The earliest Catholic families in the Brampton area were served by travelling missionary priests from the Kingston Archdiocese, the first English-speaking Catholic diocese in Canada. With the establishment of St. Paul's Church in Toronto (1822), and the
Toronto Archdiocese (1841), Brampton's Catholics were served by priests from Toronto.
The first Catholic church in the village of Brampton was Guardian Angels Church, built in 1864 – 1865, at Centre Street South, on land donated by "Squire" John Lynch. John Lynch was born in 1798 near Vermont. His family moved to Upper Canada (Ontario) at the outbreak of the war of 1812. He and his brother David farmed in Chinguacousy in the 1840's. John Lynch was the first Reeve of Chinguacousy and Brampton, and for 50 years an active Justice of the Peace and leader in his community. Priests from St. Patrick's Church in Wildfield, and later from St. Peter's Church in Orangeville, travelled to Brampton to celebrate Mass for the small Catholic congregation.
When Guardian Angels Church was set on fire by an "incendiary" in July 1878, it was completely destroyed along with all records and valuable art works. The Brampton community rallied round, and provided the Catholics various temporary locations for celebrating mass. Rev. Father John Joseph Egan, Pastor for Orangeville and Brampton at that time, decided to purchase a disused Presbyterian Church that became available at 19 John Street. The location was close to the new Credit Valley Railway and would facilitate the priests who travelled from Orangeville to the villages of Cataract and Brampton.
Thirty years later, in 1909 it was decided that a new church was needed to accommodate the growing Catholic population. The cornerstone was laid on November 3, 1909, and blessed by Reverend John Hand, delegated by Archbishop McEvay. The church would continue to be a mission church until 1918.
With a seating capacity of 250, the new church was described as "a neat little structure of brick, finished in the natural wood", with
"very comfortable" seats, "kneeling benches ... and everything possible for the comfort of the worshippers". (ref. "MacDonell to McGuigan", Chapter 12, by John Perkins Bull)
The new church was named St. Mary's, in honour of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. On Sunday, February 20, 1910, the church was officially opened and blessed by the Archbishop of Toronto, Fergus Patrick McEvay. A Solemn High Mass was sung by Reverend Dr. John T. Kidd, chancellor of the Archdiocese, and the sermon was delivered by Reverend Dr. Joseph Thomas Roche, assistant editor of the Catholic Register.
Fr. William Albert Egan, Pastor of Orangeville, presided over St. Mary's Church Brampton during these early years. St. Mary's was a mission of Orangeville until 1915, at which time the Archbishop detached Brampton from Orangeville and arranged for Fr. Charles Richardson of Weston to look after the spiritual needs of Brampton and Streetsville, linking both parishes together as missions of Toronto. Various priests were sent, resulting in irregular coverage for St. Mary's. The parishioners wrote to Archbishop Neil McNeil urgently requesting a priest for Brampton. In 1918, Fr. Lugent Biglin was appointed as resident pastor, and St. Mary's officially became a parish in its own right, with the parish in Streetsville as its mission.
Many years later, in 1964, under the leadership of Rev. Father C. W. Sullivan, a newer and much larger St. Mary's Church was built at 66 Main Street South, to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population of more than 1,000 families. As pastor of St. Mary's from 1946 to 1972, Fr. Sullivan worked with the Holy Name Society to acquire the land on Main Street South. St. Mary's School, the first Catholic school in Brampton, was built on this site in 1957-58. Fr. Sullivan and his assistant, Fr. Bernard Canning, led a campaign to raise funds for the new St. Mary's Church which was built in 1963-64. Construction was begun in November 1963. The cornerstone near the front door was laid by Thomas Gillen Reid in June, 1964. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated in October, 1964. The church was dedicated and blessed by Cardinal James McGuigan on Sunday,
December 13, 1964.
In 1918, St. Mary's became a parish in its own right, with a resident Pastor.
St. Joseph in Streetsville was a mission of St. Mary's until 1956.
The first member of St. Mary's Parish to be ordained was John Ingoldsby. He was born at Mayfield, the son of Thomas Joseph Ingoldsby and Jane Gordon Murphy. Monsignor Ingoldsby was ordained in 1924, after which he taught at the Edmonton, Alberta, Catholic High School for boys. In 1931 he returned to Saint Augustine's Seminary, Scarborough, as a professor and he was its Rector from 1946 until 1954. From then until 1972, Msgr. Ingoldsby served as Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, Toronto, when he became Pastor Emeritus.
Few photos were taken of the interior of St. Mary's in the early days. It was considered sacrilegious to take photos inside the church when the Blessed Sacrament was present, especially during the celebration of Mass or the Sacraments. In those days, ladies always had their heads covered, while gentlemen removed their hats on entering the church. The priest faced the altar during the celebration of Mass; all altar servers were male; the Mass was said in Latin; and those receiving communion knelt at the altar rail while the priest distributed communion on the tongue. Photos below are of the church interior, showing the main altar, and a side altar dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.