• 2018-06-08

Saint john heritage

The Official Blog of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation


Jennifer bardsley

For Greater Boston resident Jennifer Bardsley Keefe, a descendant of one of the original Cathedral builders, her support is about far more than the restoration of a historically significant church. She recalls stories and memories related by her late father, Michael Bardsley of Fredericton, and her grandfather Bob Bardsley, former proprietor of Bardsley Hats of Saint John.

Millions of people, in places as far off as Australia, Boston and Curaçao, have a relative who was born in New Brunswick or who passed through, perhaps staying only a few days or long enough to get married and continue onward. For hundreds of thousands of early immigrants from Ireland, Britain and Continental Europe, New Brunswick was their first point of contact with the New World ... and for many, it was also their point of embarkation. 

Much more recently still, others born and raised in New Brunswick embarked on careers and other life events that took them to distant parts of Canada and beyond.

In either case, for generations of countless families, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the surrounding neighbourhood have played a key role in some of their most significant milestones – from baptisms and First Communions to weddings and funerals.

For those whose lives took them away from their family roots in Saint John, the Cathedral continues to be a striking and memorable icon in the heart of a city that is forever linked to memories of parents, grandparents and stories of other ancestors.

For ex-pats like Jennifer Bardsley,  her family's heritage and memories are inextricably linked to the City of Saint John.  Her recently deceased father, Michael Bardsley of Fredericton, made sure his children's connections to Saint John remained strong through stories of the well known Bardsley Hat  shop and the antics of her uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

In recent years, Jennifer became aware of a very significant Bardsley connection to the Cathedral: a Bardsley relative in 1850s Saint John  carved "The Last Supper" sculpture over the front entrance of the Cathedral. Family legend holds that it was Jennifer's great-great-great uncle.

The marble frieze on Saint John's only cathedral - carved of white Vermont marble - is an outstanding replica of the original "The Last Supper" fresco  painted by Leonardo daVinci in the convent of  Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Over the years,  local climate extremes have  effected the detailed features on the  Saint John Cathedral depiction. 

So, it’s not surprising that Fredericton-born Jennifer and other Bardsley family members, many now residing up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, were early supporters of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation’s 21st-century vision for the Cathedral Restoration Project and its importance in revitalizing the surrounding neighbourhood. The extended family's financial support was a concrete way to ensure the sacrifice, labours, and dedication of their ancestors to the original Cathedral construction and the surrounding community were respected and preserved.

Bardsley, who now lives and works near Boston, Massachusetts, describes her own motivation as two-fold:

“I had heard stories of the Irish immigrants arriving by the thousands in Saint John, many penniless and without  support networks. My mother's family were Delaneys from Ireland. The Cathedral became a central part of their lives and was a source of hope and support for so many.  Construction of the Cathedral was not just about building a church – it was about a new beginning in their new homeland and building a community. It was a symbol of hope for their futures.

That hope was the catalyst for the kind of confidence that helped so many build their future, often launching thriving nearby businesses like Bardsley's Hats.  

More than that, seeing a revitalized Waterloo Village neighbourhood with a restored Cathedral as its centrepiece would have made my father and grandparents so happy.”

The Bardsley family is one of many Cathedral Heritage Families supporting the restoration of this important National Treasure and the neighborhood that's had a central role in the lives of their ancestors since 1855.  Join them! Find out how you, too, can become a Cathedral Family.

Stay tuned to this space! Learn why so many with connections to Saint John... New Brunswick... or the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are helping ensure the preservation of an architectural and historical gem and revitalizing an historic neighbourhood in the heart of the city.  Countless thousands of Irish and other immigrants first arrived right here in New Brunswick.  Not all remained but most can trace their New World roots to Saint John and New Brunswick. Many families have pledged their support to restore the Cathedral. 

Won't you join them?  

Lynn Forbes Gautier

Lynn is the Executive Director of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation.  A lifelong traveler, Lynn loves to visit old cities and appreciates a society’s commitment to preserving its traditions and built heritage.


We need your help.

We're raising money to restore the ceiling of Saint John's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Every dollar counts when it comes to preserving one of New Brunswick's most important heritage buildings. It's a National Treasure! Please consider donating today.

A message to our American Friends

The Cathedral Heritage Foundation is supported by the American Fund for Charities, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit organization EIN 52-2109597. Donations from US taxpayers to the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project through the American Fund for Charities are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by US law. The Cathedral Heritage Foundation has been reviewed by the American Fund for Charities and has been determined eligible to receive contributions through the AFC.

If you are a US taxpayer and wish to support the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project, you may make a secure online donation at www.americanfund.info. Please be certain to identify the Cathedral Heritage Foundation as the beneficiary of your gift of support.

Alternatively, you may download a printable donation form and send it with your check or credit card details to The American Fund for Charities, 2 Liberty Square, Suite 500 Boston, MA 02109-4884. Be sure to identify clearly the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project as the organization you wish the American Fund for Charities to support.

Following your donation, you will promptly be issued with the receipt necessary for income tax purposes.