During the time of the late Bishop Rheaume, and at his request, the Stigmatine Congregation, in virtue of a provincial mandate from Springfield, Mass., sent Fr. Fontana to assume spiritual care of the Italians residing in Timmins.
He arrived on December 10, 1936 and in the next few weeks, with an executive committee comprised of Anthony Mascioli, Rocco Gentile, and G. Giustini, began to lay the plans for Sacred Heart Church. A site was chosen, a target date set, and a sum of $10,000.00 was established.
When the campaign fell short by $3,000.00 the undaunted Fr. Fontana began a series of entertainments and concerts to make up the difference. Thus, precisely on May 1, 1937, the planned starting date, actual excavation began. Once the foundation was completed and covered, it was decided to continue with the outer walls and roof. Blessed by God's Providence, the generous efforts of the parishioners, and a $13,000.00 loan from the Bishop, the work proceeded.
Fr. Fontana had enjoyed the hospitality of Nativity Parish during his first year. Anxious to be in the midst of his own parishioners, a small tar-papered dwelling was purchased. This humble abode served both home and office for about 12 years.
On October 10, 1937, the solemn opening of the new church for public worship was finally realized. In the fall of 1951, a comfortable rectory was completed to replace the "shack".
Fr. Fontana faced hardships, physical toil, and sacrifices, equally with his parishioners. His sincerity and devotion engendered great respect in the Italian community. He organized dances, concerts, raffles and bingos - things that were innovative at that time.
In Fontana's own words, "Starting a new venture is always difficult, and founding our parish was no exception." He persevered, and so did the parishioners. Under the leadership of priests that followed, such as Frs. Paul Zanini, Leonard Della Badia and Vito Cannizzo; English Catholic Education at both primary and secondary levels was initiated and secured. Monsignor Martindale and Fr. Leonard Della Badia were instrumental in the O'Gorman venture. Father Della Badia and the late Fr. Tony Nuccio undertook extensive renovations, resulting in a modern, convenient Parish Hall and the enhancement of our beautiful Church. Monsignor Martindale and Fr. Leonard Della Badia were instrumental in the O'Gorman venture.
Since our 50th Anniversary in 1987, we have seen other changes. When Fr. Della Badia retired in 1989; the Stigmatine Congregation was unable to replace him. The Diocese of Timmins took responsibility for staffing at that time. Fr. Dan Sedlar became the 1st Diocesan parish priest and brought our parish into the computer age. The people of Sacred Heart continue to be a credit to the Faith and the City of Timmins.
In September of 2006, Sacred Heart Parish, under the leadership of Father Mieczyslaw Sliwa, a.k.a. Father Mitch and the Finance Council chaired by Maria Sheculski, hired Cy Rheault Construction Ltd. to undertake the major facelift of the interior of the Church. The Church was painted, new rugs were installed, new flooring was put down in the altar area, additional lighting was installed as well as new exterior wood doors. Renovation costs were in excess of $100,000.
In 2007, the parish received permission from Bishop Marchand, to begin fundraising to raise money for the installation of an elevator (chair lift) to be used by the physically challenged parishioners. This project was spearheaded by Louis Pellarin and the Holy Name Society. Through the donations of the Holy Name Society, Knights of Columbus Council #2403, Catholic Women's League and our very generous parishioners over $100,000 was raised in a very short period of time. The plans were drawn up by Genivar, formerly B.H. Martin Consultants. The planning committee was led by Bruno D'Arcangelo. The construction of the shaft and handicapped washroom was led by Victor Rinaldi and parish volunteers. Electrical work was done by Joe Pustina, plumbing by Dino Giannunzio, painting by Alfonso Colarossi and Alfredo Ciccone and others. The elevator was installed and inspected in January of 2009. The entire project was done very quickly by using many volunteers and significantly reduced costs. The remaining funds were turned over to the parish.
We ask God's blessing on our future.