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Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie

Embraces the southern parts of the districts of Thunder Bay, Algoma, and Nipissing

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Sault Sainte Marie, (SANCTAE-MARIAE-ORMENSIS), Diocese of, was erected by Decree of September 16, 1904. It embraces the southern parts of the districts of Thunder Bay, Algoma, and Nipissing (i.e. between the height of land and the Lakes Superior, Huron, and Nipissing. The Recollects were the first missionaries in the Nipissing region. Father Guillaume Poullain (1622) and Jacques de la Foyer (1624) spent a few months there and baptized several children on the point of death. However, Father Claude Pijart, a Jesuit, was the principal apostle of the Algonquins at Nipissing and around Georgian Bay. He devoted to their conversion nine years of indefatigable zeal (1641-50), being aided in his work by Father Charles Raymbault (1641-42), Rene Maynard (1641-44; 1648-50), Leonard Gareau (1644-46), Joseph Poncet (1646-50), Adrien Daran (1649-50). They were the first who preached the Gospel to the tribes of the Manitoulin Islands and Georgian Bay as far as Sault Sainte Marie. As early as 1641 Fathers Jogues, and Raymbault had visited the latter place. The Jesuits established three missions in the midst of the Algonquins of this country: St-Esprit, St-Charles and St-Pierre. Their ministry was not altogether fruitless: traveling to Lake Nipigon, in 1667, Father Allouez found some of their neophytes who had stood firm in the Faith, although they had not seen a priest for nearly twenty years. The ruin of the Algonquin missions accompanied the destruction of the Huron nation. In 1668 the Jesuits founded the mission of Sault Sainte Marie. From this center they evangelized the adjacent country, and pushed their apostolic expeditions as far as the regions of the Nipissirinians. Well-known among the apostles of this period are Fathers Gabriel Druillettes, Louis Andre, Henri Nouvel, and Pierre Bailloquet. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the founding of Detroit caused the center of the western missions to be transferred eastward; those of Georgian Bay were abandoned, being resumed only in 1836, when Rev. Jean Baptiste Proulx, a diocesan priest, settled in Manitoulin Island. In 1838 another secular priest, the zealous Father Pierz, founded the missions of Grand Portage, Michipicoton, etc. Hardly had the Jesuits returned to the country, when the evangelization of the savages of what is now New Ontario was entrusted to their care. In 1844 they replaced Father Proulx at Wikwemikong, founded Garden River in 1846, and two years later erected at Riviere aux Tourtes (Pigeon River), a mission which they transferred in 1849 to Fort William. From these different stations they bore the consolations of religion, not only to the Indians, but also to the miners and woodcutters scattered along the shores of Lakes Huron and Superior. Among the new missionaries Fathers Chone, Hanipaux, Duranquet, Hebert, and Baxter are to be mentioned.

In 1874 Pius IX, adding to the territory already described the districts of Parry Sound, created the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Canada, with Msgr. Jean-Francois Jamot as its first titular. The Catholics of the new vicariate numbered 8500. A few other districts were added in 1882, when the vicariate Apostolic became the Diocese of Peterborough. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway opened these regions to progress and brought thither numbers of workmen and colonists. Msgr. Jamot called in the Jesuits, and opened to their zeal the eastern country extending from North Bay to Sudbury, and later the country as far as Bonheur (a stretch of 800 miles). At its erection the Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie had a fixed population of 26,064 Catholics, 20,090 of whom were French Canadians, the rest being of different nationalities. There were besides 5000 Catholic Indians. Today (1911) the Catholics number 37,875, including 24,470 French Canadians. The diocese has 50 churches, 3 hospitals, 30 parishes, and 50 missions. The school system is the same as that of the Province of Ontario (see Ontario). The Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (from Buffalo) direct the Indian industrial school and the boarding school at Wikwemikong. The Sisters of Saint Joseph, besides many other schools, have at Fort William a boarding-school for the Indians and the whites, and a hospital and boarding school at Port Arthur. The Grey Nuns (from Ottawa) have charge of the two hospitals of Sudbury and of Sault Sainte Marie, and also a few schools. The Daughters of Wisdom direct the schools of Blind River and Sturgeon Falls. Right Rev. David Joseph Scollard, the first bishop, was born at Ennismore, Ontario, November 4, 1862, and was ordained priest on December 21, 1890. He was curate at the cathedral of Peterborough until his appointment to the rectory of North Bay (1896), and was consecrated bishop at Peterborough on February 24, 1905. He resides temporarily at North Bay.


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