Located in the heart of Huronia on Georgian Bay, Midland is arguably most famous for the historic Martyrs' Shrine. The shrine was built to commemorate the 17th-century Jesuits who worked, prayed and went forth from St. Marie-among-the-Hurons to evangelize. They would ultimately face martyrdom in 1649 at the hands of the invading Iroquois. In 1984, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass attended by an overflow crowd of devout worshippers at the outdoor Papal Altar of the Martyr's Shrine. A stained Glass window commemorating this visit was installed in St. Margaret's Church in1985 by members of the Parish.
The town of Midland's was first named Mundy's Bay. It was originally a logging and lumber center, and evolved into a significant center for the building of ships, particularly during World War II. It became a major Great Lakes seaport for grain prior to the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Historically, the cross atop of the spire at St. Margaret's was one of the navigational aids, particularly at night when it was lit up, for ships entering and leaving Midland Harbour.
In 1881, land was donated for the building of the first wooden church and in 1883 Midland became a separate parish. Father John Lynett was the first resident pastor. In 1912, a cornerstone was laid for a new church to be constructed of stone. The anniversary of St. Margaret's is celebrated annually on October 11th, the date of its dedication in 1914 by Archbishop Neil McNeil. In 2008, the parish celebrated its 125th anniversary.
In 1922 the blessing of St. Margaret's church bells and their dedication to the fallen soldiers of World War 1 took place. This was a town-wide event with funds provided by subscription from local people of all religious denominations. Dignitaries from across the province attended the ceremony, including the Lieutenant-Governor of the day, Henry Cockshutt. The eight bells, which were cast in France, are inscribed with the names of the fallen soldiers from the area and have sounded out over the town of Midland during times of mourning, meditation or exultation.
On Christmas Eve 1986, the final preparations for a spiritual and festive Christmas celebration had been completed when the alarm bells summoned the townspeople and its fire-fighting services to a roaring blaze in the main body of the Church. As the Church fire intensified, the flames accelerated up the chimney-like bell tower towards the eight carillon bells. As the fire enveloped the tower structure holding the bells, they dropped one by one to the floor of the burning Church. Although the drop to the floor exceeded forty feet, fortunately, only one of the massive bells was broken, albeit repairable, a significant reminder of the high quality of the bronze castings. All of the bells were remounted in the new bell tower, where they remain today, peeling their call to worship to the residents of the Town of Midland and beyond. Although the bells today are rung electronically, they retain the capability to be used as a carillon in rendering hymns and other music when needed. The residents of the Town of Midland met the tragedy of the Church fire with speed and benevolence to ensure that the parishioners of St. Margaret's would be able to enjoy the spiritual blessings of the season, notwithstanding its great loss.
Regardless of Church affiliation or religious belief, the immediate and voluntary response to St. Margaret's hour of need by the local community, was truly representative of its caring and kindness to others. Reconstruction began almost immediately. It was agreed that the re-building of the Church would include needed renovations to enhance the use of the Church property. Although the renovations would result in a substantial debt to the Church, the members of the Parish were in full support of this undertaking. During reconstruction and renovation, regular Masses were held in the gymnasium of the local St. Theresa's Catholic High School. For Weddings and Funerals, the Churches in the Midland area, both Catholic and other denominations, were used. After the fire, the first Mass in the renovated Church was celebrated in 1988 by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, with a Solemn Blessing and re-dedication of the Church in November of the same year.
The disastrous fire at St. Margaret's Church, fortunately caused no damage to the six existing stained glass windows in the Church and would remain the pride of the Parish when re-installed after renovations were completed. However, it was clear to the members of the Parish, that the beauty of the new Church would be further enhanced by the replacement of the remaining clear glass windows with colourful, symbolic stained glass images to reflect the essence of the Parishioners' faith. Members of the Parish were invited to participate in the selection and financing of the windows. Begun in June 1988, the installation of the remaining 39 windows was completed by February 1991, the costs being borne by willing individual donors in the Parish.
A subsequent addition was completed in 1998 included a chapel, which was blessed by his Excellency Anthony Meagher, then Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto. The new addition included a reception area and meeting rooms, one of which was named after the Canadian Martyrs.