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Archdiocese of Halifax

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Halifax, Archdiocese of (HALIFAXIENSIS).—This see takes its name from the city of Halifax which has been the seat of government in Nova Scotia since its foundation by Lord Cornwallis in 1749. The archdiocese includes the middle and western counties of the province (Halifax, Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings, Hants, Cumberland, and Colchester), and the British colony, Bermuda. The island last mentioned has been attached to the archdiocese since 1851. It has a population of about 16,000, of whom about 700 are Catholics. The majority of these are Portuguese or of Portuguese extraction. Bermuda has one resident priest. There is a convent school at Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, which is in charge of the Sisters of Charity. The portion of the archdiocese which lies within the Province of Nova Scotia had at the last federal census (1901) a Catholic population of 54,301. Of this number about forty per cent are descendants of the early French settlers; they reside principally in the Counties of Yarmouth and Digby, at Chezzetcook in the County of Halifax, and in portions of Cumberland County. At Church Point, Digby County, is St. Anne’s College, which is devoted to the education of the French Acadian youth. It is conducted by the Eudist Fathers. Within the archdiocese is Port Royal, now known, as Annapolis. It was founded by De Monts in 1604, and, with the exception of the early Spanish settlement in Florida, it is the oldest European settlement in North America. With De Monts came Rev. Nicholas Aubry and another priest, and at Port Royal in that year the Holy Sacrifice was offered up by them for the first time on what is now Canadian soil. From the founding of Port Royal down to the time of the cruel expulsion of the Acadians in 1755, the Catholic missionaries who labored in Nova Scotia, or Acadia as it was then called, came from France. Some of the early priests were Jesuits. After the colony had been temporarily broken up by Argall in 1613, the Recollect Fathers arrived, and, besides attending to the spiritual wants of the French settlers, they labored with great success in converting the Micmacs, the native Indians of Nova Scotia. In 1632 Capuchin Friars of the province of Paris were sent to Acadia, and were still at work among the Indians in 1655. One of the most famous of the French missionaries was Abbe Antoine-Simon Maillard, who left France in 1741. He acquired great influence over the Indians, to whom he ministered with devoted zeal. He was taken prisoner by the English, but on account of the favor with which he was regarded by the Micmacs he was not expelled. His aid was invoked in making treaty arrangements with the natives. In 1760 he was made administrator of Acadia. He carried on his missionary labors down to the time of his death in 1762. He was highly esteemed by the civil authorities, and his name is held in great veneration by the Micmacs to this day.

A legislature was established in Nova Scotia in 1758, and severe laws directed against the Catholics were passed without delay. A Catholic was not allowed to hold land except by grant direct from the Crown, and Catholic priests were ordered to depart from the province by a given date. These disabilities continued for upwards of twenty years. In the meantime there was considerable Irish immigration, and in 1783 the Irish Catholics of Halifax petitioned for the removal of the disabilities, and the obnoxious laws were then repealed. Two years later, Rev. James Jones, of the Order of Capuchins, came to assume spiritual charge of the Catholics of Halifax, and he remained for fifteen years. Other Irish priests followed. A noted missionary was the Abbe Sigogne, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1797, and continued his work among the Catholics of western Nova Scotia until his death in 1844. He became the leader and adviser of the Acadians in civil as well as in religious matters, and he was unceasing in his efforts to promote the welfare of the French population. He also cared for the Micmacs, whose language he spoke with ease. He held a commission of the peace from the Government.

In 1801 Father Edmund Burke left Quebec to enter upon his useful work in Halifax, which at that time formed part of the Diocese of Quebec and so remained until it was made a vicariate in 1817. Father Burke was consecrated Vicar Apostolic of Nova Scotia in 1818, and filled the office until his death in 1820. It was not until 1827 that his successor, Rt. Rev. William Fraser, was appointed. The vicariate was erected into a diocese February 15, 1842, and was called the Diocese of Halifax. It included the whole of Nova Scotia. In 1844 the diocese was divided; Bishop Fraser became Bishop of the new Diocese of Arichat; and Bishop WILLIAM WALSH, who had been Bishop Fraser’s coadjutor, “with the right of succession”, became Bishop of Halifax. In 1852 Halifax was made an archdiocese. Archbishop Walsh administered the affairs of his see until his death in 1858. He was scholarly and devout, and although at that time the feeling between Protestants and Catholics was occasionally somewhat bitter, the “British Colonist”, a newspaper owned and edited by Protestants, said of him at his death: “The Archbishop was distinguished for his attainments as a scholar and divine. In society the courtesy and affability of his manners and his conversational powers made his intercourse agreeable and instructive.”

The second Archbishop of Halifax was the Most Rev. THOMAS LOUIS CONNOLLY, who was consecrated in 1859, and died in 1876. Like his predecessor, he was a native of Ireland. He was ordained at Lyons, France, in 1838. In 1842 he came to Nova Scotia as secretary to Bishop Walsh. In 1852 he was appointed Bishop of St. John, N. B., and in 1859 was transferred to Halifax. Of Archbishop Connolly, Mr. Nicholas Flood Davin, a non-Catholic, wrote: “He belonged to the great class of prelates who have been not merely Churchmen, but also sagacious, far-seeing politicians and large-hearted men, with admiration for all that is good, and a divine superiority to the littleness which thinks everybody else wrong.” By his tact he soon removed the ill-feeling that had existed between Catholics and Protestants in Nova Scotia. He took a great interest in public affairs. He was strongly opposed to Fenianism, and was a warm advocate of the confederation of the British North American provinces. At the Vatican Council he was a prominent figure, and, while opposed to the declaration of the dogma of infallibility, he loyally accepted it as soon as it had been declared. During his administration, St. Mary’s Cathedral, a beautiful edifice, was modernized and completed. When he died the Rev. Principal Grant, one of the most noted Presbyterian divines in Canada, wrote: “I feel as if I had not only lost a friend, but as if Canada had lost a patriot; for in all his big-hearted Irish fashion he was ever at heart a true Canadian.”

The Most Rev. MICHAEL HANNAN succeeded Archbishop Connolly. He was a native of Limerick, and was ordained priest in 1845. In May, 1877, he was consecrated archbishop, and he died in 1882. He was a prelate of calm and sound judgment, and was greatly beloved by all classes.

The Most Rev. CORNELIUS O’BRIEN, the fourth Archbishop of Halifax, was consecrated January 21, 1883; d. March 9, 1906. Archbishop O’Brien was a native of Prince Edward Island. He was a distinguished scholar, and as a preacher, historian, novelist, and poet, he displayed a versatility rarely found in combination. In his Lenten pastorals he not only gave excellent explanations of Catholic doctrines, but he made unanswerable attacks upon the theological and scientific errors of his time. His funeral sermon on the Rt. Hon. Sir John Thompson, the first Catholic Prime Minister of Canada, is a model of dignified pulpit eloquence. He was, besides, a prelate of rare executive ability, as the numerous charitable institutions that owe their foundation to his zeal bear ample witness. In political matters he was a strong imperialist.

Archbishop O’Brien’s successor is the Most Rev. EDWARD J. MCCARTHY, a native of Halifax, who was consecrated September 9, 1906. He is noted for his zeal, industry, and courtesy, and is held in high esteem by all classes.

There are 73 priests in the archdiocese and 96 churches. Among the educational institutions are: St. Anne’s College, already mentioned; St. Mary’s College, Halifax; Holy Heart Seminary, Halifax, in charge of the Eudist Fathers; the Sacred Heart Academy, Halifax, an institution conducted by the Religious of the Sacred Heart; and the Academy of Mount St. Vincent at Rockingham, a successful institution in charge of the Sisters of Charity.


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