St. Finnan’s Basilica

A mission | A small parish | A church | A cathedral | A co-cathedral


We began as a small community of Highlanders from Scotland with a zealous, inspiring, and courageous leader in Fr. John MacDonald. 

We continue the important mission of bringing Christ to our family, friends, and neighbours.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall was recently informed that St. Finnan’s Parish, formerly the Cathedral for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, has been designated a minor basilica by Pope Francis.

St. Finnan’s becomes only the third basilica in the Archdiocese, the other two being Notre-Dame Basilica Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Basilica, both located in downtown Ottawa. A basilica is a church that has been given a special designation by the Pope. There are four major basilicas in the world, all located in Rome, and just over 1,800 minor basilicas located throughout the world. As a point of reference, there are more than 221,000 Catholic churches in the world.

With this designation, St. Finnan’s joins the ranks of such prominent minor basilicas as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, St. Francis of Assisi in Italy and Notre-Dame in Paris.

The occasion will be marked at the 11 am mass on Sunday, April 11th at St. Finnan’s.

Did you know?


Bishop Gaulin visited the parish on the 1st of June, 1837 and confirmed 53 candidates.


He visited the parish again on the 15th of January, 1843,  and confirmed 254 candidates!



1833 – Upper Canada

The Beginning

Our parish began as a mission rooted in inspiring the area we now know as Alexandria to a living faith. In the beginning, we were small, yet inspiring.

We have a rich, profound, and exciting history in the heart of settler land in Upper Canada.

The Eucharist has been celebrated in this very spot since 1833. The faithful have congregated and celebrated countless baptisms, marriages, confirmation and ordinations. This place is holy ground and a spot on this earth where Christ’s presence has been profoundly experienced.

We are tasked with continuing the great work so many have participated in before us.

We’re almost 200 years old, 188 to be exact. We’ve been a small mission, a small church, a Cathedral and a Co-Cathedral. 

Now, we are a basilica, one of only 26 in our vast country. 

We continue as a vibrant community, bringing a living faith back into our society, sharing Christ with our family, friends, and community.  We started as a small community of Highlanders from Scotland with a zealous, inspiring, and courageous leader in Fr. John McDonald. 

We began as a mission. We continue as a mission. 

A Note from our pastor, Fr. Jonathan Blake.

On February 19, 2021 Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on behalf of Pope Francis signed a decree raising St. Finnan’s to the status of Minor Basilica.

This is great news for us! I have invited His Grace Archbishop Marcel Damphousse to read this official decree at our 11AM mass. Unfortunately, with these new restrictions we had to change our plans. His Grace will be present at a later date, also to bless the monument outside with the new name – St. Finnan’s Basilica -, hopefully followed by a reception!

What is the difference between a basilica and a cathedral?

Why is this happening today? As we see in the chronology, on May 6, 2020, our two dioceses officially became one – the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. The name “cathedral” is given to churches that are the centre of the diocese, where the bishop typically presides at important liturgies. The cathedral gets its name from the presence of the bishop’s chair, aka cathedra (Latin word for “chair”). St. Finnan’s was no longer the cathedral since His Grace Archbishop Marcel Damphousse now lives in Ottawa, at the rectory for Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.

A team of parishioners was formed last year to petition the Pope asking for the title of basilica for St. Finnan’s! Thank you to each and everyone of you sharing your gifts and talents in this process!

The approval by Rome recognizes in St. Finnan’s church its extraordinary beauty with a rich history! It is a great honour for all of us involved! Our North Glengarry Parishes Finance and Pastoral Teams will continue the discussions of what it means for all parishioners.

Finally, “basilica” is also used as an honorary title that is bestowed upon a Roman Catholic church. It is an important Catholic church that has been given special ceremonial rights by the Pope. Once the title is bestowed upon a basilica, it may never be taken away. Working along with the Archdiocese, we hope to open our doors to parishioners and visitors who would like to come here on a pilgrimage, or simply to visit our beautiful home.

Stay tuned for more details and important dates to come. God Bless you, and Mary protect you.

St. Finnan’s, pray for us! Have a great week. Peace.

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