In the early 1800s, Jesuit missionaries traveled by foot from Guelph to celebrate mass with local settlers in the area. In 1840, a Catholic Church was built half-way between Guelph and Elora in Thorpville. Later it became the Catholic school, SSS#1 Nichol. In 1860, the first Catholic Church in Elora was built on the south side of the Grand River at the eastern end of McNab Street, however that building no longer exists.
On May 26, 1870 Rev. E. J. Gordon, Vicar General of Hamilton laid the cornerstone of our present-day St. Mary Immaculate Church. Bricks came from as far away as Peel County and a local Lutheran brickyard owner donated ten thousand more.
In late 1871, Our English Gothic designed church was completed and was the first landmark one saw approaching the village. In 1921, with Fr. Sullivan as pastor, a sacristy was built and the beautiful stained-glass windows we have today were installed. The windows were imported from Germany and purchased for about one hundred dollars each. Under Fr. Shea’s direction in 1947, a complete renovation and redecoration of the church was completed and an amplified bell, bequeathed by a parishioner, was installed in the church tower. Fr. Gerald Hill, who succeeded Fr. Shea, also celebrated his Silver Jubilee at St. Mary’s. He died in December of 1961, after a long and painful illness, and was the first priest to be buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Fr. Gillen followed and continued with improvements to the church and rectory through the 1960s. Brick deterioration required that a silicone solution be applied to protect the bricks from the elements. In 1966, another acre of land adjacent to the cemetery was purchased for fifteen hundred dollars. The cemetery is located about a mile away from the Church, on South Street.
In 1975, Fr. Schefter oversaw the construction of the present rectory. Under his charge, the church was renovated and redecorated to meet the new liturgical requirements brought about by Vatican II. In 1978, Fr. Clifford Day, a Fergus native, became pastor at St. Mary’s and it was during his time that the mission of St. Joseph’s in Fergus became a separate parish.
During Fr. Jordan’s tenure, in 1983, significant dry rot was discovered in the wooden beams of the belfry and the steeple was then reconstructed and covered in copper cladding. In 1984, the foundation of the rectory was excavated, and the basement walls were waterproofed. Later, during Fr. Sherratt’s twelve-year stewardship, many major works were initiated. Between 1992 & 1993 the large parking lot behind the church was paved. In 1993 the installation of new pews was completed thanks to a bequest from Mr. P.J. Farley and soon after, high efficiency furnaces were installed in both our church and rectory.
In 1995, we celebrated our 125th Anniversary and the church was entirely repainted.
In 1997, Fr. Sherratt negotiated the purchase of the property behind the church parking lot to allow for future growth. Our annual church picnics have since been held on this land.
In 1998, our pipe organ was purchased, rebuilt and installed in the choir loft and its magnificent sound welcomed St. Mary Immaculate into the new millennium during the Easter celebrations of 2000.
Since the New Millennium
As we entered the new millennium, it became evident that not only the brickwork in the tower but throughout the entire structure was deteriorating badly. Without immediate restoration, the building was in danger of becoming unsafe and its repair became critical. This repair job became the most significant restoration job in the history of the parish and took two years to complete.
In 2005 the rectory interior was upgraded and in 2006 the church roof was shingled and the interior plaster repaired and repainted. In 2008-2009 major repairs were done to the church’s stained-glass windows and the rectory roof was shingled and eavestroughs replaced.
In 2010 the church choir loft was upgraded followed by the installation of three new cast bronze bells in the belfry that were blessed at our 145th anniversary celebration.
In June of 2016 a big change happened at St Mary Immaculate parish with the merging of St Martin of Tours Drayton, thereby becoming a mission Church of St Mary Immaculate parish, Elora.
Our present pastor, Fr. Gordian Okpuruka, is the eighteenth clergyman to lead the parish. Fr. Gordian arrived here in early summer of 2015 from Owen Sound, Ontario. You can see the full list of former pastors here.