In 1977, the City of London was experiencing rapid and development, including major expansion into surrounding rural areas. The largest housing development was taking place in the south part of the city with more than several thousand homes being built in the White Oaks-Southdale area. The consideration of building a new church in the area began when Holy Rosary parish grew so large that it could no longer keep up with the growing population. The boundaries of this new parish would be Eden Avenue on the north, Concession Seven on the south, west to White Oak Road, and east to Victoria Sideroad. The land on the southwest corner of Ernest Avenue and Jalna Boulevard was bought from Matthews Development at a cost of $80,000.00. Bishop Gerald Emmett Carter entrusted the construction of the city's nineteenth parish to the warm and ever-friendly Father Pat Mellon.
With its spiritual leader now in place, there came the task of choosing a name for the new parish. Father Mellon submitted three names for the new parish from which St. Justin was selected. As of today no other parish or institution in the Diocese of London bears the name of St. Justin.
In September of 1977, Father Mellon assumed responsibility as Pastor of the newly formed parish. However. without a physical building to celebrate in, space was rented at St. Stephen's Anglican Church at the corner of Southdale and Wellington Road where two masses were offered each Saturday night and Sunday morning. A third mass on Sunday morning was also held in the gymnasium of St. Anthony School. By the end of the year. the parish was mostly composed of young families of many different cultures and backgrounds.
In February of 1978, Bishop G.E. Carter made his first official visit to the parish when he celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with 65 young parishioners at Holy Rosary Church. In March of that same year. he requested that the boundaries for St. Justin be extended westward to include Lambeth, and the fourth concession of Delaware Township.
Early in the year, the Parish Council of St. Justin was created along with five working committees - the Apostolic Committee, Liturgy, Property, Social and Youth Committees. A separate committee was also formed to prepare _ constitution for St. Justin's Parish Council. By June, the Property Committee began laying plans for the proposed building program. Their initial plans were presented to the parish and to the Chancery Office. Because the estimated cost of the project was so high - one million dollars - it was decided to build in two phases. The first phase would include the rectory with housekeeper's quarters, the parish offices, and a parish hall. The cost of phase would be approximately $590,000.00. The second phase, construction of the Church itself, would begin two to three years after the completion of phase one.
It was during this initial planning period that Father Mellon was fortunate to meet a parishioner, Mrs. Mary Merrill, who expressed a desire to donate funds to cover the cost ($360, 000.00) of the Parish Hall, which would be erected in loving memory of her late husband, Mr. Fred W. Merrill.
The emerging parish continued to serve the spiritual needs of the parishioners with 136 Baptisms and on May 95 grade two children received their First Eucharist. In the summer of that same year Auxiliary Bishop John Michael Sherlock became Bishop of the Diocese of London, replacing Bishop Carter who had been named Archbishop of Toronto and November 7, 1978, our new bishop celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with 72 grade eight students.
April 29, 1979 was truly a significant day in the life of St. Justin Parish as the official ground-breaking ceremony was held with approximately 300 parishioners in attendance.
On June 29th. the Community of the Sisters of St. Joseph purchased a house at 963 Jalna and the St. Justin Community was blessed with the appointment of Sisters Doreen Kraemer, Connie Dignan, and Frances Walton. Sister Doreen was to become the first Pastoral Assistant of the new parish co-leader with her many talents!
In November of 1979, the contract for the construction of the rectory, parish offices and parish hall was awarded to Northside Construction of London at a cost of $590, 000.00. The goal was to have this phase completed by June of 1980.
1980 - 1983
In September of that year, the Parish Hall, rectory, and offices were completed and the first Masses were celebrated on the weekend of September 13 & 14. Father Mellon took this opportunity to remind parishioners that "parishes are not constructed of mortar and bricks but rather they are made of people and there is a tremendous bond among the people of our parish!" One month later on October 19, 1980, the official opening of the Fred W. Merrill Hall was held with Bishop Sherlock and Mary Merrill, donor of the hall as special guests. At this celebration, Bishop Sherlock commented. "I am overwhelmed by the extraordinary and unprecedented gift to this church." Father Mellon thanked Mrs. Merrill for her tremendous generosity. Phase one completed!
St. Justin's received its first Associate Pastor in May, Rev. Feliks Lojewski from the parish of Queen of Peace in Sarnia. May also marked the farewell to Sister Connie Dignan and the welcome of Sister Doreen Kraemer who had been teaching at St. Francis School and also assisting the parish in a variety of ways, she now came on as full time Pastoral Assistant.
The parish continues to grow; the Catholic Women's League now in its fourth year numbers more than 140 women and baptisms average 20 per month. The total number of families in the parish exceeds 3000 and approximately 1400 families attend Sunday mass on a regular basis.
On May 7, 1983, newly ordained Father Dales was assigned to St. Justin as Associate Pastor and on the weekend of May 28 / 29 was warmly welcomed by the entire parish family. The community was very fortunate to receive this former teacher who hailed from Cargill, Ontario.
Early the year, a Brick Builder Campaign was launched as a fundraiser for the new church and resulted in a generous response from the community that added $48,000.00 to the Building Fund. As of May 15, $400, 000.00 had been collected for the construction of the new church. That same month the construction contract was awarded to Frank Van Bussel and Sons of Lucan at a cost of $1,097,000.00. The projected total cost including pews, carpet, furnishings etc. was estimated at $1,300, 000.00. And finally on Monday, July 9, 1984, heavy construction equipment moved on site and construction began with a projected completion date of December 22, 1984. Unfortunately, some problems with steel fabrication caused a delay of three months and extremely cold weather in January and February pushed the completion date even further.
Nevertheless, construction of the new church progressed during the summer months and its striking design began to take hold of the community in a way to bring together all those around it. Such an undertaking would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of very capable people, particularly the Parish Advisory Boards as well as the dedicated members of the many Committees. It was fitting that on Labour Day weekend, September 1, 1985 Mass would be celebrated for the first time in the new Church of St. Justin. Six weeks later Bishop Sherlock would return to celebrate mass and bless the new church.
In Appreciation for the generosity and commitment of Saint Justin Parish friends and parishioners, a time capsule was installed in the narthex and is to be unsealed on June 1, 2036.