Michael Power: The Struggle to Build the Catholic Church on the Canadian Frontier

Article excerpt

Michael Power: The Struggle to Build the Catholic Church on the Canadian Frontier. By Mark G. McGowan. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press,2005. Pp. xvii, 378. CA$49.95/ US$49.95/£32.95.

A Canadian paradox is that the roots of Catholicism are deeper in Canada than in the United States, yet Catholic doctrine has greater influence in the States than in Canada. Many Catholic prime ministers have served in Canada; the United States has had just one Catholic president; and yet many politicians in the United States openly claim to be guided by Catholic teaching-a rare and unpopular occurrence in contemporary Canada. Catholicism in the States has been influential mostly in neighborhoods; the identity of one Canadian province-Quebec-has been overwhelmingly Catholic. Yet Quebec is now one of North America's most secularized regions.

A question missionaries must ask, then, is how deep Catholic faith really went in Canada's historical experience. And how-especially in Quebec-could Catholicism have been removed from the center of a community's identity in a couple of decades? University of Toronto professor Mark McGowan's biography of Michael Power, a vigorous Catholic bishop in early nineteenth-century Canada, is a good place to begin a discussion of these questions. …