In 1947 the Kitchener Separate School Board purchased a 4 acre parcel of land to be developed as the site for a school. The site was bounded by Edwin, Leonard and Elizabeth streets. During the 1950’s the northwest area of Kitchener was experiencing phenomenal growth–houses were being built and the area was beng settled by young couples with growing families (some very large families). St. Teresa’s School was built on the vacant property and classes began in September 1953. The School Sisters of Notre Dame had been commissioned to be in charge of the school and was named in honour of the foundress of their order*. It was not a foregone conclusion that a church be established in connection with the school and Catholics in this area travelled many blocks to either St. Mary’s or Sacred Heart churches for Mass. It was soon the wish of the people to have their own church and pastor.
The first informal contact with Bishop Ryan was not very encouraging and it didn’t seem likely that a parish would be formed in this area. Not ready to give up their dream, a committee was formed under the direction of Mr. Joe Flynn (he later became MP) and 350 families indicated their desires on a petition. A raffle was conducted and $5,000.00 was raised–the beginnings of a Church Building Fund. Remember that was a lot of money in the 1950’s! A carefully chosen group of 10 men representing all walks of life (skilled tradesmen, salesmen, professionals…) made up the committee. The same sort of mix of people still live in this area today.
In June 1955, a very formal presentation and appeal was made to Bishop Ryan and he made them very happy by announcing the appointment of a pastor and the word that a parish was to be formed. Rev. Edward J. Hartleib was named as the first pastor–he was very experienced and was ready to begin forming the Family of God of St. Teresa.
At first he stayed at St. Jerome’s College, in the Kingsdale area of Kitchener, but then, wanting to be near his flock–a house was purchased on Elizabeth St. and it served as the first rectory.
By this time, school enrolment was growing by leaps and bounds and an addition had already been added to the two year old school. Sunday Mass was celebrated in what would later become 2 classrooms. Nearly 1500 people were registered and such large numbers demanded more room and immediate action was taken to build a church. The building was to be very practical, much like the homes of the area and a newspaper article of the day describes it as “being of contemporary Canadian design.” The general contractor was Oscar Wiles and Sons.
The church was completed one and a half years after the parish was formed. The 8th church of the Kitchener Waterloo area was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Ryan on December 16, 1956. Father Hartleib served as pastor until his retirement in March 1970. He died in 1974–but his memory still lingers at the parish he founded.
Many pastors and assistants have led the people of St. Teresa’s over the past 50 years and with God’s grace we will continue to uphold the values of the people who worked so hard to establish this faith community.
* The foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame was not St. Teresa but Sister St. Teresa. To find out more about the history in Canada, click here.