St. Mark Catholic Church contains a rich and vibrant history. This history is full of dedicated people all serving the Lord through one another, which continues today. St. Mark’s began as a mission of St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham in 1965. Sunday Masses were offered at that time in the school gym of St. Mark’s School and St. William’s Chapel at Musselman’s Lake.
In the fall of 1979, the priests of St. Patrick’s decided to close down the Mission of Stouffville and invited everyone to come to Mass in Markham. Catholics in Stouffville met with the priests at St. Mark School’s gym to voice their concerns. Then, later on, a delegation of six parishioners presented a brief to Bishop Clune asking that a Parish be established in Stouffville. Bishop Clune obtained Cardinal Carter’s approval and with God’s powerful intervention, St. Mark’s Parish was canonically established on December 16, 1979.
Fr. Larry Dugo was recalled from his sabbatical and became the first pastor of St. Mark through the Solemn Installation Mass on Sunday, December 16th, 1979 in St. Mark’s gym. Within a month, a house on Glad Park Avenue was purchased as a Rectory and work began to refurbish the house with a chapel and a church office.
Early in 1980, the first Parish Council was set up to assist Fr. Dugo in organizing parish ministries. The Ladies’ Choir began in January 1979 and sang on Sundays in the school gym. This choir was then expanded to a four part mixed choir led by Nick Kamps and organist Teresa Kusatz. Our first official “High Mass” was celebrated by Fr. Dugo on the first Sunday of Advent in 1979.
After giving the Parish a dynamic beginning, and laying a strong foundation, Fr. Dugo left in April 1980. He was replaced by Fr. James Adams, whose great devotion to Mary was the force behind the formation of the Legion of Mary and parish presence at ProLife functions. He carried on the task of building the church. A Fall Fair ran successfully with the combined efforts of St. Mark’s Holy Name Guild, the Daughters of Mary Guild, the Youth Club and the Social Planning Committee. The annual Pub Night also began once the church hall was built. The proceeds from these functions made a great contribution to the Church Building Fund.
Construction of the church
On September 12th, 1982, Bishop Clune officiated at the sod-turning of the new church, with Fr. Adams, the first Parish Council and many parishioners present. The church was built with the help of many parishioner volunteers contributing hours of labour to the construction. Finally in February 1983, we began to celebrate Mass in our new church and on May 29th, 1983 the church was consecrated by His Eminence G. Emmett Cardinal Carter.
In October 1991, Fr. Adams was transferred and Fr. Leslie Tamas became our new pastor. Fr. Leslie promoted our awareness of global consciousness. The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Women’s League were established by Fr. Leslie. We began to have music at all the weekend liturgies including a Folk Group at the 5pm Saturday Mass. During Fr. Leslie’s tenure many church upgrades were made (a garage and storage unit was built, a new furnace and air conditioning unit was installed, the church roof replaced, church rectory re-painted, and the church organ replaced).
After 14 years as our pastor, Fr. Leslie Tamas retired in August 2005 and Fr. Lorenzo Salandanan came to be the Administrator of our Parish.
Fr. Lorenzo Salandanan was solemnly installed as our fourth Pastor on Sunday, July 23, 2006. Bishop Peter Joseph Hundt presided over the celebration and Fr. Francis Galvan and Fr. Chris Cauchi co-celebrated with Bishop Hundt and Fr. Lorenzo in the presence of Deacon John Schwarzbauer and Deacon Alex Masongsong. Many partook in this wonderful celebration, from St. Mark parishioners to Fr. Lorenzo’s adopted family, to many friends from previous parishes Fr. Lorenzo served.
During Fr. Lorenzo’s time at St. Mark’s, he endeavoured to improve the life of the church. With the influx of new subdivisions, Fr. Lorenzo quickly accepted and welcomed all newcomers. Fr. Lorenzo encouraged the parishioners to participate in various ministries so that they could experience the feelings of belonging, ownership, and community, and at the same time look forward to where the Holy Spirit was leading them.
Furthermore, our present pastor notes that the parish will always remain truly grateful to Fr Lorenzo for the many renewals made to the Church, Rectory and surrounding property, such as having our Knights of Columbus refreshing the Church with the clean clear lines with a repainting project of the church itself as well as the elegant new seating provided for the Ministers in the Sanctuary. The creation of a crying room is also most useful and appreciated. Lastly, in this regard, we recall the wonderful addition of the new vestibule providing not only essentially needed, easy and full access to the Church but it also leaves the parish with a wonderful and valued meeting space after various sacramental and social celebrations. This addition is proving to be a tremendous legacy for which we are most grateful. This gratitude extends also to the many men and women of the parish, including particularly the Knights of Columbus, who contributed many, many days of volunteer labor to make this happen along with the generous financial support of the whole parish itself.
Economical and tasteful improvements were made to the Priests house with the addition of a fitting receiving (sitting) room and freshening up the kitchen with a new coat of paint. Thanks to the skills of the parish staff under his direction. External safety concerns were also addressed through improved lighting and sight lines to the buildings from the public roadway. Attention was also given to the office administration facilities which were upgraded with new computer and software programs. Overall, the whole administration and financial affairs of the parish, as it rapidly expanded, benefited from Father’s gifted skills in these areas.
Looking to the future, given the rapid expansion occurring in and around the town, Father Lorenzo launched the Building Fund, successfully raising over half a million dollars to add to the substantial foundation established by his predecessor, all of which left the church with a great start to tackle future needed expansion.
In the fall of 2010, Fr. Lorenzo left the parish to take up a well deserved sabbatical study program in Rome and with a grateful heart his successor, Fr. Michael Hughes, was pleased to take up his appointment to St Marks, hopefully to continue the good work of those who have gone before him.”
As we look back and give thanks, we also look forward and recommit ourselves to be the Church that God calls us to be in Christ Jesus. At the Last Supper, on the night before He died for us, Jesus outlined for the first disciples and for us the kind of Church which God the Father willed Him to form: a church rooted in the truth and marked by unity and love. Through the gospel and the Eucharist, we are brought together in the Holy Spirit which guides us in His love. As we observe this significant history of our journey as a church, we do, in fact, recommit ourselves to becoming a church rooted in the truth and marked by unity and love now and in the future.
Source: St. Mark’s 25 Year Commemorative Yearbook
Former Pastors of St. Mark's Parish
Fr. Lawrence Dugo
Fr. James Adams
Fr. Leslie Tamas
Fr. Lorenzo Salandanan
Pastor 2005- 2010