesan Marian Shrine, a place of pilgrimage, prayer and worship.
In 1836, inspired by the vision of Michael Egan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Nelson, Bishop Bernard MacDonald of the Diocese of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, authorized the construction of a church at “The Forks”, the confluence of the Cains and Southwest Miramichi rivers.
The large timbers for rafters and sills were sawed and hewed by hand. The roof and exterior walls were covered with hand-made cedar shingles, long since replaced. The interior walls were plastered. Wide white pine boards, some as wide as 20 inches, were placed horizontally around the four sides to the height of three feet. The original pews and gallery are still in use today and the fifty foot spire keeps watch over the surrounding countryside.
Bishop MacDonald happily commissioned Father Egan to bless the completed Church under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on February 25, 1837.
Today, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the oldest Catholic Church in continuous use in the Diocese of Saint John.
The Forks: Our Lady of Mount Carmel
I stood on the Mount of St. Mary’s
At the ancient, historical ‘Forks’,
In the midst of the forest and fairies,
And memories of many good works.
And I looked on the dear little chapel,
That stands on the beautiful hill,
At whose foot is the old house of Murdoch’s
Now silent and lonely and still.
And over the beautiful river,
To the Tom Beston tavern of old—
The old man has left it forever
For the graveyard so silent and cold.
I stood by the tomb of Tom Beston.
A marvellous matter of stone;
A dear little place ’tis to rest on,
So the old man is seldom alone.
To the right is the tomb of James Ready
Of ‘eighteen and forty three’,
A man of good habits and steady,
Of old time in Miramichi.
To the left is the tomb of John Bergin:
The three oldest tombs on the sod,
Each one with its Latin inscription
That speaketh of Heaven and God.
Dear Shades of a past generation,
Whose ashes lie scattered around,
Who came from a far-away nation,
Who sleep the last slumber profound!
I wish that my pen were more worthy
To speak of the deeds you have done,
In the days when The Forks was a centre
Of forestry, fighting and fun.
I have heard of your marvellous story,
A mixture of falsehood and truth,
And have felt the full charm of its glory
In the marvelous manner of youth.
‘Tis said that the great Charles Magnus,
Who ruled on the beautiful Rhine,
Comes oft of a sweet summer evening
To gaze on the prospect devine.
To bless the dear people who loved him,
To feast on the glorious scene,
And then steal away to his slumbers,
So sacred, so silent, serene.
I wonder if any dear spirit
Comes forth on this beautiful hill,
To gaze on the scene of past grandeur,
Now silent and lonely and still.
The glamour of all is around me,
The day that is now far away,
And I’m pleased that my fortune has found me
By the tomb on this sweet Autumn day.
Dear Shades of our fathers and mothers,
Whose bones strew this dear, holy ground,
I hope in the mansions of Heaven
The happiest homes you have found.
O merciful Father in Heaven!
Look down from thy mansion above.
And bless the dear hearts of this people
With infinite comfort and love.
By Michael Whelan
The Poet of Renous