A Short History of the Church of the Good Thief

A Short History of the Church of the Good Thief

Church of the Good Thief (St. Dismas), located in the historic Portsmouth Village, is the second oldest Roman Catholic church in Kingston, after St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Plans for church and rectory were prepared by the Toronto architect Joseph Connolly and the church was built, beginning in 1892, from limestone quarried, cut and carried to the site by convict labour from Kingston Penitentiary. The Parish was established and the church opened in 1894. It was the only other Roman Catholic Church in Kingston besides the cathedral until 1941.

The first Pastor of the Church of the Good Thief, the Rev. James Vincent Neville, was the first full-time Catholic Chaplain at Kingston Penitentiary. The parish priest of the Church served as the Penitentiary’s Catholic Chaplain until 1974.

In 1995 a chapel was added to the rear of the building and, in 1997, a new entrance (the narthex) was added to the front. In 2008 church was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places in recognition of its heritage value. 

The Parish was closed in November 2013 but, in 2014, discussion began regarding the repurposing of the property into the Archdiocesan Archives. Planning to develop the St. Dismas Archives began in 2015 with the formation of a committee who are working towards building a state-of-the-art archival facility in this iconic church.

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