Prior to 1954, all Roman Catholic residents of Coniston attended services at Our Lady of Mercy Church. However, in January of that year, Bishop D.H. Dignan established another parish in the community under the name of St. Paul the Apostle. The new parish was created to better serve the religious needs of the English and Italian-speaking residents of Coniston and Wahnapitae. Reverend R.F. Venti, an assistant minister at Our Lady of Mercy, was appointed as the first priest for the new church.
Bishop Dignan was adamant that St. Paul the Apostle be constructed as soon as possible and informed Father Venti that funds would be available from the Diocese in the form of a loan. Father Venti proceeded to consult with his parishioners on the design for the new church and it was determined that the structure would contain seating for 350 people in the nave, a choir gallery above the main vestibule, a sanctuary, a parish office, a rectory, and a parish hall in the basement of the building. In order to reduce the amount that would be borrowed from the Diocese, the men of the community volunteered to help build the church.
St. Paul the Apostle was to be built on land leased from the International Nickel Company at a cost of one dollar per year. Construction began in May of 1954 with Father Venti leading the endeavour. Tradesmen of the parish community (including Tony Zanutto, Willard Conlon, Sylvio Floreani, Joseph Battistuzzi, and John Soroko) were eager to lend their expertise to the creation of the church.
Thanks to the efforts and dedication of the parishioners, the church was completed in December of 1954 with an outstanding loan of $93,000 from the Diocese. In only six years, the ladies of the parish eliminated the church debt through raffles, teas, suppers, and socials. St. Paul the Apostle was dedicated on December 22, 1954.
Upon completion of the church, the Catholic Women's League charter, which existed at Our Lady of Mercy Church, was moved to St. Paul's and the men of the parish established their own charter, the Holy Name Society.
Father Venti remained with St. Paul the Apostle until September of 1960 when he was transferred to St. Anthony's Church in Sudbury and St. Anthony's priest, Father Frank Borsa, was transferred to St. Paul's.
Father Borsa would remain with the parish until 1974 when, due to failing health, he was forced to retire from his duties and was replaced by Father Angelo Caruso. Father Caruso continued the long-standing tradition of providing spiritual guidance and creating a welcoming environment for the parishioners of St. Paul's.
In September of 1974, Father Caruso undertook the task of making much-needed upgrades to the church. Included in these renovations was the remodeling of the parish hall, the recarpeting of the nave and sanctuary, and the building of a life-size, three-dimensional wood carving of the Resurrection. Within six months, in March of 1975, the church renovations were completed.
By 1979, the congregation was need of a new organ and one was purchased in memory of those parishioners who had died. It was played for the first time at Midnight Mass on December 24, 1979.
Father Caruso remained with the parish until 1981 when he was transferred to St. Alexander's in Azilda. As priest for St. Paul the Apostle, Father Caruso was well-respected and loved. He instilled a deeper sense of faith and participation in church life and inspired devotion in his parishioners. He was replaced by Father John Kaptein on September 1, 1981.
Today, St. Paul the Apostle instills in its parishioners a sense of pride and commitment to the Roman Catholic faith while serving as a pillar of hope and love for the residents of Coniston.
Material compiled from The Coniston Story.