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St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Parish

St. Peter’s Parish, Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, is one of three parishes in the Northeast Highlands of Cape Breton that make up the North of Smokey Pastoral Grouping (NSPG). This pastoral grouping is part of the Diocese of Antigonish. The other parishes include St. Joseph Parish in Dingwall and St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Margaret’s Village.

North of Smokey Pastoral Grouping (NSPG)

Pastoral Team:  Rev. Ajit Kerketta, IMS (Administrator) Email:
Assistants: Shirley Donovan (285-2011), Claire Hatcher (336-2346), Joanne Vassallo(383-2673)


Contact Information: 

Ingonish Office:
Phone (902) 285-2015;  Fax 285-2675;
P.O. Box 21, Ingonish Beach, B0C 1L0
Hours: Volunteers on Tuesday & Thursday; 9:30am – 1:00pm

Dingwall Office:
Phone (902) 383-2227;
P.O. Box 10, Dingwall, B0C 1G0
Email:  Same as above
Hours: Volunteers on Monday; 11:00 a.m -1:00 p.m

Bulletin: Please forward bulletin notices to Linda Donovan at or call 285-2780. Please, have notices in by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.



St. Peter:                                            Saturday,       6:30 p.m.     Chapel: Wed, Thurs, Fri at 9:00 a.m.
St. Margaret of Scotland:          Sunday,          9:30 a.m.
St. Joseph:                                        Sunday,         11:00 a.m.

Please note: In the case of a funeral in St. Peter Parish, weekday Mass is cancelled so that the community can gather to comfort those who mourn and pray for those who have died.


NSPG Events Calendar  

Upon entering the NSPG Events Calendar, please click the refresh button on the top of your screen, first, to ensure up-to-date event notices. To open a window that provides all the details about a particlular event, please left click (single) on that event.  To close the window, left click again on the event listing.

History of St. Peter’s Parish

Priests Who Served St. Peter’s Parish


  • 1729: A large church, whose foundations could still be seen a century and a half later was erected at Niganiche (Ingonish) where Donovan’s Building Supplies is now.
  • It is said that the second Catholic Church in the Ingonish area was a log cabin.
  • 1840′s: No Catholic Church building North of Smokey [North of Smokey was then known as Cape North]
  • 1849: A church bell weighing more than two hundred pounds was found in Niganiche, buried in the sand upon the beach. Engraved on it in French was an inscription of which the following is a translation: “For the parish of Niganiche I was named by Jean Decarette and Francoise Urail, Godfather and Godmother. La Fosse Huet of St. Malo made me in the year 1729.”
  • 1846-1857: Visiting priests to the Cape North area: Fr. Hugh MacDonald (#150) Fr. Patrick McKeagney (#129)
  • 1857: Parish church was built in Ingonish Beach on or before 1857.
  • 1857: Resident pastors were assigned to the Cape North area [North of Smokey] with one priest serving all parishioners North of Smokey.
  • 1876: June/July: Cape North was divided into two parishes: Ingonish and St. Margaret’s Village.
  • 1876: Father A. George McAuley (#218) became the first pastor of the separate parish of Ingonish (whose parishioners were compatriots of his) and remained there five years, during which time he occasionally had to look after Bay St. Lawrence also.
  • 1899: Aug.10–1900: July 20: Fr. John J. MacNeil II became pastor of both parishes North of Smokey.
  • 1911: Parish Church burned.
  • 1913: Present Day church was completed and former church, circa 1857, became first parish hall.
  • 1915: On August 15, 1915, the bell, which is still in the church today, was blessed by Father Rankin who was the priest at that time.
  • 1956: The church built circa 1857 was torn down.
  • 2006: Jan. 4; Father Andrew M. Boyd became the pastor for all 4 parishes North of Smokey. History does repeat itself.
  • 2013: The 100th Anniversary of St. Peter’s Parish Church was celebrated on Sept 8.


St Peter’s Catholic Church, Ingonish, Celebrating 100 Years on 8 September 2013

The family of St. Peter’s Church, Ingonish, N.S. invite you to share with us as we celebrate the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the opening of our Church in 1913. A mass will be celebrated on September 8, 2013 at 4:00pm with Most Rev. Bishop Brian J. Dunn D.D. in attendance. Following mass the congregation will move to the Ingonish Volunteer fire hall for a social evening. Ken Donovan, master of ceremonies, will present a power point presentation on the history of our church and the area. A buffet style lunch and refreshment will be served.

CBC Interview with local historian, Ken Donovan on the 100th Anniversary of St. Peter’s Church 

Background on Ingonish and St. Peter’s Church by local historian, Ken Donovan

Beginning in the 1520’s Basque and French fishermen began fishing off the coast of Cape Breton and coming ashore at Ingonish. The modern settlement of the community, however, did not begin for another 300 years. Irish Catholics first came to Ingonish during the 1820′s and by the 1850′s they had settled in what became known as the Whitty and MacKinnon “intervales” of South Ingonish and the Clyburn Valley of Ingonish Centre. Coming from the southeast coast of Ireland, the Irish Catholics of Ingonish brought their Roman Catholic faith and their cultural traditions to the Ingonish area. The Irish in Ingonish were eventually joined by some Catholic Highland Scots as well as a few Acadians from Little Brasd’or. The first permanent Catholic church was built at Ingonish in 1857. The  first church was replaced by a new wooden building which burned in 1911.

Reacting to the tragic fire, the people of Ingonish now built a concrete church. The cornerstone was laid in 1913 and St Peter’s was completed by volunteer effort. Everyone contributed in their own way. The gravel for the concrete was hauled from the Clyburn River. Paddy Doyle and his son Tom, together with Tom Barron and his grandson Jim, hauled up

to 10 loads of gravel per day from morning to evening. All the concrete was mixed by hand at the church..

Peter Dauphinee and Joe Brewer cut and hauled the main wooden beam of the church, measuring 12 x 12 inches, from up behind Warren Lake. Dora (Donovan) Baker, a native of Ingonish, living in Boston purchased the altar for the church. Irving Barron first painted the steeples of the church in 1917. Father Ronald Rankin, who had witnessed the burning of the church in 1911, oversaw the construction of the new structure. On 15 August 1915 he blessed the bell which is still in the church today.

Religion was a vital element in the lives of the people in terms of education, health care and social welfare. The people were devout, attending mass on a regular basis and often walking a round trip of 14 miles to church and back. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Peter’s Church, the legacy of the church continues in the people’s faith, their camaraderie and their sense of good will towards neighbours as part of the civilized behaviour of small village life.

History of St. Peter’s Parish

Johnston, A.A., A History of The Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia, Vol I, St. Francis Xavier University Press,  1960

 Vol I     (Link to digitalized version: This may take awhile to retrieve.)

Port d’Orleans (Ingonish)

(p 55-57) An anonymous memoir of 1706 mentions Niganiche, Achpe and  Le Chadie among the places where dry fishery had been carried on from time immemorial. Some writers state that the name Niganiche came from the Portuguese, and that the fishermen of that nation had an important settlement in the place as early as 1521. During the days days of Ile Royale, the French gave the place the new  name of  Port d’Orleans, but they seem also to have used the old name, Niganichc. The modern form of the name is Ingonish.

In 1720 there was no settlement at Niganiche, but by 1723 the men, women and children numbered forty-eight, and in addition there were four hundred fishermen using eighty vessels. The  registers of Louisbourg parish mention three Recollect priests who were stationed at Niganiche, or Port d’Orleans. Father Francois-Celestin Dianet is shown as missionary of Ile Royale on 4 August 1723, as cure of Niganiche, on 7 July 1725, and as cure of Baleine on 17 February 1726. After the Brittany Recollects had taken over all the missions of Ile Royale (in 1731), the former pastor of Port Toulouse, Father Jean de Capistran of the Paris Province of the Recol­lects, stayed with the Brittany Recollects at Niganiche. The census of 1734 shows Father Etienne le Goff as cure of Niganiche, but his name appears in the Louisbourg registers on 31 May 1735, where he was given the customary four posts of ecclesiastical authority.

Niganiche soon became, after Louisbourg, the principal place in the colony. This was attributed by the authorities to the absence or any settled administration, a condition that made it easy to ignore, instructions from the home authorities. Distant settlements did not receive much encouragement, because the authorities wished to es­tablish a fixed population at Louisbourg and in its immediate vicinity, for the purpose of furnishing materials for the militia to support the garrison in time of need.

In 1729, a large church, whose foundations could still be seen a century and a half later, was erected at Niganiche. In the year 1849, a church bell weighing more than two hundred pounds was found there, buried in the sand upon the beach. Engraved on it in French was an inscription of which the following is a translation:

“For the parish of Niganiche I was named by Jean Decarette and Francoise Urail, Godfather and Godmother. La Fosse Huet of St. Malo made me in the year 1729.”

Smuggling was common at Ile Royale. The New England vessels brought mostly tar, pitch, and planks, and in return bought rum and molasses, for which there would be an inadequate outlet if it were not for this illicit trade. Sieur Lagarande, the richest and most charitable merchant of Niganiche, was involved in this business, but the principal place where it took place was Petit de Grat. In 1737 the population or Niganiche was seven hundred forty-one, including fifty-five servants and five hundred fishermen, but in 1752 there were few inhabitants at the place. During the first siege of Louisbourg, in 1745, Admiral Warren’s frigates ravaged the Niganiche settle­ment, burning and destroying everything.

Vol.II    (Link to digitalized version: This may take awhile to retrieve.)

(p 244)   In the 1840’s there was no Catholic church at Ingonish or at Cape North or anywhere in thee northwestern part of Victoria County, and the Catholics settled in that district had to depend for their spiritual ministrations on the necessarily infrequent visits of the successive pastors of Sydney, or, after 1846, on occasional visits from Father Hugh MacDonald (#150) during his term of residence at Boisdale and later at Little Bras d’or. (It was in 1849 that a resident of Ingonish discovered and exhumed the bell of the French church which had been destroyed in 1745.)

(p 285) During the summer of 1859, BishopMacKinnon, made an episcopal visit to  the communities of Cape North and Ingonish during the month of August. 

(p 351)  A clergy list drawn up at the end of 1852 shows the following places as being served by the pastor of Grand Narrows: Boisdale, Boularderie, Whycocomagh, Baddeck, Eskasoni, Cape Smokey, Cape North, Cape St. Lawrence and French Village. An almanac for 1854 shows Bay St. Lawrence and Ingonish as stations to be visited by the neighboring pastors.

 Cape  North, 1857-1862

(p 355-357) Early in 1853, the Catholics of the Cape North area enlisted the help of their Protestant friend and well-wisher, James P. Chal­loner, merchant, to ask Bishop MacKinnon for spiritual assistance. At that time the Bishop had no priest to send to them, but he hastened to go to them himself. He left Little Bras d’Or on Mon­day, 22 August 1853, “in a Barra boat,” accompanied by Fathers Neil MacLeod of East Bay and Hugh MacDonald of Little Bras d”Or, and landed at Bay St. Lawrence at 8:00 P.M. (John Lorne Campbell explains that Barra boats are large enough to carry ten or twelve men, are extremely sharp, fore and aft, and “have no floor, but rise with an almost flat straight side, so that a transverse section somewhat resembles a wedge.”

On Wednesday and Thursday the Bishop offered Mass in the chapel at Bay St. Lawrence and confirmed 150 persons. On Friday, die 26th, he left Bay St. Lawrence, confirmed twenty-seven candi­dates at North Harbour, and sailed to White Point, where the party was kindly received by Messrs. Challoner and MacKay. On Saturday, the 27th, the Bishop offered Mass in Mr. Power’s house at White Point and confirmed twenty-seven persons. Then he and his attendants set out for Ingonish. Because of a head wind they did not reach Neil’s Harbour until 10:00 P.M., and they had to remain there all night in the boat, exposed to heavy rain. On Sun­day, 28 August, a MacGregor and two MacLeods rowed the party twelve miles to Ingonish in three hours.

At Ingonish the Bishop offered Mass, preached, and confirmed 120 persons. The newspaper account of the voyage does not state whether the religious services took place in a chapel or in a private house. In the afternoon (Sunday, 28 August 1853), the steamer Banshee appeared, hired by the Catholics of Sydney Mines and bringing sixty of them and their pastor, Father John Loughnan. With the Bishop and his two priest companions also on board, the steamer made the return passage to “the Bar” (North Sydney) in sixhours.

At the end of 1853, the diocesan Ordo listed Bay St. Lawrence and Ingonish as stations served by Father Patrick McKeagney (#129) of Cheticamp, and an almanac showed these two places as stations “to be visited by the neighbouring pastors.”

The Parishes, 1852-1862   355

The first parish church of Ingonish was built in, or before, the year 1857, for there is a record of its being in use in that year.

The first resident priest of the Cape North area was Father Ken­neth J. Macdonald (#169) who was pastor of Bay St. Lawrence and Ingonish from May to September, 1857.  He and the priests who followed him within the next score of years divided their residence between both places. To help them in their ministry, they had none of the conveniences of modern days. On one occa­sion Father Kenneth missed his vessel and, rather than delay until the arrival of the next one, walked from Sydney to Cape North. The chronicler says: “On the way he slept, in a very narrow bed, with two other men -larger than himself.”

For nearly two years after the departure of Father Kenneth, the missions of the north were visited by the successive pastors Grand Narrows- by Father John V. MacDonell (#156) until October, 1858, and then by Father Donald MacKinnon (#172).

Father Donald MacIsaac (#171), who was ordained with Father Donald MacKinnon on 12 September 1858, became the second resident pastor of Bay St. Lawrence and Ingonish about June, 1859. If Bishop MacKinnon’s Roman report of January, 1860, is accurate in all its data, Father MacIsaac was then residing at In­gonish and serving Cape North as a mission; and the titular saint of Ingonish was St. Francis and of Cape North, St. Lawrence. The difficulties of the northern pastorate in those days can be judged from the following instance:

One day, in the middle of a violent winter, an urgent sick-call came to Ingonish from Cape North, 30 miles distant. The supplicant was old John Fraser who had gone thither from Cape Mabou, and was a convert to the Catholic faith. Father Donald and a sturdy guide set out immediately on snowshoes. The way was over crags and cliffs and trackless mountains. In many places the guide had to cut tracks with an axe to save them from tum­bling headlong to eternity. After dark they came upon an Indian camp where they spent the night. Early the next morning they set off again with another Micmac guide. The second day’s ex­perience was even worse than the first, and the two guides gave out – fell by the way utterly exhausted. Father Donald proceeded alone, and reached the sick bed just in time to administer the sacraments to the longing penitent.

Another poor old man also lay dying in the neighbourhood. The priest visited him and, in the act of anointing him, found that one of his feet had been badly frostbitten in bed – that desolate bed of death. Both this man and Fraser died that same day, and the heroic missionary  resumed his snowshoes, and re­traced his steps. He was, at that time, the very personification of physical strength and endurance; but he used to say that he never got over that trip.

In November, 1861, Father MacIsaac was succeeded at Ingonish and Cape North by Father John Shaw (#180) who had been or­dained two months before.

Chapter 14  356

(p 457)  Ingonish and Cape North, 1862-1872

Father John Shaw (#180) was pastor of Ingonish and Cape North from November, 1861, to June, 1866, when he became the first resident pastor of Glace Bay. A directory for 1867 shows Cape North and Ingonish as being served from Little Bras d’Or by Father Joseph Chisholm (#181), who became pastor of the last-­named  parish in February, 1866. Another directory for 1867 lists Father William (i.e., Guillaume M., #189) LeBlanc as pastor of Cape North. The next resident pastor was Father James Fraser (#193), who was ordained on 22 September 1867 and took charge of Cape North soon afterwards. Like his predecessors he served the whole territory of the present parishes of St. Margaret’s Vil­lage, Dingwall and South Ingonish. He remained longer than five years.

(p 524-525)  lngonish and Bay St. Lawrence, 1872-1880

Father James Fraser (#193) was pastor of “Cape North,” i.e.,  the whole northern half of Victoria County, until 1 December 1872, when he was succeeded by Father Martin A. MacPherson (#206), who had been ordained in Quebec eight weeks before:. Father Martin, like his predecessor, had charge of “Cape North and Ingonish.” On 1 September 1874, by episcopal appointment, he exchanged places with Father Felix van Blerk (#183), who had been pastor of Port Felix and its missions. Glimpses of conditions at Ingonish in 1874 may be got from the following excerpts of a letter which Father van Blerk wrote at the end of that year to one of his former parishioners in the mission of Canso:

My people in Ingonish are chiefly Irish and are in every respect dutiful and kind to me. Of course the great drawback is Bay SL Lawrence which however cannot be attended during the winter owing to the fearful state and distance of the roads. I have a good glebe house and a well finished chapel here. The road over Smoky Mountain being now completed I can proceed by wagon to any part of Cape Breton. The moment our harbour shall be opened, which will be by July next, I may expect the pleasure of meeting occasionally friends from Canso.

Our people assure me that every year, during the whole summer, the labor of fishermen pays well and would be very remunerative had our people the same gear of nets as you have in Canso. No one has over 4 nets while most have only two. It will be surprising to you when I tell you that even at the present time they are out codfishing every fine day and are doing remarkably well.

The highway mentioned by Father Felix ended at Ingonish, and throughout the 1870′s the only other land route towards the north was a trail leading over the mountains to Aspy Bay. The usual mode of travel, of course, was by water. Father van Blerk retained the pastorate of lngonish and Bay St. Lawrence until June, 1876, when he joined the Diocese of Charlottetown.

(p 525)  Ingonish, 1876-1880

In Chapter 18, we saw that Bishop MacKinnon began on 20 June 1876 a tour of the counties of Inverness, Victoria and Richmond. He divided the extensive parish of the northern part of Victoria County by appointing pastors both to Ingonish and to Bay St. Lawrence. The change took place in June or July, 1876, and the two new pastors were priests who had been ordained within the previous three months. Father A. George McAuley (#218) took charge of Ingonish (whose parishioners were compatriots of his) and remained there five years, during which time he occasionally had to look after Bay St. Lawrence also.

(p 525) Bay St. Lawrence, 1876-1880

The first resident pastor of Bay St. Lawrence as a separate parish was Father Duncan P. MacDonald (#214). He took charge in June or July, 1876, and remained until early in 1878, when he was transferred to Canso. The next pastor, Father Pierre Forgeron (#212), came in May, 1878, and by the end of that year he was listed as chaplain to the Trappistine sisters at Tracadie. Bay St. Lawrence was then served from Ingonish by Father McAuley until 15 October 1879, when Father John J. MacNeil (#222), newly ordained, took charge of the northern parish. (It should be useful to notice here that a second Father John J. MacNeil became pastor of both parishes in July, 1898.
Priests Who Served St. Peter’s Parish

Priests who served the “Cape North Parish” comprised of the areas designated as “Ingonish” and “Bay St. Lawrence” between 1846 and 1876.
The first resident pastor was assigned in 1857.  Prior to 1857 the area occasionally had a visiting priest.
Italicized names indicate visiting priest.

1841 – 1857   ………………………………………….Fr. Patrick McKeagney
1846 -1857  ……………………………………………Fr. Hugh MacDonald

Original parish of Cape North – 1857 to 1876. North of Smokey was one parish comprising the areas then designated as Ingonish and Bay St. Lawrence.
The first resident pastor was assigned in 1857

May 1857 – Sept. 1857  ……..  Fr. Kenneth J. MacDonald (1st Pastor of Cape North Parish)
1857 – 1859
  ………………………………………….Fr. John Vincent MacDonnell &  Fr. Donald Mackinnon
ca. June 1859 – Nov. 1861  ………………….Fr. Donald MacIssac  
Nov. 1861 – June 1866  ……………………….Fr. John Shaw
? 1866- ? 1867  ……………………………………..Fr. Joseph Chisholm
1867 – 1867  …………………………………………Fr. Guillaume (William) Marin LeBlanc
ca. Sept, 1867 – 1 Dec, 1872  ……………….Fr. James Fraser
1 Dec, 1872 -1 Sept, 1874  …………………….Fr. Martin A. MacPherson
1 Sept, 1874 – June, 1876  …………………..Fr. Felix VanBlerk  

Priests who served at St. Peter’s Parish since 1876 when the “Cape North Parish” was divided into the separate parishes of Ingonish and Bay. St. Lawrence in June-July, 1876

June-July 1876 – 1 Sept, 1881  ………….Fr. A. George McAuley (1 st Priest of Ingonish Parish)
1 Sept, 1881 – 3 Aug, 1883  ………………..Fr. John James MacNeil I
Oct, 1883 – 18 Oct, 1885  …………………..Fr. John A. Fraser
18 Oct, 1885 – 23 May, 1891  ……………..Fr. Blowers M. Mullins
31 May, 1891 – 27 Aug, 1894  ……………..Fr. Duncan P. MacDonald (1st)
27 Aug, 1894 – July, 1898  …………………Fr. William Alexander MacPherson
23 May, 1898 – 6 Sept, 1898  …………….Fr. Roderick Grant
10 Aug, 1898 – 20 July, 1900  ……………Fr. John J. MacNeil II
29 July, 1900 – 10 Aug, 1902  ……………Fr. Ronald H. MacDougall
9 Sept, 1902 – 11 Sept, 1905  ……………..Fr. Duncan P. MacDonald, (2nd)
19 Sept,1905 – 17 July, 1909  …………….Fr. Patrice (Patrick) Abraham LeBlanc
17 July, 1909 -26 Sept, 1915  ………………Fr. Ronald Rankin
27 Sept, 1915 – Aug, 1918  ………………….Fr. Robert MacEwen
7 Aug, 1918 – 15 Oct, 1927  …………………Fr. Leo Joseph Keats
15 Oct, 1927 – 10 Oct, 1934  ……………….Fr. John Boyd Kyte
25 Jan, 1932 – 24 May, 1932  …………….Fr. Joseph F. Day: Acting Pastor
19 Oct, 1934 – 6 Nov, 1940  ……………….Fr. Joseph F. Day
6 Nov, 1940 – 16 Dec, 1948  ………………Fr. Michael Malcolm MacDonald
16 Dec, 1948 – 28 Nov, 1950  …………….Fr. William Thomas Trainor
28 Nov. 1950 – 12 Dec. 1950  …………….Fr. Donald M. Rankin: (Parish Administrator)
12 Dec, 1950 – 9 Feb. 1955  ……………….Fr. George G. MacDonald
9 Feb, 1955 – 8 Mar, 1961  …………………Fr. Francis E. Dolhanty
8 Mar, 1961 – 23 Sept, 1965  ……………..Fr. Hector MacDonald
23 Sept, 1965 – 1970  …………………………Fr. Lawrence O’Keefe
1970 – 1974  ………………………………………..Fr. Edward MacIsaac
1974 – 1977  ………………………………………..Fr. Allan MacMillan
1977 – 1982  ………………………………………..Fr. Dan MacDonald
1982 – 1985  ……………………………………….Fr. Alex MacLellan
3 July,1985 – 26 May, 1990  ……………..Fr. Paul McGillvray
1990- 1995  …………………………………………Fr. Charlie Donovan
1995-24 Sept, 1998  ……………………………Fr. John MacDougall
24 Sept, 1998 – 1 Jan, 2006  ……………..Fr. John Morrison
3 Feb, 2005 –29 June, 2005  …………….Fr. Victor Ozoufuanya  (Parish Administrator)
2 Jan, 2006 – 27 June, 2007  ……………Fr. Andrew M. Boyd  Pastor
4 Sept, 2006 – 2 7 June, 2007  ………….Fr. Daniel James MacDonald; Associate Pastor (1st)
27 June, 2007 – 16 Aug, 2008  ………….Fr. Will MacPherson, Pastor
27 June, 2007 -17 Sept, 2007  ……………Fr. Jude Nzekwe, Associate Pastor
16 August, 2008 – June 26, 2012   ……Fr. Daniel James MacDonald, Pastor (2nd time)
10 October, 2012   ………………………………Fr. Ajit Kerketta, IMS (Parish Administrator)