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Edmund Burke

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Burke, EDMUND, first Vicar Apostolic of Nova Scotia, b. in the parish of Maryborough, County Kildare, Ireland, in 1753; d. at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1820. He was compelled by existing political conditions in Ireland to pursue his studies in Paris, where his talents and character gave promise of his future career. Ordained priest; he returned to his native diocese. Here trouble had just arisen over the appointment of a vicar-general, and Father Burke was blamed by some partisans for espousing the cause of his superior. The unpleasant conditions led young Burke to follow the advice of Dr. Carpenter, Archbishop of Dublin, and go to Canada. He arrived in Quebec in the summer of 1786, and in September of that year was made professor of philosophy and mathematics in the seminary of Quebec. His work in the seminary led to his appointment as a director of that institution, but he craved for missionary work north and west of the Great Lakes, where, in scattered villages, there were many Catholics who had not seen a missionary since the conquest (1759). In 1794 he gained his object and was sent into the missionary field with the title of Vicar-General and Superior of the Missions of Upper Canada. For seven years he labored faithfully, enduring all the hardships of a pioneer missionary priest; and he suffered, too, from lack of sympathy and support in his work. He saw clearly and made known to his ecclesiastical superiors the loss to religion resulting from race prejudices and misunderstandings. His plain statements made in the cause of religion and truth brought him enemies and many accusations. He met them fearlessly and these trials but prepared him for his important work of the future as Vicar-General of Nova Scotia, i.e. the ecclesiastical direction of most of the English-speaking population of Canada. He went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, as Vicar-General of Quebec in 1801, was made Vicar-General of Nova Scotia in 1815, and consecrated Bishop of Zion in 1818. The work done by this prelate for religion, for education, and for the State in Nova Scotia, during the first twenty years of the nineteenth century are fully treated in the work (quoted below) of one of his successors. The Protestant historian Campbell thus closes his biographical sketch of Bishop Burke: “The Dominion of Canada in its wide extent has seen few, if any, of its prelates who died more respected and regretted by all classes; more beloved and idolized by his own flock; and whose memory as a great, enlightened, and liberal-minded prelate is looked up to with so much veneration.” His most important writings are “The First Principles of Christianity” and “The Ministry of the Church” (Dublin, 1817).


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