If one has ever wondered why there are two churches, on the same street, this is the story:
“Thanks to its well-deserved reputation for stability and peace, it might come as a surprise that the Church of Ascension of Our Lord was launched in controversy and got underway with a whiff of acrimony still in the air.
In 1926, when a group of resolute Irish Catholic Westmount parishioners applied to the Archbishop of Montreal for permission to build their own church – because until then they had been going to church services at the St-Leon de Westmount French parish – They were turned down.
Undeterred, they set sail for the Vatican and many weeks later returned home triumphantly with a Papal Deed of Erection.
Trumped by the Holy See, the Diocese of Montreal exercised its right to name the new parish’s first pastor.
Its selection was Monsignor Wilfrid Emmett McDonagh, age 42, a man of uncertain mettle who was in disfavour with the hierarchy at the time. (He was; however, one of the leading figures in the founding of St. Mary’s Hospital).
Predictably, there were Anglos against this project (“We don’t need another church,”) but work on it went full-steam ahead anyway.
Financed by a bank loan and pledges, the trustees searched for an appropriate piece of land in Westmount area, eventually they bought a large tract of land from the Grey Nuns, bordered by Sherbrooke Street and Clarke and Kitchener Avenue.
Then they awarded a princely $326,000 contract to John Quinlan & Co. to build a church which was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Maginnis and Walsh, Edward Turcotte of Montreal was associate architect.
The neo-gothic design of the church was quite different from what was usually seen in Catholic churches in Quebec.
Another unusual feature of the 13,483 square foot church was the location of the square bell tower built over the transept crossing with belfry and pinnacles, and not over the entrance of the church as is usually the case in Catholic churches.
This type of construction was more commonly seen in Protestant churches.
Furthermore, there are no bells in the tower.”