A History of Our Lady of the Airways Parish
Located some twenty kilometers from Lake Ontario, the particular area that was to be later known as Malton, was probably well traversed by many Aboriginal people. Their way of life began to be touched significantly by European civilization in the 17th and particularly the 18th century. The land around Malton was purchased from the Mississauga Indians for the sum of £8,500 Sterling by the British Government. Malton was first named as a village in 1819. Because it was a railroad station, it became a center for the many farms in the area. Every village and town has its own distinct quality, reflected in its people. Malton is no exception.
Our Lady of the Airways Parish is now over seventy years old but the presence of the Catholic church in the Malton area dates back to the 1830’s. On land, donated by a Colonel Baldwin, presently the site of Pearson International Airport, a small Catholic church was built in 1830 and called St. James. Then, in 1833, another patron, John McGuire, donated land to a Father Gordon who oversaw the building of St. Bernard’s. This rival church was larger and served the people in this area until the latter part of the nineteenth century. As the Archdiocese of Toronto took shape and the geographical parishes were established, St. Bernard’s, later known as the Old Fifth Line Church, fell into disrepair and was torn down about 1930. A reminder of this church is a Catholic cemetery which still remains with the boundaries of the present airport.
The airport, which we are so aware of today, began when land was purchased in 1937 and put Malton on the map. The village really began to change with the advent of World War II and the development of the wartime industries in the area. Many people moved here from all parts of Canada; wartime housing was built and still serves many of our parishioners today.
During the early part of this century, the small Catholic population of this area had to travel to other parishes, notably St. Patrick’s in Wildfield, which had been established in 1830. However, the presence of the Air Force at the airport and the growing number of Catholics in Malton led to masses being celebrated in the Community Centre by the Air Force Chaplain, Father John Moss and by Father Ralph Egan of Wildfield. By 1944, the numbers warranted that the Malton area become a mission of St. Patrick’s. For the next few years masses were held in homes and in some public housings such as the Old Hall, behind the Old Post Office.
A question always asked is, “How did this parish get its name?” The aircrafts overhead were a constant reminder of the air age and the proximity of the airport. This church on Beverley Street served many Roman Catholic travelers who passed through the airport until a Chaplaincy was established in 1980. The parochial motto is “Super Pennas Ventorum”, which means in English, “Upon the Wings of the Wind”. Father Ralph Egan felt that the name “Our Lady of the Airways” was the only appropriate name for this mission because it was so closely associated with the airport.
Between 1944 and 1948, the Catholic Church continued to grow as a mission of St. Patrick’s. Their baptismal register shows that many of those baptized lived in Malton. The last such entry is dated November 1947. During this time, there was active interest in establishing a church and a Catholic school in Malton. Under Father Ralph Egan’s leadership, a building that had been used as a cafeteria by the Victory Airplane factory during the war was purchased and moved to Beverly Street. It was eventually turned into a very wonderful little church. In the spring of 1948, Our Lady of the Airways became a full-fledged parish. For the first few months, the church served as a school during the week. Then a Quonset hut became available and was placed across from the church and divided into classrooms. It opened as Our Lady of the Airways School on December 5th, 1948.
Father Vincent Egan, no relation to Father Ralph Egan of St. Patrick’s, was the first Pastor of Our Lady of the Airways, which settled into a way of life that was to remain stable for the next 20 years.
Another phase in the history of the parish began to unfold with the appointment of Father Joseph Nolan in 1969. Father Joseph guided the parish throughout the next 12 years during a period of great dynamic growth in population.
When the city declared the original church on Beverly Street to be unsafe for the parish to gather for worship, masses were celebrated in Holy Cross School at Morningstar and Darcel Avenue. The decision to build the new church adjacent to Holy Cross School instead of the original site was intended to place the parish church at the centre of the new growth in the parish.
The new Our Lady of the Airways on Darcel Avenue was completed in 1971 at a cost of $177,550.00. The new church was officially blessed by the Most Reverend Philip Pocock. The cross was dedicated to the memory of Father Andrew Stevenson and the Bell Towers (complete with bells) to the memory of Father Howard MacMillan. With further increase in Catholic population, more space was required. In 1976, new plans were begun for an addition to the structure at the corner of Morningstar and Darcel Avenue. This addition was completed in 1978. The parish now had a church which could seat 950 people and a hall which could accommodate 200.
Our Lady of the Airways Church in Malton became part of the City of Mississauga when the city was incorporated in 1974.
Chronological History of Our Lady of the Airways Parish
1830 First Catholic church build in the area.
1833 A second Catholic church was built (became known as Fifth Line Church).
1944 Our Lady of the Airways is established as a mission of St. Patrick’s Parish in Wildfield.
1948 Our Lady of the Airways Parish is formally established with Father Vincent Egan as Pastor.
1948 Our Lady of the Airways school is opened.
1968 Holy Cross School is blessed.
1968 The Parish begins worship in Holy Cross School (original church is taken down).
1969 Father Nolan is appointed as Pastor and plans begun for a new Parish Centre.
1969 St. Raphael School is built.
1971 The new Our Lady of the Airways Church is blessed.
1974 St. Gabriel School is blessed.
1974 Our Lady of the Airways Church becomes a part of the City of Mississauga with the city’s incorporation.
1978 New additional structures are added to the Parish.
Sources: Our Lady of the Airways Parish 50th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet