Academic journal article Historical Studies

The Maritimes Region and the Building of a Canadian Church: The Case of the Diocese of Antigonish after Confederation

Academic journal article Historical Studies

The Maritimes Region and the Building of a Canadian Church: The Case of the Diocese of Antigonish after Confederation

Article excerpt

This article addresses the role of regions in the formation and nurturing of a "national" Catholic Church among English-speaking Catholics in Canada after Confederation. Focussing on the Diocese of Antigonish, in Nova Scotia, as one example, the author claims that the bishops, clergy, religious, and laity of the Maritimes region were integral to the construction of an English-speaking Catholic "network" that extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific. By merit of the appointment of Antigonish and other Maritimes-born men to the new episcopal sees of the Prairie West and the northwest coast, easterners were able to lay the foundations of a Catholic network that would facilitate the movement of priests, women religious, and lay persons into the newly settled regions of the country. In the process, Antigonish men and women reconstructed on the Canadian frontier the parochial, administrative, and canonical institutions they had known in the East. They then filled these institutions with values imported from their own region: the necessity of Catholic hospitals, social services, schools, and, in particular, post-secondary Catholic education. By the 1940s, the creation of this English-speaking Catholic network effectively curtailed the national influence of the French-Canadian church beyond Quebec and some adjoining regions.

Cet article regard le role des regions dans la fondation et le maintient d'une eglise catholique canadienne entre les catholiques anglophones apres la confederation. Regardant plus pres le diocese d'Antigonish, Nouvelle-Ecosse, comme exemple principal, l'auteur affirme que les eveques, les pretres, les religieux (euses), et les laics des maritimes etaient integraux a la fondation d'un reseau de catholiques anglopbones qui s'est etendu de l'Atlantique au Pacifique. En nominant des hommes du diocese d'Antigonish, et d'autres regions des maritimes, comme eveques dans l'Ouest, et les Prairies ainsi qu'au Nord-ouest, les hommes de l'Est ont pu mettre les fondations d'un reseau catholique qui faciliterait le mouvement de pretres, religieuses et laics dans les nouvelles regions du pays. Tout en faisant cela, les hommes et les femmes d'Antigonish on renove, sur le front canadien, les institutions paroissiales, administratives et canoniques qu'ils avaient connu dans l'Est. Ils ont ensuite rempli ces institutions avec les valeurs de leur propre region: la necessite d'hopitaux catholiques, de services sociaux, d'ecoles et en particulier d'education catholique post-secondaire. Dans les annees 40, la creation de ce reseau catholique anglophone a reussi a raccourcir l'influence nationale de l'eglise Francocanadienne en allant plus loin que le Quebec et les regions aux alentours.

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The Catholic Church in Canada can be characterized by both its national and regional natures. Since Confederation, the ties of a common faith, the cohabitation of Catholics within a defined geographical land mass, and the shared experience of governance under a common federal state has created the impression of a national Catholic Church from sea to sea. In both history and in our own times, however, the reality of the Canadian church has resembled more what J.M.S. Careless once described of Canada as a collection of "limited identities." (1) It is in the country's regions where the shared doctrinal, magisterial, and canonical norms meet the complex web of local cultures, creating, in the process, distinctive expressions of the Catholic faith. Each of the regions of Canada--the Northern Territories, Western Prairie, the Pacific slope, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces--contain Catholic communities made distinct from one other by historical experience, language, the presence or absence of an ethno-cultural mosaic, Catholic-non-Catholic relations, the political climate between religion and the state, and by various levels of economic expectations and development.

Until the recent publication of Terence J. …

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