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Parish History


Holy Martyrs began as a small church and cemetery site on the 9th Line as a chapel for the local farmers in West Gwillimbury and surrounding area.

In 1857 Bradford was incorporated as a village, and six years later the Catholic families purchased three lots on Queen Street running west from Moore Street. The mission church, a small brick building, was built in the centre of this property and blessed in 1864 by Bishop John Joseph Lynch, of Toronto. It was dedicated to the twenty-six Martyrs of Japan, who had been canonized at a historic ceremony in Rome two years earlier, at which Bishop Lynch had been present.

In the fall of 1940, the mission church in Bradford was separated from St. John's Chrysostom Parish, Newmarket; and erected as a separate parish, with Rev. Fr. Melville Bolan as its first parish priest.

The parish continued to grow, due especially to the post war immigration. A campaign of funds to build a new church began in 1954. Finally, on May 5th, 1957 the completion and blessing of the new building of modern design with sand faced brick took place.

In April 1990, the doors to the new home of Holy Martyrs of Japan on Essa Street opened. The celebration of the 50th Anniversary as a Parish was a time to rejoice and to reflect on the journey of Faith our Parish Family has walked daily since 1864.

In 2015 we joyfully celebrated the 75th Anniversary of our Parish, with open hearts we continue to give thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings He has bestowed on each of us. We pray for our priests and deacons and for all the families who have worshiped the Lord and walked together this journey of Faith.

Lord, let Your love be evident and let Your peace reign in our Parish home and in the faith, we profess and live. May our Parish be a place of generosity, understanding, renewal, prayer, forgiveness, and joy. Grant that through Your grace the Holy Spirit guide our path to form disciples to fulfill the Mission of Christ. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen!