In September 1977 the first Catholic Church in Cornwall had its beginning with the purchase of approximately 4 acres of land from George Lowther. On January 1, 1978, Father Clare MacDonald was appointed priest in charge. An area bounded by the North River, West River and the Clyde River was cut from St. Dunstan's Basilica and designated as the Cornwall and Area Catholic Church.

Previous to this the spirtual needs of the Catholics in the area were looked after by St. Dunstan's Parish. Beginning in the late 1960's, under Monsignor William Simpson, separate religious services were held in the area. These were first held at the Cornwall United Church and later at the Cornwall Civic Centre (Lions Club Hall at the time).

In June 1977 a Steering Committee under Eric MacDonald was established and a year later a Building Committee chaired by Leonard Gallant was established. Within a short time a preliminary design for a church complex by Architect George Guimond was accepted. As one of the first, solar heated churches in North America, it received much media attention at the time.

In September 1977 the name St. Francis of Assisi was chosen as the patron of the parish. The first mass was celebrated in the new church in August 1980 lead by Father Clare MacDonald who was appointed the first pastor of St. Francis of Assisi.

In June 1989 Father Eric Dunn was appointed pastor at St. Francis of Assisi and Administrator of St. Martin of Tours, located in Cumberland. During this period he was also Vicar General for the diocese. In June 1995, Father Leo Trainor succeeded Father Eric and remained as pastor until June 1999 when he was replaced by Father John Lacey. Father Lacey, who was transferred from Summerside, was the 5th pastor of St. Francis of Assisi / Administrator of St. Martins of Tours. In his time the Parishes of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Martin's and St. Anne's Parish in Emyvale were amalgamated into one Unit which are now known as the Good Shepherd Pastoral Unit. Father Martin Carter succeeded Father Robert MacDonald ( Emyvale ) who retired from parish ministry in 2009 and presently serves as the Associate Pastor for the Good Shepherd pastoral Unit. Father Robert Coady succeeded Fr. John Lacey in 2011 and was the pastor of the the Good Shepherd pastoral Unit until his retirement in June 2017. Father John Molina ( and with him arrived Father George Palamattum as assistant Pastor) served the parish as Pastor until June 2018 and now we welcome father Doug MacDonald as our new pastor replacing Fr. John Molina.

Over the past 25 years the parish has been generously assisted by the late Sr. Winnifred McIver csm, the late E.J. Roche, Fr. Thomas Maclellan, Donnie MacKinnon and Sr. Georgina Hughes. As well, Sr. Catherine Smith faithfully served the parish as Pastoral Associate from 1987-2000. From 1994-2000 Sr. Patricia Smith took over the duties as parish secretary. Sr. Gemma Dunn served as pastoral associate from September 2000 until June 2012 when she retired from Parish ministry. She is presently director of the Sisters of St. Martha's Spirituality Center located in Charlottetown. Karen MacCannell joined parish ministry in 2005 as a Pastoral Associate after completing the Diocesan 2 year Pastoral Associates Program. Since then she has completed the 2 year Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry and is a certified Youth Minister as well as a Pastoral Associate, serving the Good Shepherd Pastoral Unit. 

The parish has been enriched over the years by the presence of a number of seminarians; John Keizer, Gerard Chaisson, Raymond MacDonald, Samuel Paquet and Floyd Peters.

As we proceed beyond our first 25 years of growth, we express deep gratitude to GOD for his many blessings of faith, friendship, and involvement of the many who built our Christian faith community. In the spirit of St. Francis, the patron of parish, we pray that HIS peace may continue to flow, not only, across our own parish community but to all parts of the Island.


With the anticipated creation of the new pastoral unit consisting of three parishes - St. Anne's, Emyvale (ext 1851), St. Martin of Tours, Cumberland (est 1868), and St. Francis of Assisi, Cornwall  (est 1977) a committee was formed and were presented with the challenge and privilege of creating a name for the unit. Over the coming weeks they were invited to engage thoughtfully and imaginatively in this important process. All suggested names were shortlisted to three by a committee of the unit pastoral council and presented to the Bishop (Grecco) for approval in the spring. Each of the individual church buildings would retain their current name.

So what's in a name? On a personal level our name means everything. Our whole identity is linked to the name that most if not all of us are given at birth. It is especially from that moment of receiving a name that each of us began a personal and unique life journey to make a positive difference in the world and to change history. So also, it is with choosing a name for our pastoral unit, a name that would serve to capture what we are about as a church community, our spiritual identity and our mission. The opportunity to create a name can also remind us of where we have come from and to help us to continue to work together to promote unity and peace in our world. As with our personal journey so too, with our collective journey, the creation and naming of our pastoral unit provided a unique opportunity to make history for many generations to come.

Ideally the committee wanted a name that was inclusive and that had theological, scriptural and/or religious relevance. For obvious reasons names of pastoral units already taken such as Holy Family, St. Benedict, Holy Trinity, John Paul II, and Bishop MacEachern will not be duplicated. Sources of inspiration for a name can come from many places, including the patron saints of our parishes.  A snap-shot into the lives of our patrons and the very different times and places they lived out their faiths, reveals that many of the qualities they demonstrated and the life missions they embraced were remarkably similar. 

History of St. Anne's Church

St. Anne was born and raised in Bethlehem and became a devoted wife to Joachim, a shepherd from Nazareth in Galilee. After more than 20 years with no children, their prayers were answered and Anne gave birth to a baby daughter and called her Mary. Mary was later chosen to be the mother of the Christ. As a wife and mother Anne's days were long with the household chores and caring for the needs of her family(this was top priority). Like the Jewish women of her day, she took on the added responsibilities of raising their animals, gardening and harvesting. She cherished the special time with her daughter when she was a little girl. St. Anne was a loving grandmother to Mary's son Jesus as he grew up in Jerusalem and it is believed that Jesus was with her when she died. It is also believed that when Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Martha and other friends of Jesus crossed the Mediterranean Sea to spread the new of His death and resurrection through Southern France, they brought with them the remains of Anne and had a Bishop bury them there. Today St. Anne is a patron in many places including Quebec and also for grandmothers throughout the Christian world. She is the patron saint of the 37 Mi'kmaq First Nations throughout Atlantic Canada. Anne, like St.Francis and St. Martin, is associated with the qualities of caring, wisdom and kindness well into her old age, as well as living a full life of simplicity, devotion and dedication.

History of St. Martin of Tours Church

St. Martin of Tours came from a well to do Roman military family and to no one's surprise joined the army at 15 years of age. At 18, he chose to be baptized and as he took on the challenge of living out his Christian Faith he realized he could no longer continue fighting. His vision of a world of peace and harmony was an attribute that would be picked up by St. Francis of Assisi much later. From his teenage years, Martin began sharing what he had with the poor. One of the most famous and symbolic stories around St. Martin was his decision to cut his officer's cloak in half to give it to a poor beggar who had nothing to keep him warm. St. Martin was released from military service after enduring abuse and ridicule in the army. He then dedicated his life to working with the poor, building churches, and winning converts. He lived like a hermit in his later years even after he became a bishop, and when he died at 81 years of age in the year 387CE he was buried at his own request, in the Cemetery of the Poor in Tours, France. Soldiers, tailors and innkeepers all recognize St. Martin as their patron today.

History of St. Francis of Assisi Church

St. Francis of Assisi grew up in a prosperous cloth merchant family in Assisi, Italy in the late 1100's; he gave up his possessions, to work with the poor and the outcasts, especially the lepers. His entire life was guided by simplicity and humility. He was a joyful person who loved people and nature. he dedicated much of his life to promoting respect and appreciation for the environment, especially birds and animals, and to this day St. Francis is considered  the patron saint of ecology. St. Francis was guided by a deep love for God and everything God created. He was also a troubadour who wrote many hymns and prayers and knew the joys that music brings to the world. One of his deepest spiritual experiences was when he heard the call to renew the church. I the beginning he thought the Lord meant repair a building. However, he soon realized through prayer and reflection that this was not the care for buildings but God's people. Francis was moved to embrace the poor and out cast in the person of a leper, he preached the gospel to all who would listen and embrace an intense prayer life as a hermit yet while build a new community which continues to this day.

Good Shepherd Pastoral Unit

Inspired by the lives of our three patron, and our lived experience as parishes, we invited everyone including the young people to submit suggestions for a name for our new pastoral unit. It was with the hope that the name that is chosen would be meaning to all of our parishes. With the help of God's blessing and inspiration from the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the name Good Shepherd Pastoral Unit was chosen. All three churches are given the mandate to continue to work together for the people of God and our communities.