A History of St. Augustine’s Church, Dundas, Ontario
The mother church of the Diocese of Hamilton
The oldest parish between Toronto and Windsor
Andrew F. Burghardt, 1998
The first Catholic priests to visit the site of Dundas may well have been Father Jean de Brebeuf in 1626, and, somewhat later’ Father Louis Hennepin, who is said to have accompanied the famous French explorer, La Salle, in his exploration of this area, between 1668 and 1671. Probably because of the wetness of the terrain La Salle and Hennepin called this vicinity New Flanders. However no known European settlement or lasting missionary work followed for over a century.
Catholic priests probably visited the Niagara area steadily from 1783 onwards, largely because the British Army units included many Catholic Irish and Highland Scots, but there were no parishes. The entire area was within the Bishopric of Quebec, even after the establishment of Upper Canada in 1791. Ken Foyster has reported the tradition that in the autumn of 1819 two settlers in Trafalgar Tp. (Bartholomew O’Connor and Charles O’Hara) walked the forty miles to Dundas to persuade a Fr. O’Reilly to visit their area to present the sacraments and celebrate Mass in Mr. O’Hara’s cabin. Since there was not yet a priest resident in Dundas, this suggests (if true) that the chaplain from Niagara made the occasional side trip from Dundas to Trafalgar before returning to Niagara.
Perhaps because of such requests for a priest, on December 30, 1820 the Rev. Alexander MacDonnell of Kingston was appointed by Quebec to be Vicar Apostolic for all of Upper Canada. He designated a Fr. Connor to service Niagara and the Head of the Lake. Fr. Connor is said to have visited Dundas regularly from 1821 onward, to have said Mass and to have performed marriages and baptisms in private homes.