History - Churches

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A large part of people's lives centered on their religion and their church. Although there are people of many different faiths now living in Kippens, a 1921 census tells us that all of the thirty people who lived here at that time were of Roman Catholic faith. Kippens has never had its own place of worship, and people living in the community would (and still do) travel to several miles to attend Sunday Mass at St. Stephen's Parish on West Street in Stephenville.

The original St. Stephen's Parish was built under the pastorship of Monsignor P.F. Adams. Its was a magnificent wooden structure and was located on the same site as the present-day parish is located. It was constructed in 1869 and men from Kippens worked on the construction of the church. It was officially opened on December 24, 1908.

Automobiles were few and far between in those times, and people either walked to church or, in the winter, would hitch up their horse and sleight, or ox and sleigh, to attend Sunday mass, as Cecilia King tells in the following account:

The thing I really remember about going to church was going to Midnight Mass. Father would tackle his ox, and he had one of those old-time sleights. My Grandmother and Grandfather would get all bundled up on one side of the sleight and on the other seat Mother and Father would sit down, and they'd make a place for us down in amongst their feet, and we'd go to church. And I remember them singing Christmas carols, and seeing all the people walking into the church. The original St. Stephen's Parish was the victim of a tragic fire on Sunday, October 6, 1969. A lightning bolt struck the church, traveled through the speaker system, and subsequently resulted in one of the worse fires ever seen in Stephenville. High winds fanned the raging fire, and it was all the firefighters could do to stop the flames from spreading to the priests' house and to the convent. Fortunately, no one was hurt, since the fire started during the afternoon, between the morning and evening masses. People stood and stared in horror and disbelief as the bell in the church's tower rang over and over again. Finally the bell tower collapsed, and with it went and hopes of saving the church. One can only imagine the sorrow felt by the onlookers as they stood and watched helplessly as their beautiful church crumbled to the ground. Many tears were shed that day, and now all that remains are the memories of those who attended mass there.

Sunday church services were held in St. Stephen's gymnasium for the next twenty-one months, and on June 2, 1971, the newly constructed St. Stephen's Church was blessed.