Description of Historic Place
This former church is prominiently located on a hill on the south side of highway 2 at the entrance to the Village of Hunter River. Built in the middle of the 20th Century, it has a modern Gothic style with a large nave and segmented side towers.
The former church is valued for its association with the history of St. Augustine's Parish in Rustico and with Cardinal James C. McGuigan (1894-1974).
This building was constructed from 1948 to 1949 as a mission church to serve the Roman Catholic families of Hunter River. Hitherto, they had attended Mass at St. Augustine's parish church in Rustico - one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in PEI.
In August of 1943, Father J. Clarence Pitre, pastor of St. Augustine's, held a public meeting to propose the new church. By July of 1946, the land for the building was conveyed from Clarence McGuigan. The church was locally designed by Keith Pickard and was built by contractor, Walter Reid, of St. Ann's, PEI. The official opening occurred on June 4, 1949. It then served twenty families.
A momentous event in the history of the church happened in August of 1950 when His Eminence James, Cardinal McGuigan returned home to bless the church in the community where he had been born. It was named St. Mary's of the People after the Cardinal's titular church in Rome, Santa Maria Del Populo.
Cardinal McGuigan had been Archbishop of Regina (1930-1934) in Saskatchewan, during the Great Depression. He later served the Archdiocese of Toronto (1935-1946). He was one of 32 cardinals created in February of 1946 by Pope Pius XII.
The work of local artists has decorated the interior of the church since 1980. These include altar murals by Rev. Adrian Arsenault and stained glass windows commemorating Cardinal McGuigan by Henry Purdy.
The church had repairs completed and vinyl siding added to the exterior from 1989 to 1995.
It was closed in June of 2008 as part of restructuring within the Diocese of Charlottetown. The parish members now once again attend St. Augustine's Church in Rustico.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/H18
The heritage value of the building is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the asymmetrical facade framed by a large segmented tower and a small segmented tower
- the steeply pitched gable roof with a series of triangular windows on either side
- the square segmented 85 foot tower of the facade with a smaller half size tower on the opposite side of the facade
- the cross on top of each tower
- the grouped Gothic windows of the facade
- the faux buttresses
- the canopy roof over the double entrance door
- the extensions at the back of the building